President Paul LeBlanc's Jamie Lee Cruz Update to SNHU Students

Wednesday, November 09, 2011
SNHU Communications Office

From: President Paul LeBlanc

To: SNHU students

I promised you an update on Jamie Lee Cruz.

Jamie was a first-year Education major from Worcester.  Her friends found her dead in her bed (they first thought she was sleeping) and called 911 on Saturday morning.  Hooksett police soon arrived as well and the rest of the day was spent interviewing students and reconstructing the events of the night before.  Jamie had attended a party with friends on the floor, came back with them, and showed no signs of alcohol or drug use.  Our staff overheard the kids saying things like, “But she wasn’t even drinking,” and “She was her normal self when we came back.” Detectives looked at video of her entering the dorm and saw no signs of impairment and they saw a coherent last text message right before her roommate reported her turning off the lights.

By Sunday they had ruled out foul play and the AG’s office had withdrawn its involvement (they manage all homicide cases in the state). An autopsy was completed on Sunday by 1 p.m. and there were also no obvious signs of alcohol or drug use and the cause of death remains undetermined. They have ordered a full battery of toxicology tests and it will be weeks before the results are known.

In the absence of information, rumors starting going around and social media fed the rumor mill further. There has simply been not an iota of evidence or information to suggest anything more than what I just outlined.  Nothing to support foul play or any malicious act, nor has there been any signs of substance abuse.  Jamie’s reputation was not that of a drinker or partier. On some level, I think everyone hopes it was some undiagnosed medical condition, especially the parents. If it turns out otherwise, it will not make her loss any less sad or painful.

I was proud of the way our staff handled the situation – with a lot of heart, professionalism, and calm. I brought the family to see her body for the first time and it was grief in its rawest form. They were living our worst nightmare. The father said to me, “I sent three sons to war and they could have come been hurt or killed, but I never expected this when I sent my little girl to college.” They have been deeply appreciative of the university’s support.

The student staff was also exceptional. It was forced to manage this event in ways that standard training simply does not provide the groundwork for an incident of this magnitude.

The behavior of the media, especially Fox News, was often abysmal in these last days. They were calling family members (in the midst of their shock and grief) and thrusting microphones at students and asking “do you feel safe here?” even though there was no hint of foul play. Some students, nervous and unsure even of what happened, did not seem appropriately serious on camera. As someone who has done lots of media interviews, trust me – it’s a weird experience at first and you have no control of what tape they use. In this instance, the students mentioned have since apologized and explained their behavior. Facebook postings on the media sites have mostly been lovely, but there have also been some rather callous and even mean spirited postings. It’s been a rather startling reminder of how callow and sensational is modern day news.

In contrast, the outpouring of support for Jamie’s family and friends, the involvement of the staff, and the support of the family has amply displayed SNHU’s big heart and strength as a community. We will also do a tree planting in her memory next spring. This will help keep her memory alive and commemorate her short time with us. School of Education Dean Mary Heath will represent the campus community at Jamie’s memorial service tonight and we have many students going down in university provided buses.

I would ask you again to support each other and to not be shy in asking for our help.

Thank you,

Paul

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