BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — The stabbing death of a freshman in his Binghamton University dormitory suite was all the more unsettling because it was the second violent killing of a student in two months — with fellow students suspected in both deaths.
Students returned from a day off from classes at the sprawling campus Tuesday, hours after a daylong manhunt ended with an arrest in the killing of 19-year-old engineering student Joao Souza. The university president said it’s been a tough stretch dating back to the strangling death in March of nursing student Haley Anderson.
“This has been a very difficult semester for me and the entire campus with two student deaths in just a few weeks,” president Harvey Stenger wrote in a message to the university community. “These tragedies shake us to the core and we grieve together.”
Michael Roque, 20, of Massapequa, New York, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the Sunday night killing of Souza on the campus near the Pennsylvania state line. Authorities said they believe Souza was targeted, but would not discuss a possible motive.
Souza was a native of Brazil who graduated last year from Blind Brook High School in Rye Brook, New York. Former classmates remembered him as a sweet-natured teen who played soccer and was involved in stage crew.
“He was a great guy, always smiling and cracking jokes,” high school friend Sammy Landino told the Journal News.
Haley Anderson, of Westbury on Long Island, was found dead March 9 in the off-campus home of a fellow student she briefly dated. She had been strangled. An arrest warrant was issued for 22-year-old Orlando Tercero, who lived in the apartment, but he took a plane to Nicaragua before the body was found.
The district attorney’s office is seeking to have Tercero returned from Nicaragua.
Binghamton is considered one of the better schools in New York’s expansive state university system. And with more than 17,000 students, it also is one of the largest.
Some students on Tuesday said the back-to-back killings in recent weeks were jarring, but a rarity. They said they still felt safe.
“It’s definitely ‘I can’t believe it happened here,’ and ‘What can we do to prevent that from happening in the future?’” said Courtney Hafkin, a senior from New York City. “It’s just so rare and shocking, and obviously it’s coincidental that two incidents occurred within relatively the same time span.”
Senior Noah Bressner, editor-in-chief of the student newspaper Pipe Dream, said the two killings were unrelated and not part of a trend. But he thought the university alert could have gone out faster than the roughly 45 minutes after the attack on Souza.
University police said they sent the alert through the text messaging system as soon as they had enough verified information.
School officials did not return calls and an email seeking additional comment Tuesday.
Stenger, in his message posted Monday night, reminded people to sign up for campus alerts and said keeping everyone in the campus community safe was his top priority.
“Unfortunately, we live in a time where violence is part of society,” he wrote, “and, as a campus of 17,000+ students and several thousand faculty and staff, there are occasions where violence will intrude on our campus.”
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