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. Adele Chatelain

    This is such a terrible tragedy. But what I can't understand are the two people who filmed it. What kind of morons are these two? And where were their parents? My parents taught me to be respectful to everyone and to leave others to their own privacy. I don't care if these idiots are college students; that doesn't excuse their barbaric actions. The parents of these two should be the ones put in jail.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Reid

    Tyler's decision to commit suicide was his alone. He's the only one responsible for his death. Who knows what his mental state was like before the incident? The fact that he posted that he was going to jump off the bridge on FACEBOOK of all places says a lot about his mental state. Most sane people would have contacted the school about the invasion of privacy, and the problem would have been resolved quickly. But unfortunately he decided to go too far by killing himself. It was a selfish act. This wasn't a case of anti-gay cyber bullying, this was an invasion of privacy. And Ravi should be charged with invasion of privacy, nothing more. My heart goes out to his family. If they knew about their son being gay and accepted it, perhaps he would have been strong enough to live.

    October 1, 2010 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. SadSadSad

    This is an absolute tragedy. Tyler will be in my thoughts and prayers. This is, however, is not in particular about his orientation. It is about a systemic problem of children, who become the adults of our society, who do not see how horrible and wrong it is to attempt to belittle another human being - how wrong and hurtful such a thing is, regardless of whether it is about orientation, weight, color or any other difference someone decides to pick on. This behavior is not ok, it is not acceptable, and this needs to be taught from birth!!!! His suicide is as much a function of the dispecable behavior of his roommate and his friend, as it is of an intolerant society who he believed would persecute him for what they saw. The poor boy felt alone. How could we remedy that so it doesn't happen again??? An alum of Rutgers, I know that there are many resources for all people, including gay people. If he could not find help there, then that just goes to show how backwards and unprogressive our society is, that regardless of how progressive the Rutgers community was, he knew the world would not accept him. SAD!!!

    October 1, 2010 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Anonymous

    I literally get shaky and nauseous every time I read this story. It is so tragic and so sad, it just breaks my heart. SOMETHING good has to come out of this.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. drod

    How sad. I wish someone would've told him it does get better. Another young life lost to ignorance of others.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. grace scott

    I don`t know anyone seated at the right hand of God . So who are you to judge anyone. This was a son a friend a student an accomplished human being going somewhere in life and to the selfish cold hearted bullies the cowards who feel so do you like youselves now. If you feel lost and cant take the heat...know this .... It will get better you own your life live it up and never give into the crap another human beings will through at you. You have a right to be whatever YOU want whoever YOU want..own that. Live strong life goes on. I didnt know this guy but my heart will hold this sad moment for you. Rest in peace.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  7. Real World

    Hate is a sickness.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. So Sad

    People are so mean. Whether the one they attack either verbally, physically or emotionally is gay or straight, it doesn't matter. Mean is mean and I'm tired of them getting away with it. One of my children was a victim of mean people in school and it was awful to try and console. Luckily, I did something right because although my child suffered and will never forget the treatment they received, they rose above it somehow. School never does enough to help. Lots of times, teachers tell their pupils they don't want to hear it. Well, they need to hear it and stop acting like nasty old battleaxes. If they really care about their kids, they need to show some compassion. Teaching a subject isn't the only thing they're supposed to be doing. I hope that in all cases of this taunting and bullying and meanness, that they nasty people are prosecuted to the fullest, and that they suffer for what they did to the kind and innocent.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. SMITB

    The dead kid seems like a coward to me.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tiredofthis

    Funny, but God himself doesn't come and strike down "his" kind or "your" kind, yet you seem perfectly willing to make the decision that it's OK to ridicule other people. Perhaps you believe God is in "your" seat. Hate to break this to you, but He's not. It's not up to you to judge other people and decide who you will torment and who you will not.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sandy Diwan

    It appears the facebook kids have no boundaries when it comes to privacy or good taste. I hope they prosecute both Molly and Dharun for manslaughter as a hate crime (hate being gay) in this case, so it serves as a lesson to Generation Y who need to learn to have empathy and understanding.

    October 1, 2010 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. ray gibbs

    So sad. Poet's poems of balm, memory, peace & rest.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. ray gibbs

    No, never forgotten. Peace.

    October 1, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jacob

    This story saddens me in the fact that, we have such a vibrant youth, who could live exceptional lives, and have their dreams come true, but in todays society, people are selfish and try to take them away from others, because theirs cant ever come true, and a lot of the time, they succeed.

    Something needs to be done about this "epidemic" of suicides, and people need to realize that this isnt okay.
    One life lost is too many!

    October 1, 2010 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Dee

    The fact of the matter is that he was a person who had his rights and privacy violated!! His personal life style choices shouldnt matter. No person should have to have delt with this, be it a man with man, man with girl or whatever we as people deserve some privacy in life

    October 1, 2010 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
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