Cause Is Still Uncertain In Law Student's Death
The circumstances surrounding the death earlier this week of a first-year law student remained a mystery yesterday, as Boston police refused to release new information, pending completion of a medical examiner's report.
David Shelton '80 was found in his Boston apartment Tuesday evening by friends, who had forced their way in after failing to reach him for several days. He was pronounced dead on the scene by emergency medical technicians who arrived later that night and took him to the Southern Mortuary.
The Boston medical examiner's office would not confirm or deny that an autopsy would be performed, and police refused to comment on speculation among Shelton's friends and classmates that he may have committed suicide.
Friends cited Shelton's divorce last weekend as one event that may have prompted suicide, and an attendant at Southern Mortuary said Tuesday that suicide was a possibility.
Larry Lesburg, director of the Harvard-affiliated Legal Aid Bureau, where Shelton worked part-time, suggested that the student's tremendous workload, in addition to his many extra-curricular activities, may have also upset him.
However, Edward Redlich '81, a close friend of Shelton's since seventh grade, denied that Shelton was feeling any "Law School pressure." And both Lesberg and Assistant Dean of the College John Marquand, Shelton's undergraduate adviser, said that Shelton's undergraduate adviser, said that Shelton had seemed cheerful in recent weeks, recovering from a temporary depression he suffered earlier in the year.
"He was a fairly transparent person--direct and open," said Marquand, who expressed doubt that suicide was a possibility.
Shelton's ex wife, who is believed to live in the Boston area, could not be reached for comment.
The funeral will take place Friday in New York City, where Shelton, a New Jersey native, attended the Horace Mann School. No services will be held locally, but Jack Sabhatino. Shelton's Law School advisor, said some students were considering a memorial fund for tenants' rights, an issue that Shelton had been concerned about in recent years.
Described y friends, co-workers and professors as "brilliant," "intense" and "charismatic." Shelton had "a radical perspective on society," said Marquand.
Shelton had worked for the Eastern Farmworkers Association, a Long Island community and labor group, throughout high school and college, taking a year off before enrolling at Harvard to found the Eastern Service Workers Association in Boston. He served as educational, director, until 1979, when he left the group.
At Horace Mann, Shelton was widely respected for his intellectual talents and leadetship, though classmates said he shifted drastically in his political beliefs.
"It was a running joke he would get involved with one extreme devotion, followed by another extreme cause." said Mare Fisher, who graduated from Princeton in 1980 and now works as a reporter for the Miami Herald.
Fisher said Shelton's political beliefs became increasingly radical by the time he graduated and that he said he worked for a semi-secrete-organization devoted to violent Communist revolution.
Others expressed skepticism over this description of Shelton's involvement, but he apparently did break with the Farmworkers Organization when he married another member of the group and began to disagree with the group's political aims.
Redlich emphasized Shelton's broad social concerns rather than his particular political attachments. "He nevear got into that abstract stuff." Redlich said.
Before graduating from Horace Mann in 1976. Shelton founded an annual softball marathon that still raises several thousand dollars a year for cancer research. He also did volunteer work for the World Hunger Organization.
Recently, he had led leenant organizing for a group on Symphony Rd., where be lived, and had worked through the Legal Aid Bureau for Tenants in Action, a Cambridge group.
"Law School was really secondary to his political and organizing work," said Clint Fisher, his adviser at the Leagal Aid Bureau.
Shelton had also tried unsuccessfully to organize local taxi cab drivers and drove a cab part-time himself