Mystery surrounds death of sophomore

Clarification appended

Questions surrounding the events that led to the death of a 20-year-old student on May 16 continue to arise a month after he was found in the grass outside of Guthridge Hall.

Taylor Hubbard, a sophomore biomedical engineering student, fell from a fifth-floor window in Guthridge Hall according to initial police reports, but Hubbard’s family believes something else may have happened to their son that evening.

Hubbard’s family is considering hiring a personal investigator to assist in the investigation after neither the University Police Department nor the Metropolitan Police Department were forthright with information. MPD was still investigating the incident as of June 13. A spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said June 11 the case was still pending.

So far, The Hatchet has been able to reconstruct only part of the weekend Hubbard’s died.

On May 11, Hubbard left GW for the summer, his father, Wayne Hubbard, said, but decided to return to campus May 14 to help a friend pack.

Hubbard was found by a group of students coming back from a party early Saturday morning. Senior Jen Choi said she was walking back to South Hall around 4 a.m. when she and her friends found a male sprawled out on the grass in Guthridge Park.

Choi said no one claiming they knew the victim showed up to the scene while emergency responders were there.

Hubbard, who had “multiple internal injuries,” was brought to the GW Hospital at 4:25 a.m, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Pete Piringer said May 16. He then underwent surgery to relieve pressure on his brain. He was taken off life support and died shortly before 3 a.m. May 16, his father told The Hatchet in May.

The room Hubbard was staying in for the weekend housed three students this semester. Only one roommate, Joseph Kocjan, was still residing in the room at the time of the incident.

Hubbard’s father said that police told him in May that Kocjan was asleep when police officers came to investigate.

Kocjan, a sophomore and a member of the same chemistry fraternity Hubbard was initiated into this spring, declined to comment on multiple occasions.

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said June 1 that the University continues to “mourn the death of Taylor Hubbard.” In response to questions about the University’s investigation into Hubbard’s fall and the events of that evening, Smith said:

“The George Washington University continues its examination of circumstances and conditions surrounding the tragedy of Taylor Hubbard’s untimely death (on May 16.) While we do not comment on the specifics or manner of UPD investigations, nothing has emerged to date that indicates this incident was anything other than a tragic accident. We are cooperating with the Metropolitan Police Department.”

Later in June, Smith responded to questions about a vigil saying, “In the fall, the Student Association will be working with Taylor’s friends to plan a memorial service, and we are supporting those efforts.”

Hubbard’s friends planned a May 19 vigil and a May 21 memorial service in Maryland to remember their friend, who they said had a “contagious laugh.” The events were flooded by former teachers and classmates of Hubbard’s and many of his friends from GW. Wayne said more than 700 people attended the vigil and 500 people attended the memorial service. He joked that for the vigil, it might have been the first time all of the benches at the high school were filled.

Five of Hubbard’s friends at GW are planning a vigil in the fall when students return to campus. Dan Kane, a sophomore engineering student, wrote a five-page proposal he plans to submit to the School of Engineering that would ask for a white chair to be placed at the school’s graduation ceremony and the University-wide Commencement Ceremony in 2012 – Hubbard’s year of graduation. The plan also includes a fall vigil at GW on the Mount Vernon Campus, in University Yard or Kogan Plaza. The vigil would allow Hubbard’s friends, professors and family who were not on campus at the time of Hubbard’s death to remember the athletically-inclined student.

In a GWToday article, the University announced that a vigil was being planned but some of Hubbard’s friends at GW told The Hatchet that the University did not approach them for the planning process and the article was the first they heard of a memorial.

Holly Shablack, a friend of Hubbard’s since first grade and a sophomore at the University of Michigan, remembered him as “the ideal best friend.”

“Ever since I’ve known him, he had a way of making people laugh and feel better,” she said. She described him as selfless.

“He would do anything for someone else. He just really cared about everyone he knew.”

Hubbard was an ultimate frisbee and soccer enthusiast, friends said. He was also highly focused on his studies, spending hours studying before tests. This semester Hubbard was initiated into the Alpha Pi chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma, a co-ed professional fraternity in chemistry.

Wayne said Hubbard hoped to continue his education in medicine. While at the hospital, Wayne said engineering students, former high school classmates and teachers came to visit Hubbard. President Steven Knapp also visited with the family May 15. During the University-wide Commencement Ceremony Knapp asked for a moment of silence to remember Hubbard.

“Taylor, he lived for his friends. His friendships were the most important thing to him. He just loved everyone he met,” Wayne said. “He was just quite a kid.”

In a letter to Hubbard included in a memorial scrapbook, Kane wrote “This feels like a nightmare. I want someone to pinch me so I can wake up and go find you in Tompkins or U-Yard. You might not be in any of these places, but GW can still hear you, see you, remember you everywhere across our campus. We can still hear you laugh in the halls of Tompkins. We can still see that broad smile.”

The letter went on, “To be missed is to be remembered and, Taylor, I’m going to miss you for the rest of my life. When I leave this Earth, I hope you’ll be waiting, Frisbee in hand, ready to throw it across the clouds.”

Originally, an early version of this article was posted online. That version has been removed and the correct version is now on the website. The correct version appears in the printed paper.

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