Maryland State Police announced Friday that a 19-year-old student at Bowie State University has been charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of her roommate on campus.
Alexis D. Simpson, of District Heights, has been charged with first-degree murder, second-degree murder and first-degree assault. Authorities said she left campus after the Thursday night slaying, but turned herself in to authorities hours later.
Investigators believe Simpson and one of her roommates, Dominique T. Frazier, of the District, got into an argument that escalated into a physical fight. Frazier was stabbed in the throat, according to three law enforcement sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. It was not clear what the women argued about.
On Friday, in the midst of Homecoming week, the mood on campus was somber.
University officials issued a statement early Friday morning saying that classes were canceled Friday and a “community gathering for consolation” is scheduled for noon in the James Leonidas Physical Education Complex. Counselors from the school are available to assist students and staff, the statement said.
Sophomore Jasmine Harvey, 19, said the stabbing rocked her sense of security on the small campus, which she said seems isolated from violence in neighboring towns. Bowie is “so homey, everybody is family.”
“It was really scary, and everyone was locking their doors and asking, ‘Will you walk with me to the bathroom?’ ” said Harvey, a psychology major from Upper Marlboro.
“This kind of senseless violence is difficult to understand,” the statement said. “We understand from police that there is no apparent ongoing threat to the campus community and it is safe for students and employees.”
Hundreds of students and faculty packed into the James Gymnasium at noon on Friday for a community meeting. They filled rows of folding chairs and the bleachers, and dozens of people stood in the back. Officials and student leaders stood before what will be the stage for a Homecoming fashion show scheduled for tonight, called upon God for guidance and told students to learn from Frazier’s death.
“Dominique Frazier, a precious life, a valued member of our university community, has been taken from us,” said university president Mickey L. Burnim. “Our community and our family has permanently changed.”
Burnim urged students to solve their problems with civility and comfort each other to make Bowie State "a closer and a stronger community." A series of counselors told students about the stages of grief, signs of depression and encouraged students to seek help if they need it. One counselor encouraged the students to discuss their feelings face-to-face, not digitally on Facebook or Twitter.
Just after 8 p.m. Thursday, Prince George’s County police received a 911 call reporting a cutting at the Christa McAuliffe Residential Community building and responded along with campus police officers, state police said. University officers were the first to arrive and found Frazier unconscious in a second floor hallway of the apartment-style dorm.
The officers rendered emergency care until rescuers arrived and took Frazier to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead about 45 minutes later.
Frazier, Simpson and two other students shared the suite, which has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a common area, Maryland State Police said. They said others were in the suite at the time of the fight, but no one else was injured.
Starting Thursday night, Twitter lit up with news about the stabbing. Bowie State Public Safety Director Ernest L. Waiters urged students not to speculate about what happened and to contact police if they knew of any previous disputes between the two students.
"There is a lot of misinformation going on right now about this event," he said. ''I am going to ask you not to engage in that type of communication."
On Thursday night, a student, Matthew Crisostomo, said in an e-mail that the campus alert system issued a message to students that police were investigating “a stabbing that occurred inside Christa McAuliffe Hall.”
About 11 p.m., campus officials used the alert system to announce that residents of the McAuliffe dorm who were not in the building should report to the Center for Learning and Technology and that those in the dorm should “remain inside the building at this time.”
“The entire university community is distressed that this type of violence has occurred within our midst,” campus officials said in their web statement.
To investigate the death, state police shut down the residence hall. Students living there traveled home or slept on cots that were lined up in a campus gym. Waiters said state police expected to finish their search of the hall this afternoon and students on most floors could then return to their rooms. Students living on the second floor will have to wait longer, as cleaning crews still needed to work there.
Waiters did not say Simpson's name at the community meeting, but told students "an individual" had been charged with first and second-degree murder. He said the safety of students was not in jeopardy.
"This is a very sad time for us because we have lost one student toviolence, and we've lost another" to the consequences of serious violence, Waiters said.
Bowie State University, established in Prince George’s County in 1865, is the oldest historically black college or university in Maryland. About 4,000 students are enrolled full-time, with about 1,500 part-time students.
On Friday morning, the campus was quiet and parking lots were nearly empty. Yellow police tape blocked the front entrance to the Christa McAuliffe Residential Community building. The school’s Homecoming week began Sept. 11 and will end Sunday.
Signs were posted on the doors of academic buildings notifying students that classes were canceled.
Several students living on campus said they locked themselves in their rooms Thursday night and were afraid to leave, as they did not know if any arrests had been made or if there was any chance they too could be harmed.
“It was a pretty crazy night. I couldn’t sleep until at least 3,” said Terez Badger, 21, a junior biology major from Perryville. “For some reason, we all have this illusion that you are safe on campus.”
“I didn’t sleep at all,” said Cassandra Clayborne, 18, a freshman biology major from Damascus who said she was already scared to move to college for the first time.
Student Brittany Frank, 20, heard about the stabbing from her roommate, who saw the news on Twitter. Neither of them knew any of the students involved.
“Everybody on Twitter knew about it. It was crazy,” said Frank, a junior nursing major from Baltimore who just transferred to Bowie State. “My phone was going crazy. Everybody was calling me.”
Frank said last night there was a mass exodus from campus, as parents arrived late in the evening to pick their students up. She decided to stay because she didn’t know classes would be canceled.
“I saw so many people leave,” she said. “My mom was going crazy. She kept saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t want me to come pick you up?’”
Although most Bowie State students commute to campus for class, there are residence halls on campus. Still, Frank said it’s a quiet community, especially on the weekends when most students leave.
Students Idris Gbadamosi and Whitney Durham were at a rehearsal for a Homecoming fashion show when they started to hear rumors about a stabbing on campus.
“At first we didn’t believe it,” said Gbadamosi 21, a junior biology major from Bowie who plays basketball.
“Or we thought it was probably two guys,” said Durham, 19, a junior accounting major from Bowie.
“And then a little while later people were saying, ‘The ambulance is still not here. Where’s the ambulance?’” Gbadamosi said.
“What was our security doing?” “Aren’t there cameras?” Durham said. “Most of us didn’t think she would die. But then there were all of these ‘rest in peace’ tweets... The school year just started. [Homecoming is] supposed to be a friendly, fun week.”
Staff writer Maggie Fazeli Fard contributed to this report.
More crime stories from PostLocal.com: