Archive for Friday, November 19, 2010

Family tragedy

The alcohol-related death of a Kansas University student was not the only tragedy endured by his family.

November 19, 2010


It seemed almost a footnote to a court filing in a wrongful death case being pursued by the family of Jason Wren.

Wren, a 19-year-old Kansas University student, was found dead on March 8, 2009, at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at KU. An autopsy determined that Wren’s blood-alcohol level was .362 percent and attributed his death to alcohol poisoning. Wren’s family is seeking punitive damages from the SAE fraternity, which, they say, has failed to change its ways since Jason’s death.

As part of a recent filing in the case, the Wrens’ attorney noted, “Following Jason Wren’s death, Jason’s younger sister committed suicide. Tragically, months later, Jason’s mother Mary also took her own life.”

The family lived in Littleton, Colo. The Denver Post reported the death of 16-year-old Vickie J. Wren on Jan. 10; an obituary for her mother, Mary, who died on June 15, appeared on June 23.

We don’t know what other pressures the Wren family was under, but it seems unlikely that the two suicides were completely unrelated to Jason’s untimely death. It’s a poignant reminder of the far-reaching impact of alcohol abuse.

What, if any, responsibility the SAE fraternity bears in this case is for the courts to decide, but the tragedy suffered by the Wren family in the last 18 months is undeniable.


begin60 7 years, 6 months ago

That's heartbreaking. Bad things happen when the poisonous atmosphere up at KU touches people's lives too intimately?

Amy Heeter 7 years, 6 months ago

That is sad. I did not know this chain of events has transpired. No doubt Mr. Wren is at his wits end trying to cope with all the loss.

kernal 7 years, 6 months ago

LJW, how long have you had this additional information?

kernal 7 years, 6 months ago

Because it was germane to the previous articles.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

"does it matter?"

Quite possibly. The possible family history of depression sheds a somewhat different light on Jason Wren's drinking behavior.

Ann Gardner 7 years, 6 months ago

I believe it hadn't come to light until the recent court filing.

mom_of_three 7 years, 6 months ago

Yes, it is very tragic for the family and a reminder of alcohol abuse.
A reminder that parents shouldn't push underage drinking under the rug, just because they were able to do it when they were their kids' age.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 6 months ago

About 40 years ago a girl I went to high school with was shot and killed the year after we graduated in what has been termed a random act of violence. The summer following her murder her pregnant sister died in a car accident. Their mother, having lost both of her daughters within a year of each other, along with what would have been her first grandchild, went into a depressive spiral that ended in her suicide. I'm not exactly sure I could have withstood that kind of loss. This is tragedy beyond belief and, if we have any understanding of grief, I have no doubt that Mr. Wren is bearing a burden of guilt that would kill any one of us. Making hindsight judgments about the lives of other people is cruel. They will judge themselves enough.

jlzack 7 years, 6 months ago

I would have to agree with you (none2).

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

Sorry, Mr. (or Ms.) editorial writer, but I think you're off by about 180 degrees on this one.

Young Mr. Wren's death was indeed a tragedy, and grief is a terrible burden to bear. But it IS born by millions of people every day; most of them do not commit suicide without the presence of some other condition. Also, alcohol abuse is rarely a stand-alone issue, and it's not even always a primary issue. When you have a young person who lives and dies as Jason Wren did, coupled with a family history that includes two first-degree relatives that committed suicide, the first thing one would have to suspect is some hereditary (or at least generational) form of depression, and it's much more likely that depression led to Jason's drinking more than it is that alcohol led to the deaths of three people in this case.

parrothead8 7 years, 6 months ago

"We don’t know what other pressures the Wren family was under, but it seems unlikely that the two suicides were completely unrelated to Jason’s untimely death."

In essence, the editorial admits that, yes, there were probably other factors at play, but that a son's death can't be COMPLETELY ruled out as being an unrelated factor. How is that "180 degrees" off from what you said? You're trivializing this family's pain by saying that "millions of people" bear grief without committing suicide. You said it yourself: depression may be a suspect here. Well, depression also has causes. Perhaps the depression is linked to their brother's/son's death. Perhaps not.

This may not be the best topic for an editorial (it should be a column, not an editorial), and it's certainly not the best-written editorial, but the subject is what it is: a family's pain, pure and simple. No finger-pointing. Just pain.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

"You said it yourself: depression may be a suspect here."

Actually, what I said myself was some form of hereditary or generational depression.

"Well, depression also has causes. Perhaps the depression is linked to their brother's/son's death."

Linked, yes, caused by, no. That would be grief, not depression.

"How is that "180 degrees" off from what you said?"

Their contention is that alcohol abuse caused these three people's tragic deaths. Mine is that whatever caused their deaths led to the alcohol abuse. Those are pretty much antithetical hypotheses.

Don Whiteley 7 years, 6 months ago

There's no teenager that ever reaches maturity without going through a period in their lives where they're brain damaged. Usually, this occurs the first year of college when they're still celebrating their new found freedom, but before they learn that with freedom comes responsibility. Abusive drinking has been an accepted mainstay of American Fraternities since the fifties and not a single fraternity or sorority I've seen teaches any form of responsibility. It's time we stop turning our backs on this behavior. New rules aren't going to stem this tide, only boarding up the doors of these institutions of public drunkeness is going to slow the tide of alcohol related deaths coming out of campuses.

notajayhawk 7 years, 6 months ago

You seriously think this only happens in the frat houses? Hello, kicked out of the dorms for three alcohol violations?

Kelly Johnson 7 years, 6 months ago

My thoughts are that perhaps there was an element of guilt involved in the suicides of the sister and mother - perhaps they thought they could have done something to prevent his death..

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