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, 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 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 , 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 , 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 contributed to this report.

Bham Resident February 28, 2011 at 04:16 PM
I find the inclusion of photos and request for comments very distasteful and inappropriate.
Timothy Rath (Editor) March 01, 2011 at 01:01 AM
Great job, Laura, in gathering community sources to report on a difficult, nearly-unprecedented subject to the area.
P P March 01, 2011 at 04:16 AM
There are times when news, should not be news. A young man lost his life; a family lost a son. A school has been left to pick up the shattered pieces of classmates' lives, and to attempt to make sense of something so nonsensical as young student's suicide. I fully agree with Bham Resident's statements. This article, the photos and requests for comments is over the top! It is shameful! Common sense seems, these days, all too uncommon. My prayers go out for the young man, his family, friends and classmates. I pray all involved may find peace in their minds, and learn how to support those with troubled minds, in the end, perhaps avoiding another such tragedy. A former Birmingham resident, now residing in Clarkston
P P March 01, 2011 at 04:41 AM
Whomever deleted Bham Resident's post here, shame on you! You requested feedback. Bham resident gave it to you. S/he disagreed, and apparently you find the his/her truth unsettling. No doubt, my own criticisms will be removed shortly. If you can't take the heat of public discourse, leave publishing al l together. Thank goodness for "screen shots" as proof of other existing posts now removed. A former Birmingham resident, now residing in Clarkston (Post #2)
KC March 01, 2011 at 06:21 AM
As a former Cranbrook boarder and student my heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man. I will be keeping the family, friends, classmates and community in my prayers. Isn't it an unwritten rule in journalism not to report on suicides? I used to live in San Francisco and the news media never reported such news out of respect for the family and to discourage future situations.
John Zupanc March 01, 2011 at 11:39 AM
P P are you talking about the three posts I made last Saturday o2/26/2011 about the Birmingham Police and Building Departments and other shady dealings in Oakland County? If so, here in three parts is my e-mail to Larua: Dear Ms. Houser: Just now I attempted to again review the comments affixed to your story titled “Police Blotter: Man Posing as Neighbor Suspected of Taking Wallet”. However, somehow they “mysteriously” disappeared. They were there about two or three hours ago. If you do not know what comments I am talking about, then please review the attached screen dumps.
John Zupanc March 01, 2011 at 11:41 AM
The press in Oakland County needs a Daniel Ellsberg or a Julian Assange. I am sure that a story about the shenanigans in Birmingham, the 6th Circuit Court Of Oakland County, the 48th District Court of Oakland County, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and The Oakland County Sherriff’s Office would sell many more news papers than as story about a “Man Posing as Neighbor Suspected of Taking Wallet” As you have been the recipient of my many e-mails, you should know exactly what I am talking about.
John Zupanc March 01, 2011 at 12:17 PM
oops, missed the second paragraph in my 02/26/2011 e-mail to Laura: At this juncture I can on only conclude that the Birmingham Patch is scarred that someone from the Birmingham and/or Oakland County “Good Old Boys Network”, probably a supposedly trusted public servant, may have their feelings hurt. I was hoping that by now, you would have taken advantage of the great career opportunity I have been giving you. That is to carry out some investigative journalism that would send the "Good Old Boys Network" to at least the hall of shame if not the Oakland County Jail. Do you not have career ambitions that go beyond working for a small local on-line publication?
Nancy Hanus March 01, 2011 at 12:51 PM
PP: The comment you referred to were not deleted by a Patch editor, but were flagged several times by readers, which automatically sends the comment into a moderation queue for editors to review. That comment has been restored. We encourage comments, and in no way intend to restrict meaningful conversation. We have, however, also removed other comments here not relevant to this story; those comments violated our terms of service, and did not in any way contribute to this conversation. We hope that in the spirit of community that people who knew the teen who committed suicide -- or those simply wishing to extend their sympathy -- have a place to comment. Your suggestions and thoughts are always taken into account as we report, as Patch is as much about community as it is about reporting the news. KC: It is common practice in journalism to report suicides that are committed in a public way, as this one was. However, we have refrained from using the student's name, out of respect for the family. We believe, furthermore, that teen suicide in particular is a tragic and increasing occurrence, and that by bringing resources to readers -- how to talk with teens, what help is out there for suicidal teens -- we can help curb this trend. I hope these answers help. Nancy Hanus, Patch Regional Editor
Brooke Tajer March 01, 2011 at 03:05 PM
These stories, as a journalist, are the hardest to write. No one wants to have to write about tragedies like this, but it's an unfortunate aspect of our job we can't ignore (even if we want to). I echo Tim's comments, and my heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man.
