GV campus death ruled accidental

GV campus death ruled accidental

Olivia Fellows and Adam Trombley

On Thursday, Jan. 28th, Grand Valley State University President Philomena Mantella released a message informing the campus community that the death of freshman Taylor DeRosa, which was first reported Dec. 12, has been ruled by the county coroner as an ‘accidental death.’  

DeRosa’s body was originally found near the intramural athletic fields, south of West Campus Drive, Saturday morning, kicking off a multi-department investigation into the incident. 

The Grand Valley Police Department has been in contact with local law enforcement in the investigation into DeRosa’s death and has been waiting for several reports to come back before making any definitive statements regarding the incident. 

GVPD Captain Jeffrey Stoll said that as of right now, there are no suspects in DeRosa’s death and that they will be sharing new information if they get any in the future. Stoll also clarified that when investigations classify deaths, they are labeled as unknown, accidental, homicide or suicide. 

Accidental highlights the fact that there was no other person directly involved in her passing,” Stoll said. “Accidental means there were circumstances outside of the body that contributed to the death. The accidental death ruling came directly from the medical examiner.”

Stoll said that the investigation into DeRosa’s death was extensive and that the department had over 50 witnesses they connected with. The investigation leaders included a GVPD detective and two other primary detectives from the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. 

The lengthiness of the investigation was due in part to the number of people that GVPD needed to interview for additional information, as well as the time it took for toxicology reports to come back. Stoll said that although many were skeptical about how long the report took, the timing of the report’s release was normal to any other investigation. 

“The time frame was actually pretty comparable to what we would normally expect in terms of what chemicals, if any, were in the body,” Stoll said. “So that just takes a little while to get, it’s not an instantaneous result. We needed to make sure that that information was consistent with the information we were getting from the witnesses.”

With many students and parents concerned for campus safety, Stoll said that a main concern of the department is reiterating that there is not — nor was there ever — any safety risk to the campus associated with the event.

Currently, GVSU and GVPD have several safety measures in place on campus like the GVSU Alerts emergency notification system and their “Safe Walk” program, a free service in which Department of Public Safety employees will accompany students, staff and visitors who feel unsafe walking alone, across campus. 

Universities are required by federal law to notify the campus community whenever there is a continuing or ongoing threat to members of the campus community so they can protect themselves from harm. Examples include but are not limited to; criminal homicides, sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, arson, or any other crime fitting the criteria.

I would continue to reiterate that we found no evidence of any other people being involved resulting in her death and that was highlighted there were no safety concerns for Taylor, there were no safety concerns for the University,” said Stoll. 

Mantella urged GVSU community members to seek support services if they are struggling and that employees in need of counseling services may use the employee assistance program. Mantella, who was in attendance at the community vigil for DeRosa, said that the DeRosa family is in the GVSU community’s continued thoughts and prayers. 

“Taylor’s death is a terrible tragedy for her family and all those close to her,” Mantella said. “We know her fellow students, as well as our faculty and staff, have been affected. We are a caring community and our hearts go out to all who knew and loved Taylor. We respect their need to grieve and honor Taylor’s memory. Our routines during COVID have put physical space between us, but we should work to stay emotionally connected, especially as we grieve the loss of a promising young woman who was part of our campus community.”