September 30th, 2010
08:29 PM ET

Rutgers student remembered as dedicated musician

Tyler Clementi

In the week since Tyler Clementi updated his Facebook page with the status, "jumping off the gw bridge sorry," web pages dedicated to the Rutgers University freshman have cast him as a victim of harassment and homophobia.

But to those who knew him in his hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Clementi was a kind friend and talented violinist whose passion for music was his main focus.

Details about Clementi's sexual orientation are unclear. New Jersey prosecutors are considering bias charges against Clementi's roommate, Dharun Ravi, and friend Molly Wei, for their alleged roles in streaming a webcast that showed Clementi having a sexual encounter with another man. Clementi's body was found Wednesday in the Hudson River.

Rutgers University student Danielle Birnbohm, who lived next door to Clementi and Ravi in the dorm, told CNN affiliate WPIX that Clementi was gay.

"It was obvious," she said.

Two Facebook pages established in Clementi's name have more than 42,000 fans, most of them strangers offering condolences to his family and lamenting the prevalence of bullying against homosexuals.

Tributes to Clementi by those who knew him before his tragic death, however, cast him in a happier light.

"I loved hearing you play your violin every Sunday morning at church. It saddens me greatly to know that you will never play again and never get to experience so many things in your life. I pray for you and your family everyday when I cross the bridge. You were a sweet young man who touched many hearts. You will be missed," Nicole Voight wrote on the page, "Honoring The Life Of Tyler Clementi."

A graduate of Ridgewood High School's class of 2010, Clementi played in the school orchestra and received the National School Orchestra Award from his high school. He was a member of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra and the Bergen Youth Orchestras, and worked as a violinist last year for a local theater production of, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," the Ridgewood Patch reported.

"He was so professional, so talented, everyone liked him. It was just a shock to hear. It's such a loss, he was such an incredible talent and such a great person," Ryan Pifher, director of Porchlight Light Productions, told the online publication.

A longtime resident of Ridgewood, Clementi attended Travell Elementary School, Benjamin Franklin Middle School and Ridgewood High School in 2010 before starting at Rutgers this fall.

"In the 3 years Tyler was at Ben Franklin School, I saw him often in the office. He was ALWAYS respectful, polite, and a thoroughly pleasant kid. This is a tragedy beyond measure. My sincere condolences to his family and friends... all the people who loved him and will miss him so much," Pat Guerin Lang wrote on the Facebook page.

Authorities say Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge between New York and New Jersey on September 22, a few days after his roommate allegedly Tweeted about him.

"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Ravi is believed to have said on September 19 on his Twitter account, which has since been deactivated.

Middlesex County prosecutors said Ravi surreptitiously positioned his web camera in the dorm room to capture Clementi's sexual encounter and broadcast it on the internet. Ravi tried to use the webcam again two days later, on September 21.

"Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi is believed to have tweeted. The next day, Clementi was dead.

Friends of Clementi's said he never came out as gay or had a girlfriend in high school, ABC News reported.

His top priority was always his role in the school orchestra, friend Rob Righthand told ABC.

"He was one of those kids who never had a girlfriend and never had a boyfriend. You just thought he wasn't open for dating or anything like that," said Righthand.

Ravi and Wei are each charged with two counts of invasion of privacy for the September 19 broadcast, according to the prosecutor's office. Two more counts of invasion of privacy were leveled against Ravi for a September 21 attempt to record another encounter, and additional bias charges are being considered.

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soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. tomcat

    thank you sweety at least someone here has some sense and thanks to your parents for not bringing you up to be a biggot. it all starts at home

    October 1, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. hate crimes


    October 1, 2010 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Julie A Schaeffer


    October 1, 2010 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. Julie A Schaeffer

    I am sick, sick, sick, sick. Sick and saddened this morning to realize that there are still such ignorant, narrow minded, horrible people in this world. He is dead because he is gay? Because he couldn't live with himself? If that is the reason he is dead, than it is because of people like you..SOME SUCH, and others who think like that. You are the reason he couldn' tlive with himself. YOU ARE THE REASON. THAT ROOMATE OF HIS SHOULD BE CHARED WITH MURDER, AND HATE CRIMES. SICK SICK SICK PEOPLE YOU ARE. He was a beautiful young man, he should be the one who is alive.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Bettergenes

      jonO had his words right.. but lest you forget there are the rights that were denied in California for gays and then they are sad they got defeated for wanting to be married. Live with it for the loss was voted in!, One day you may be right there along side of others like yourself to figure out the rest of the society is right and don't need more of this create chaos.