Greg Thrasher March 01, 2011 at 03:21 PM
I also have major reservations about the so called "common practice in journalism" to report suicides in a public way...Of course Birmingham Patch is under no obligation to follow any "common practices" I have a higher standard and expectation with regard to journalism. Finally the notion that a newspaper can curb the trend of teen suicide is at best pure speculation and reads like an excuse and defensive posturing by Birmingham Patch's editors. I agree that the photos and chatter from the public were out of order and troubling.
Kim Littlefield March 01, 2011 at 03:55 PM
This weekend I witnessed a boating accident on the Grand River in Downtown Grand Rapids where one of the boys involved, in his early 20s, drowned. The news media outlets had posted photos of his retrival from the river because there was speculation that he could still be alive. But anyone who was there knew that it would have taken a miracle from God for that outcome. But even after his death was announced, the photos of him on the side of the river, receiving medical attention, are still available on these public outlets. Yes, they are disturbing to some of us (including myself) that are sensitive to death. I know that I have been very negatively affected by what I saw... potentially for a lifetime. When the Editor first posted the story yesterday, there was initial speculation that the young boy had been in a car accident. After further investigation, it was found there was really no accident involved. I feel the Editor was just trying to do her part to make sure the information she had posted on the site was updated and accurate. I also feel that it is very important to bring the epidemic of teenage suicide to light... a conversation of today that we should try to make more a topic of discussion than something to sweep under the rug. I trust that the editorial staff of Birmingham Patch, as they have already started to do this morning with Pam Hougton's column, will steer the conversation in the right direction.
Bham Resident March 01, 2011 at 05:18 PM
Thank you for re-posting my response.
Birminghammer March 01, 2011 at 11:43 PM
You also deleted comments about the Birmingham Police Department on the police blotter article. How can you say that wasn't relevant to the story? So, how can you say; "We have, however, also removed other comments here not relevant to this story;" ?
Laura Houser (Editor) March 01, 2011 at 11:47 PM
Comments were flagged and deleted from other stories because, though they mentioned the Birmingham Police Department, they were not about the stories at hand. Many of those comments also violated our Terms of Service.
Mom March 02, 2011 at 01:31 AM
This article was disrespectful to the family, his classmates, and the faculty that have taught him. I am appalled by the tone that the writer of this article chose-tabloid journalism. To use a photo of where this YOUNG person was supposedly found is at the very least distasteful and disrespectful. My daughter said it best " She is horrified at the state of the human mind that this (article with photos, seeking comments from customers in the building, and asking for comments on a public board) could be written. If you truly wanted to just report on the facts to bring attention to teenage suicide, you could have generalized the topic and attempted to make suggestions for parents, although, many have understood that young people often hide their sadness. And for the person- (MamanVerite) who even suggests that the parents giving their child an opportunity of a wonderful education, is at fault, is dispicable. Have you not been taught to be respectful when someone passes?
Bham Resident March 02, 2011 at 01:32 AM
Laura, the last comment from MamanVerite is exactly why certain details needed to be left out. When dealing with this type of topic, less is more. It is a situation that is to be handled by the police, not the press. Certainly the death could have been reported, but details left to a bare minimum. Having personally dealt with a suicide in my family, I cannot imagine having to deal with the judgement by others being put into print while having to deal with my own grief as well.
