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Missouri College Student Allegedly Encouraged Five Suicides, Lawsuit Says

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  • Parents of two suicide victims are suing former Truman State University student Brandon Grossheim for encouraging five people struggling with depression to take their own lives.
  • In the suit, Grossheim was described as “fascinated with death,” and was allegedly seen wearing one of the victim’s clothes and dating another’s girlfriend after their deaths.
  • The lawsuit also seeks to hold the university and the fraternity house, where several of the deaths occurred, accountable for not taking precautions to keep the victims away from the “suspicious fraternity brother.”

Lawsuit

A former Truman State University student and fraternity member is facing a lawsuit that claims he “encouraged” and “aided” five people struggling with depression to commit suicide.

The suit accuses 22-years-old Brandon Grossheim of the wrongful deaths of three students who were fraternity brothers with him, along with others living near the university in Kirksville, Missouri. All five deaths occurred between August 2016 to April 2017.

During that time, Grossheim acted as house manager for Alpha Kappa Lambda and counseled depressed individuals because he saw himself as a “superhero,” going by the nickname “peacemaker.”

According to BuzzFeed News, Truman State students Alex Mullins, Joshua Thomas, and Jake Allen Hughes all committed suicide in the AKL house. 

Another friend, who was not associated with the university, killed himself in his apartment, where Grossheim worked as a building manager. The final victim, a female listed as Jane Doe, was not identified as a student and the location of her death was not revealed.

Grossheim does not currently have any pending criminal charges against him. Kirksville police said investigations into each of the deaths have been closed without any charges filed.

Grossheim is no longer a student at Truman State, having withdrawn in December 2016. The last suicide associated with him took place in April 2017.

Alleged Odd Activity 

The suit states that all five individuals battled depression and had expressed suicidal thoughts to Grossheim after they quit taking medication for depression.

The attorney representing the families of the victims, Nicole Gorovsky, said Grossheim “counseled people and gave advice and step-by-step directions to people on how to ‘deal with depression and do their own free will.’” Part of that advice included information about how to commit suicide. 

The suit goes on to cite statements by Grossheim’s fraternity brothers, who claim he was known to cause problems and possessed a “fascination with death.” 

After their deaths, Grossheim was seen wearing the clothes of one of the victims, dating the girlfriend of another, and carrying significant amounts of money and drugs the fraternity brothers speculated might have belonged to the victims.

Gorovsky said a police investigation found Grossheim possessed keys to all five victim’s living spaces. It claims he “handled” Mullins’ body before the police arrived, and that he attempted CPR after Hughes’ death.

Police also found a note with Grossheim’s name and contact information in the same closet where Thomas killed himself. 

There were too many similarities, one person in common, and so many questions… it’s time for answers,” Mullins’ mother, Melissa Bottorff-Arey, said in a statement. 

The series of deaths have drawn comparisons to the 2017 involuntary-manslaughter conviction of Michelle Carter, who repeatedly encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide. In July, Carter filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court to overturn her conviction.

I love you, bud,” Grossheim said in a Facebook post about Joshua Thomas following his death. “I know I told you that a lot, and it made me happy to know that you knew I meant it. We’ve been through a lot, together, and we grew very close. It really upsets me to lose you.”

Grossheim also made similar posts about Hughes and Mullins after their deaths. 

Lawsuit Against Truman State and Kappa Alpha Lambda

The parents of Mullins and Thomas also lodged suits against Truman State University and AKL for permitting the “suspicious fraternity brother to be alone and have unfettered access to the victims,” despite concerns raised by Grossheim’s fraternity brothers. 

Truman State University has denied any involvement in the deaths of the three victims who were students. 

We strongly disagree with the allegations as stated in the lawsuit and will defend the suit vigorously,” the statement said. “As the litigation proceeds, it will become clear that the University is not responsible for the deaths of these students. We will not comment further on this pending litigation.”

There was clear foreseeability to the university that there was somebody dangerous on this campus and they didn’t do anything about it,” Gorovsky said in an interview with KTVI.

Alpha Kappa Lambda is still active on the Truman State campus but has declined to comment on the suit.

Family and Friends Remember Victims

Following the death of Alex Mullins, the Xi chapter of AKL posted a tribute on Facebook.

Although gone, Alex Mullins is a friend, a son, and most of all an incredible brother,” the post read. “Wherever he went he brought smiles and good times with him, whether that be in Kansas City, Kirksville, or while on a run to deliver Chinese food to some lucky soul that has no idea the incredible man they are about to meet. He can never be replaced and we pray that he has found peace in the afterlife.

In an obituary from the Truman Media Network, Karen Hughes said many people reached out to her after her son’s death to tell her about their memories of his kindness.

It was kind of a gift that he could reach out to people so easily,” she said. “It didn’t matter if it was adults or kids. He has always been able to speak with people, even when he was younger.”

In another obituary from TMN, a friend remembered getting to know Thomas from the beginning of his first year at Truman State to the night of his death.

We didn’t talk much on the way back, but I wish we had,” Danielle Nahm said. “We got back at around 2 a.m. and as we headed upstairs to our rooms I told him I’d see him later, not knowing that that was the last time I would ever, or anyone would ever, see or talk to him.”

I’ll never be able to forget his personality and how full of life he always was,” she continued. “He was truly like no other and if you knew him, you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

See what others are saying: (KTVI) (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) (The Kansas City Star)

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Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances

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Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.


One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down

After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.

The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.

Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.

A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.

The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.

In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.

The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.

A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.

Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye

“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.

Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.

Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.

“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.

When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.

“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”

On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.

On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.

Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)

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U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide

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India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.


One Million Dead

The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.

Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.

The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.

By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.

The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.

The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.

The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.

People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.

Fifteen Million Dead

On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.

Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.

Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.

The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.

Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.

See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)

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Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”

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Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.


New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer

Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.

“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”

Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.

Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”

“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.

Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.

Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.

“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”

Mysterious Escape

Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.

Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.

Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.

It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.

During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”

At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.” 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (ABC News) (NPR)

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