      October 1, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. billythebigbone

    @hates crimes you loved it last night when i was giving you that BJ and today look how you hate gay men. what is wrong with you Tony????

    October 1, 2010 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    This is just so sad. My heart goes out to all his friends and family. How rotten that some stupid prank by an insensitive roommate has such a tragic consequence.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mrs. Griffin

    Gay or not this young man died. He killed himself because some kid didn't like him. Being gay is like being of color or being a woman. You can't change it, you are born that way. The room mate should be charged and put away. This young man died because of a direct violation of his privacy. The room mate took a video without his concent and because of the fear of backlash he commitex suicide. That boy lost his life, his attacker should spend a good amount of his behind bars. Shame on anyone who thinks that being gay is a reason to harm someone.

    October 1, 2010 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Legotyme

    Who are any of us to say that he could not live with his choices? Tyler made these choices on at least 2 occassions, possibly more? (I don't know), so therefore it doesn't sound like he was having trouble with is own actions. The link most obviously is, that those choices were put on public display and specifically to his peer group. Who wouldn't have been beside themselves with embarrassment at that young age to be put on display like that. Furthermore, the anti-gay mentallity is sickening, and shows the total lack of understanding of those who perpetuate hatred in general. Another words, as long as haters keep posting, they are proving their own ignorance.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kalynada

    RIP Tyler. What a world we live in.

    October 1, 2010 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. Irish OT

    Please disable this comment board, for the family's sake!

    October 1, 2010 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. Appalled

    The very laws that allow us freedom are killing us. Ignorance abounds to the point that I can hardly fathom the possibility of reversal. So much hatred exists in this country, why? Lack of guidance. We are so concerned with "freedom" and the "right" to do what we desire that it paralyzes our ability to see past ourselves. It's safe to say at this point America is an atrocious social and philosophical disaster, and save overthrowing this failing government and establishing a dictatorship whose utmost purpose is making mandatory the most challenging and highest education, we will fall. Whether by our own hand or biology's, this country will fall. Superpower or not, the number and degree of ignorance and depraved, uneducated masses will destroy us. I am ashamed of my country, my people, my government, my self. Our founding fathers would surely committed suicide if they saw what their vision has become- a sick American joke.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  12. Tiredofthis

    Some of the comments here are incredible. Those of you who believe that it's up to you to decide what is right and wrong, up to you to degrade others because they are different than you are demonstrating your complete ignorance. Have you no sense of compassion for others? No respect for others as uman beings? There is no use talking to you because you are so screwed up that you can't even understand that you are wrong, or simply won't admit it. How very, very sad for you. Some day you wil answer for your lack of compassion for others.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
  13. Robert

    Wouldn't it be terrific if humanity's goal for the 21st century were to have self-esteem? Where did this notion that we are imperfect originate and who is perpetuating it? It is blasphemy. (Who knows...we might even stave off our our own self-destruction!)

    October 1, 2010 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jennifer M Wagner

    As a mother of 4 children, one who is the same age as Tyler, my heart and prayers go out to his parents. I simply cannot believe that anyone no matter the age of that person, would knowingly set out to do something as hurtful and hateful as his roomates. Being young DOES NOT justify what they did. It breaks my heart to know that this poor child was outted in the manner that he was and that he was so ashamed that he felt that death was his only choice. Tyler's roomates deserve to be treated as harshly as they treated him. They were ultimately responsible for him ending his life. At the VERY least they should be charged with a hate crime. It sickens me to know that there are people in the world that are so narrow minded that their only goal is that of hurting others. To the family of Tyler, I am soo very sorry for you loss. I just pray that one day people will stop judging and start treating others with the dignity and humanity we all deserve.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. John Galt

    Sad story all around. Invasion of privacy hurts, however there were other options available to this young man rather than taking his life. Hope his family finds peace. As for the two mean spirited and ugly people who played what others call a "prank" well what they did is against the law and had clear consequences and caused true harm. Hope they enjoy their time in prison, their chance for notoriety and their expulsion from the university. I am sure their parents are proud.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
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