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Archive for Sunday, October 1, 2000

Student’s murder shocks university

October 1, 2000

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— People who knew Gallaudet University freshman Eric Franklin Plunkett say he had no enemies.

That's why the beating death of Plunkett, 19, who was deaf, had cerebral palsy and was a leader of a gay campus group, is that much harder to accept.

"The biggest question here now is, 'Why?"' Chester Virnig, Plunkett's mentor and a math teacher at the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Gallaudet was established in 1864 and is the nation's only liberal arts university for the deaf and hearing-impaired. It has about 2,000 students.

Plunkett, of Burnsville, Minn., was found in his dormitory room Thursday night after a student asked an official to check on him, police Cmdr. Jennifer Greene said. Plunkett had not been seen for more than a day.

An autopsy has not been completed, but Greene said a preliminary report showed Plunkett died of blows to the head. Police told The Washington Post they have no suspects and no motive, although they have found what they believe to be the weapon. They would not say what it was or where it was found.

Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Arden would not say how long Plunkett may have been dead before his body was found. Greene would say only that Plunkett may have been dead for some time.

Plunkett was secretary of the Lambda Society, a gay and lesbian organization of about 20 students. The student-run group is a university club for gay and straight students, club President Thomas Green said.

Plunkett "was very motivated and he had a real desire to see the organization grow," Green said. Police said there was no evidence that Plunkett's involvement in the club was related to his death.

At the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf in Faribault, Plunkett managed the football and basketball teams. He had taken home so many honors when he graduated from the 12th grade including being named salutatorian of his class that those who knew him wondered if enough plaques had been made.

"I'm smiling, because it seems every time an award was announced, he was up there up and down, up and down," Linda Mitchell, the school's superintendent, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

"I can't imagine, I just can't imagine him having an enemy in the world," she said.

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