It’s every parent’s nightmare.
Alexandra Kogut, 18, a freshman at State University of New York College at Brockport, was killed in her dorm room last weekend, and her boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore, 21, is charged with the crime. She was discovered after her mother called campus police out of concern. Kogut’s mother may have had an intuition about her daughter’s relationship. Or possibly, they checked in with each other every morning like many mothers and daughters.
Whittemore was arrested an hour after Kogut’s body was found. According to news reports, police said Whittemore told state troopers he intentionally killed Kogut, but he has pleaded not guilty. Authorities ruled that the cause of death was blunt force trauma.
So far, police have not said what they think the motive for the killing was.
A childhood friend of Kogut’s told one newspaper that the couple, who attended high school together, seemed “perfectly content” a few months ago. They texted each other frequently.
The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported that Whittemore “had been arrested for disorderly conduct and public intoxication in Brevard County, Fla., in January 2011.” Did he have anger issues? Did Kogut betray his trust? Was Whittemore drunk? Was Kogut abused? Was the killing premeditated? There are so many questions in such a tragic situation and few answers likely coming until a courtroom appearance.
Kogut was a communications major and a millennial, a part of a generation that lives an almost seemingly open book via social media. Before her death, Kogut’s tweets likely were only seen by her friends. Now friends, family and law enforcement seek clues in them.
The New York Post reported: “SUNY Brockport freshman Alexandra Kogut was so excited to see her boyfriend Clayton Whittemore over the weekend that she tweeted ‘Ahhh see you sooon!!’ at him, along with a smiley-face emoticon.”
But then her last tweet seemed different.
“Should’ve known,” she tweeted about four hours before her body was found.
Should have known what? It’s such an unsettling tweet, but also indicative that some problem or issue possibly existed between the young couple. The account is now deactivated – a new step in the grieving process for parents in a social media obsessed age.
Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that tends to drown out the fact that it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness month, in which wearing the color purple is encouraged. On Monday, students at the couple’s high school alma mater wore purple and released purple balloons in Kogut’s memory. Thousands at SUNY attended a vigil for Kogut Monday night. A Facebook page, Alexandra Kogut Tribute Page, has also been set up in her memory. By early afternoon Tuesday, it had nearly 5,000 “likes.”
The Kogut story will dominate the news for a few days and speculation will swirl. But every day in this country, more than three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Sadly, there are at least two more Alexandra Koguts today who may or may not make national headlines.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker