Friends and family members said they think McCoy was trying to break up a fight between some friends and the suspect, identified by police as Frostburg senior Shanee Liggins, 23. None of them knew of any previous interaction between McCoy and Liggins, a business administration major from Waldorf.
“She was a nice, bubbly, energetic person who tried to do right by people,” Steven McCoy, a cousin of the victim, said on behalf her family. “It all feels surreal.”
Such deadly incidents on college campuses are considered a rarity. Yet Sunday’s attack was the second fatal fight between Frostburg students at an off-campus residence in the past year and a half, and it was the second fatal encounter involving two young women at a school in the University System of Maryland this academic year.
Investigators said that McCoy became embroiled in an argument involving several people in an off-campus residence about 1:30 a.m. and that the dispute spilled outside to Maple Street. There, the suspect allegedly “produced a knife and stabbed the victim,” according to a police statement.
Gerald Workman, who lives across the street from the yellow, two-story rental house, said he “heard a little noise out there” and got up to investigate. “I looked out the window, and the place was just surrounded with police officers,” Workman said.
Liggins was arrested and is being held without bond on charges of first- and second-degree murder. Police offered no further details on the sequence of events that led from a vocal altercation to alleged homicide.
Liggins lives in the Maple Street house, just off the Frostburg State campus, according to Jonathan Gibralter, the university’s president. McCoy lived in a freshman residence hall, where she served as a resident assistant, and was a visitor at the off-campus house early Sunday.
“This incident occurred off of our campus, where we have much less control over our students’ actions,” Gibralter said in an afternoon news conference, speaking to safety concerns. “This was not a random act, and we still consider this to be a safe community.”
McCoy, the second-oldest of five children, was a physics major at Frostburg, a regional public university with about 5,000 undergraduate students and a small graduate population. Most students hail from Maryland, many of them from Baltimore, its suburbs and the sparsely populated counties of Western Maryland.
She sang in the university chorale and in a gospel choir called Unified Voices Under God’s Dominion; she also sang at her home church, Empowerment Temple in Baltimore. McCoy joined the gospel group on campus after someone heard her rich alto in the student dining hall during her freshman year. Students from the ensemble gathered for a memorial service Sunday.
“She loved to smile. She loved to dance. Kortneigh was a peacemaker,” classmate Devin James said at the afternoon news conference. “I remember I was with her even last week, and we just laughed and smiled and ate.”
McCoy is the second young woman fatally stabbed in Maryland’s state university system this fall, after the death of Dominique T. Frazier, 18, at Bowie State University in September.
Alexis D. Simpson, a 19-year-old Bowie State student, was charged in the fatal stabbing of Frazier, her roommate. Investigators said Simpson and Frazier had an argument that escalated into a fight. Police said it ended with Simpson stabbing Frazier in the throat.
According to authorities on campus violence, women make up a small but rising share of perpetrators in violent crimes at colleges — representing about 7 percent of all assailants — a reflection of cultural changes and the growing majority of women in the collegiate population.
“Anecdotally, we have seen a small uptick in physical violence among girls and young women,” said Barry Spodak, a consultant who helps colleges predict and prevent potential acts of violence. “We find it in high schools, as well.”
In April 2010 at Frostburg State, an off-campus party ended in violence when a male student shot two others with a 12-gauge shotgun. Brandon Carroll, 20, died of his wounds. Tyrone Hall, 21, was charged and later pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, according to the Cumberland Times-News newspaper.
Just a year and a half later, Frostburg students were again mourning. Friends remembered McCoy as a vivacious spirit with a big laugh and a love for gospel music. She had gone to Baltimore’s Polytechnic Institute high school and dreamed of being a doctor.
She also appreciated a good running gag, said her friend Ly-Anh McCoy, 18. Ly-Anh McCoy is a freshman at Frostburg and also an alumna at Polytechnic, but she and Kortneigh McCoy are not related. They didn’t see each other often on campus.
“But when we did, we always called each other McCoy,’’ she said. “It was our joke.’’
Kortneigh McCoy’s friends said they think that she and her alleged attacker might not have known each other and that McCoy might have stepped in to break up someone else’s fight.
“She was not the type of person to get into a confrontation with anyone,” Ly-Anh McCoy said.
On her Facebook page, Kortneigh McCoy called herself “L’enfant De Fleur,” or Flower Child. She studied French, had worked sales at Victoria’s Secret in Towson, Md., and as a cashier at a soul food restaurant in Baltimore.
She posted a favorite quote from Bob Marley: “Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”
Shakia Brown, 19, had known McCoy since middle school. They and three other friends hung out so much that they gave themselves a group name, BLISS. Each letter stood for a friend. McCoy was the “L” — representing her middle name, Lavinia.
After 1 a.m. Sunday, Brown was coming home from a party when she got a call on her cellphone. When she answered, she heard screaming. “Kortneigh’s been stabbed!” said the caller, a mutual friend. In the background, she said she heard McCoy’s voice: “I’m bleeding. . . . I’m bleeding.’’
Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.
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