Crime happens, even at Harvard. These are some of the most memorable crimes of the last four years: the sad, the scary, and even the slapstick. From a graduate student convicted of manslaughter to a professor charged with stealing manure, this is the dirty business of life at Harvard—a hallowed university where veritas is just a motto.
Until his body showed up in the Mississippi River, the only trace of Don C. Wiley was his rental car abandoned on the side of a bridge. Wiley, Loeb professor of biochemistry and biophysics, went missing on Nov. 16, 2001, while in Memphis, Tenn., for a scientific conference. The FBI looked into the case on the suspicion that his work might be of interest to terrorists.
They determined it wasn’t. Police had speculated about suicide, but after Wiley’s body surfaced on Dec. 20, 2001, the coroner said it was most likely an accidental death. It appears that Wiley pulled over on the bridge, exited his car, and was blown over by gusty winds.
Two active members of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals did their best to take ownership of their extracurricular activities—literally—embezzling almost $100,000 to finance their lavish lifestyles. In January 2002, Suzanne M. Pomey and Randy J. Gomes were indicted; nine months later they pleaded guilty to the charge of grand larceny and were sentenced to two and five years of probation, respectively. Pomey, former producer of the Hasty Pudding show and ex-president of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, was said to have spent her $23,000 share of the loot on shopping trips and spa visits. Court records indicate that Gomes’ share paid for his drug habit and a lavish open-bar party he threw for Pomey at T.G.I. Friday’s. Though they had completed all of their course requirements for graduation, the College voted not to grant degrees to the pair in 2002. In February 2003, after the court ruling, the College voted to dismiss Pomey and Gomes from Harvard.
WHO FRAMED JONATHAN MURSTEIN?
In one month, Jonathan A. Murstein ’05 lost a flip-flop, tennis shoe, and laptop. He thought he was losing his mind. The footwear turned up on top of a vending machine and in the men’s bathroom. His computer appeared on his Greenough floormate’s desk. In a single week, Murstein’s lock was jammed with plastic five times, including the night before an Ec10 hourly when he waited until 7:15 a.m. to get back into his room.
The final straw came when Murstein’s laptop was stolen. He ordered a new one and when the replacement arrived, his “friend” Brian Wan ’05-’08 offered to retrieve and set up the computer for him. But the computer Wan set up turned out to be the one that had been stolen. Adding insult to injury, Wan informed his proctor that Murstein had faked the whole theft just to collect the insurance money for what Wan claimed was Murstein’s drug habit. Wan confessed to making up the whole story. Murstein collected his second stolen computer from Wan’s partner in crime, Michael D. Wang ’05-’06. Both Wan—at the time a member of the varsity tennis team—and Wang left Harvard for three and two years, respectively.
Wan, who returned to Harvard this spring, wrote in an e-mail that he is sorry about the thefts. “I made some mistakes that I deeply regret and hurt some people in ways I wish I had not,” he wrote. “I hope I am a different person now and that people will be able to judge me for who I am today and not for who I was then.”
Wang, who returned this fall after working for two years as a crisis counselor, wants to start up his own online peer counseling service at Harvard. He said counseling is something he’s doing to “atone.” Though Wang and Murstein are on speaking terms, Wang said that he no longer talks to Wan. Murstein spent sophomore year in a Kirkland House two-room single after his nightmarish freshman setup. But he said that the experience hasn’t had lasting effects for him.
“It’s an interesting story to tell people,” Murstein said. “I ask if they want the abridged or unabridged story.”