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Slain NY student’s friends focus on violence issue

Carolyn Thompson Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — As her family mourned her death, the friends of a college freshman who police say was beaten to death in her dorm room by her boyfriend have rallied people to wear purple to raise awareness of domestic violence.

Alexandra Kogut’s body was found early Saturday at the State University of New York College at Brockport, near Rochester. Campus police discovered the 18-year-old Kogut’s body after her mother called them concerned because she couldn’t reach her, Monroe County sheriff’s spokesman John Helfer said.

Kogut’s boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore, 21, was arrested at a New York Thruway rest stop near Syracuse, 100 miles east, about an hour later. He told state troopers he intentionally killed Kogut, according to a criminal complaint. No motive was given.

The cause of death was ruled blunt force trauma, Helfer said, but he declined to say whether a weapon was used.

University officials described the slaying as an isolated tragedy that came without warning.

SUNY Brockport spokesman John Follaco said dormitories are locked at all times, and residents swipe identification cards to gain access. Guests must be signed in, and all procedures were followed in Whittemore’s case, he said.

Kogut’s family released a photo of her along with a statement asking for privacy.

“Alexandra Kogut was a bright, beautiful young woman who was thrilled to be beginning her college education,” the family said. “Her lovely and sweet demeanor was truly infectious and she will forever be missed.”

A Facebook page set up in Kogut’s honor had hundreds of messages of condolence Monday, and several friends and a former teacher urged supporters to wear purple for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which began Monday.

The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported that students at Kogut’s and Whittemore’s alma mater, New Hartford High School, wore purple T-shifts to school and released 100 purple balloons in Kogut’s memory.

New Hartford, in central New York, is about 150 miles east of Brockport.

Kogut’s childhood friend Mary Kate Heaton said the two appeared “perfectly content” in the relationship, which began last year.

“I know she loved him a lot,” Heaton said by phone Monday.

Kogut was majoring in communication, university President John Halstead said.

“These are trying times for our campus but I know we will pull together and support each other as we move through the coming days,” Halstead said in a statement.

A day before the slaying, the union representing SUNY police issued a student safety alert after what they said was months of escalating security concerns on campus ignored by SUNY.

SUNY said the Brockport slaying is unrelated to the union’s concerns about broader campus safety.

“I don’t think any of the union’s concerns would have any impact or are even remotely related,” SUNY spokesman David Doyle said.

For more than six months, the union has pressed for better training, weapons and equipment and a higher state of alert before and during a string of three violent attacks on and around state campuses in Buffalo and Albany.

Doyle said SUNY had been investigating and discussing the concerns and a major meeting with union members is in the works but has been delayed after the system’s top administrator left the job.

Whittemore enrolled last fall at Utica College, near where he and his girlfriend grew up, and was an accounting major, college spokesman Kelly Adams said. College policy prevented him from discussing whether Whittemore had ever been in trouble on campus.

Whittemore pleaded not guilty over the weekend to a murder charge and is being held without bail in Monroe County Jail. Telephone messages left at his family’s New Hartford home and at his public defender’s office weren’t immediately returned Monday.


Associated Press writer Michael Gormley contributed to this report from Albany.

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