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.

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 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 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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