P P March 02, 2011 at 04:35 AM
I guess I'll step up the pace a bit here. I am a former high school principal, of a public school in Oakland County. Which school is unimportant, as my views represent my professional opinions, not the district. I had the great misfortunate, and pain of seeing 4 students' deaths during my administrative career, and I remain I shocked and disappointed at this coverage. Cranbrook Schools' administration asked for privacy, and the administrative team issued that request per the family's decision that they should do so. This article disregards the fact that schools are social systems, and the social pains the whole school is experiencing right now is near unprecedented. To boot, Cranbrook is a private. In sum, what we have here is a private school, a minor child's death, parents' request for privacy, and the school administration's request for privacy. Yet, the editors here attempt to stand on journalist hoopla as justification for their insensitivity and/or lack of common sense. Let the school personnel and students heal. The students (based on my own past experiences) are so profusely traumatized that there is no plausible means of expressing it. You are simply throwing gasoline onto smoldering ashes. There is no honor in this article. Worst of all, the photos included herein infirm me. There is simply no justification. P P
MamanVerite March 02, 2011 at 03:28 PM
No one wants to hear the truth in these situations. One of the strongest ways to lower the risk suicides among young people is via "ENGAGED" parenting. You don't leave a depressed kid to live ALONE, or ANY kid, for that matter to live ALONE at age 17. This is not an acceptable parenting practice, plain and simple. I don't care how much money is involved here, or how "fancy" the "digs" are...this is not acceptable parenting. Period.
Mom March 02, 2011 at 04:28 PM
We can assume from reading the posts from MAMANVERITE, that this despicable being can not grasp the committment, love and sacrafice that parents make so that their children can be afforded the education such as this MINOR CHILD received. From the lack of proper venacular to the anger that penetrates the posts at the lifestyle some have chosen to work for, these postings are exactly the reason why this article should not have been written. He is a minor child, he has a loving family that is forever heart broken, This article did not benefit nor assist in the healing of the community, the family and friends of this young person. All it served to accomplish was allowing for the dispicable a place to speak out and cause more anguish to those involved.
Nancy Hanus March 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM
Editors note: The comments by the user referred to in several of these posts have been deleted and the user has been suspended for violating Patch's terms of service. Patch encourages comment and welcomes your thoughts and suggestions, including on the value of our coverage of such an event. However, insensitive or offensive comments will not be tolerated, and neither will personal attacks or diatribes. Readers can help by flagging such comments for editors; if you hit "flag" it goes into a moderation queue for editors so that we can act quickly to eliminate such comments. Thanks for your continued comments. We really do value your opinions, and take them into account in future coverage.
Charlotte Eriksen (Editor) March 04, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Doing that would have trivialized the facts. Generalize the topic? This is a teenager's life. That would have been disrespectful.
NeverForget March 05, 2011 at 04:38 PM
I am a student at Cranbrook in the Upper School. I initially planned on ignoring this article, but I've found I have to speak my mind about it. I find it absolutely horrifing that there are photos! I found this article because I was hoping to further understand what happened. However, all it did was disgust me. Those pictures were not in any way necessary. And "the incident was the talk of Toss-Ups" sounds so trivial! Please, remember to consider those who were close to him. This certainly doesn't help.
kevin March 08, 2011 at 01:28 PM
the fact that so many responded is evidence that this is important - yes a very sensitive issue but one not to be ignored - looking the other way is a form of denial Never Forget stated "I was hoping to further understand what happened" - by having an open forum maybe more will be understood suicide is a reality and is on the rise - the patch has covered additional information about suicide prevention that is important i encourage any response that can help Never Forget - a Cranbrook Student understand what happened - or any comment that can help prevent further incidents
Laura Houser (Editor) March 08, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Great idea Kevin. I definitely think an open forum calling attention to teenage suicide and depression would be beneficial to the community at large. When I attended the Night of Hope at Kensington Community Church Sunday night, many of the teens I spoke with there said suicide is still considered a taboo topic among many adults, but all generally agreed that it's a problem that needs to be addressed. I'm curious to know how the community thinks this issue should be addressed. Patch has posted several informational pieces since the incident itself, but what's the best way to start a real conversation on this topic? How do we talk about such a sensitive subject in a way that allows people to mourn, grieve and still be open about the facts? I thought the Night of Hope was a major success, especially given the number of young people there that evening. But what about everyone else?


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