UPDATE: Cranbrook Student Jumped to his Death from Birmingham High-Rise, Police Say
Police say 17-year-old was found in downtown Birmingham near Woodward Avenue around 3:30 a.m. Monday. "He had so much to live for," one Birmingham resident says.
A 17-year-old junior at Cranbrook-Kingswood Upper School committed suicide early this morning by jumping off the roof of a downtown condominium complex early Monday mornnig, Birmingham Police Cmdr. Terry Kiernan said.
Kiernan said the body was found near Woodward Avenue around 3:30 a.m., when a maintenance man was making his rounds at the 10-story Birmingham Place complex at 401-411 S. Old Woodward Avenue, south of Brown Street. There are retail outlets on the first floor of the building with residences on the upper floors, including a rooftop terrace.
Kiernan said the condo is owned by the teen’s parents, who purchased it for their son to use on weekends. The boy’s family lives in Texas and was not in Michigan at the time. The teen lived on the Cranbook campus during the week, only using the condo on weekends and when his family was in town, Kiernan said.
Police Chief Don Studt said he had spoken with the boy's family, who is on their way to Michigan.
The news hit the Cranbrook community hard.
"The Cranbrook Schools community is deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss," Cranbrook officials said in an official statement Monday morning. "Our thoughts are with the student's family during this painful time."
"A grief counseling team comprised of school counselors, deans, nurses, and the school’s chaplain are on hand to talk with students," Cranbrook Director of Communications Clayton Matthews said. "We’ve already reached out to our parent community and informed the student community that this service is available."
In a letter sent to Cranbrook parents Monday, the Cranbrook's Director of Schools Arlyce M. Seibert said she hopes the family's privacy will be respected during the following weeks. "During difficult times like this, the tremendous strength of our community is more valuable than ever," Seibert said. "I know that each of you will join me in keeping the student’s family and friends in your thoughts."
By lunchtime Monday, the incident was the talk of Toss-Ups, a diner on the first floor of the Birmingham Place building. Kevin Morford, Toss-Ups owner, said he couldn't even imagine the devastation the family must be feeling.
Mary Blocker, a Birmingham resident, was ordering lunch at Toss-Ups when she heard the boy was only 17. "That's so young," she said. "He had everything to live for. It's so tragic."
Rick Zablock, a Troy resident who works on the second floor of Birmingham Place at Motors Liquidation Co., said he was surprised when he heard the news. "I can't believe something like this happened in Birmingham," he said.
Christina Morgan is a receptionist for Avalon Salon and Spa, located on the first floor of Birmingham Place facing Woodward. She said she has never heard of anything like that happening in that area before. "It's incredible," she said. "It's absolutely horrible."
According to police, the teen was found laying face down in the service drive on the east side of the building, facing Woodward.
When the police and fire departments arrived on the scene, they believed the teen had died from a car accident. However, further investigation revealed a single set of footprints in the snow on the rooftop terrace. Kiernan said there was no evidence of foul play and it was clear the teen had jumped off the building. Studt said they believe the incident occurred not long before the body was found at 3:30 a.m. Monday.
Kiernan said police also found what they believe to be a suicide note from the boy at Cranbrook.
Birmingham Place property manager Michele Prentice said building management wouldn't be commenting, noting that the police would be handing the investigation.
Kiernan said it was the first time in his 31 years with the Birmingham Police Department that someone has committed suicide in this manner in the city.
Anyone with information is asked to call Birmingham police at 248-644-3405.
Patch West Bloomfield Local Editor Tim Rath contributed to this report.