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Murder-Suicide Stuns Columbia

By Alex B. Ginsberg, Crimson Staff Writer

Nearly five years after Harvard was rocked by the deaths of two students in an apparent murder-suicide, Columbia University is trying to deal with the same shock.

On Saturday, a 19-year-old sophomore was killed, followed hours later by the suicide of the suspect, her former boyfriend.

Kathleen A. Roskot, a star lacrosse player, was found dead early Saturday morning in her dorm room. Her throat had been slashed.

Later that day, Thomas G. Nelford, a Columbia dropout and alleged cocaine addict known for his artistic ability, threw himself in front of a Manhattan subway train. He was found carrying Roskot's wallet.

According to Virgil Renzulli,

Columbia's associate vice president for public affairs, Friday night's security tapes show Roskot and Nelford entering her dorm together. Nelford also left his identification card with the dorm's security guard.

A New York Police Department lieutenant told The Crimson that detectives have no doubt that Nelford killed Roskot. The case was closed Saturday with Nelford's suicide, the lieutenant said.

Renzulli said the killing was Columbia's second in less than three years. The other murder was also allegedly committed by an acquaitance of the victim.

"Any student death is a tragedy," he said. "This is just a terrible loss."

Renzulli also said that Columbia is taking steps to help students deal with Roskot's and Nelford's deaths. He said administrators began the process by informing all students of the murder-suicide via e-mail messages.

"The university has made counselors available throughout the weekend for any students," Renzulli said. "There have also been meetings for people in her dorm, and a hotline has been opened."

Special attention has been paid to Roskot's suitemates and her lacrosse friends, as well as Nelford's friends from his time at Columbia, Renzulli said. Roskot's suitemates have been temporarily re-housed.

"There is a tremendous sense of shock," Renzulli said. "The campus has been in mourning."

Members of the community expressed their grief Sunday during a Catholic mass held in Roskot's honor at a campus chapel. About 450 people attended.

Mikhail G. Shapiro, a first-year at Brown University, was at Columbia on Saturday for a student government function. He described the campus atmosphere as "drab."

"I think people were disgusted," Shapiro said. "The way both of them died is grotesque."

Shapiro said he saw both faces of the tragedy.

"On the way back from the uiversity, after learning about the murder, my train was delayed by the suicide," he said.

Columbia first-year Winston H. Song said his resident assistant called to inform him of the murder, but he did not know either party involved.

"Everyone is in a state of shock, but I'm relieved that this is an isolated incident and didn't involve random people off the street," Song said. "I still feel completely safe."

Renzulli echoed Song's sentiments on safety, asserting that neither of the recent murders at Columbia was a result of street crime.

As for emotional fallout from the deaths, however, Renzulli said the University's students must come together to cope with their sense of loss.

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