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. How humiliating

    Even if you take out the part about him being gay, how very humiliating would it be to be a church going professional person and have something like that posted without your approval? I just cringe about it and think about how awful he must have felt when he discovered that. What an unnecessary shame. The two that taped him must be sitting with their tails between their legs now. The thrill they got from doing something that invasive and horrible couldn't have been worth what they face now. What were they thinking??????

    October 1, 2010 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Amunaka

    My heart hurts over this ..I can't stop thinking of how Tyler must have felt school new people all around him this could of been his first time ...or that he found someone that gave him butterflies in his stomach and being elated over the chance to be with this other man he met or straight you know that feeling ...and then to find out that tender moment those feelings of elation come crashing down with the realization of just how cruel others can be ...RIP Tyler my heart hurts for you ...

    October 1, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  3. secret

    First off, to all the people say that he was troubled before this and that the 2 heartless idiots who videotaped his private moments shouldn't be charged with murder are WRONG. Obviously anyone who is gay already faces enough trials and tribulations in the world we live in, it doesn't matter how strong of a person u are, letting the world know you are gay is hard enough, and then to have someone RECORD and BROADCAST on the INTERNET.. which is used worlwide.. and invite people into ur iCHAT to make fun of someone's private moments is beyond inhuman and cruel. his roommate knew how much damage he was going to cause, just imagine finding this out and the feelings that must have overwhelmed him.. my heart truly goes out to Tyler and his family. Hopefully his memory will not be forgotten and his suicide goes to show that we should treat everybody as equals. there's a special place in hell for those 2 idiots who caused his death, may god have mercy on ur souls.

    October 1, 2010 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. mike

    happy to see him go one less loser that cant handel the easy life here in the u.s.a. and im not saying that cuz hes gay

    October 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • gsonc

      @ mike, gay teens are 4 x more likely to commit suicide than others, just so ya know. pick up a book, do a google search, educate yourself. a human life is gone and you choose to call him a loser instead of focus on the 2 people who BROKE THE LAW. it's a crisis in this country. something has to change. you seem like the loser to me.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave A.

      In your little world of "winners" and "loosers"' where do you fit in. Oh? Of course, why didn't we all know that! You are a Winner. Of course, at least in your own mind!

      March 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Shanna

    I lost my 16 year old son 7 years ago as the result of a tragic accident. My daughter was 9 years old at the time, and she endured 6 years of torment from bullies over the loss of her brother. Yes, taunting over the death of a sibling. These bullies have no limitations whatsoever on their topic of bullying obviously. After her freshman year in high school, I had to remove her from public school because it became so severe, it was unhealthy for her, myself and my spouse. I was literally fearful of confronting these bullies face to face and was concerned over the outcome of such a confrontation. Consultation with the parents, teachers, school administration, bus driver's or the school superintendent made absolutely no difference. They taunted her via texting, email and social networking which seemed to be out of their realm. In turn, my child is missing out on the fun that should go along with being in high school. She now attends an alternative school, which doesn't offer the endless activities that a public school does.

    October 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RutgersStudent

    Can we all stop flaming this message board and just leave our condolences? Honestly, I can't believe some of what I'm reading. As a fellow Rutgers student, we have lost one of our own and we as a college are all banding together to remember him. Please have some respect and decency not just for Tyler and his family but for all those affected by this tragedy. Don't post mean or hateful slander, as it gets us nowhere.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anon

    Way to be an hero.

    October 1, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mm

    Gay, does not matter. It's an invasion of privacy. The bias thing just adds to the fact that young adults don't think about anyone but themselves. Prison will sober both these former students. I hope they were suspended.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
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