Student's death a mystery It wasn't meningitis as originally thought

April 11, 1992|By Lou Ferrara | Lou Ferrara,Contributing Writer Staff writer Lan Nguyen contributed to this article.

COLLEGE PARK -- State medical examiners said yesterday that the death earlier this week of University of Maryland student Jennifer Lynn Jones was not caused by meningitis as originally believed, raising new questions as to how the 21-year-old died in her sorority house bedroom.

"It could be a natural death; it could be a suicide; it could be a homicide," Prince George's County Police Capt. James White said yesterday. Captain White said the police investigation is continuing.

A final autopsy report is expected early next week and the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore is conducting toxicology tests to check for drugs or alcohol in the body, said Tori Leonard, a spokeswoman for the office.

Miss Jones of Merritt Island, Fla., was found dead at 6 p.m. Wednesday in her Delta Delta Delta sorority house bedroom by TTC fellow member of the sorority. Two Prince George's County Volunteer Fire Department firefighters who were working as busboys in the sorority house at the time rushed to Miss Jones' bedroom but were unable to revive her.

Friends said Miss Jones had gone to bed at about 10 p.m. Tuesday night, not participating with her sorority in Greek Week activities. The annual event is marked with parties and events throughout the week.

Conrad M. Jones Jr., Miss Jones' father, said yesterday that his family has no medical history of sudden, unexplainable deaths.

"She loved to cook big meals and dinners. She could cook almost anything if she wanted," he said. "She had always been a good student, a brilliant student."

Paul DeVoce, assistant state medical examiner, initially said the cause of death was probably spinal meningitis. The disease is caused by either a viral or bacterial infection that works its way to the spinal cord and brain. Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches and nausea.

"Miss Jones was not suffering from meningitis at the time of her unexpected death. However, she did experience seizure activity when she died," according to a release issued by state medical examiners yesterday.

News of the death sparked a meningitis scare and campus and county health officials distributed a meningitis-preventive drug, Rifampin. About 200 students were provided the medication over the past three days.

Miss Jones was originally from Rockville, where she graduated in 1988 from Magruder High School. Her parents and brother had recently moved to Florida. A senior marketing major, Miss Jones transferred to College Park from Michigan State University about a year ago. She would have been 22 years old on Tuesday.

All Greek activities were canceled Thursday night because of the death. Inter-fraternity Council and Panhellenic Council passed out gold, silver and blue ribbons -- the colors of the Delta Delta Delta sorority.

Last night they had a moment of silence before the annual Greek talent show, part of Greek Week festivities.

"It's really shocked everybody here," said Gina DellaVecchia, 19, a sophomore who belongs to Alpha Phi sorority. "It's all anybody talked about this week."

Miss Jones is survived by her parents, Gloria R. and Conrad M. Jones Jr., and a brother, Conrad M. Jones III, all of Merritt Island, Fla.; her maternal grandmother, Mildred C. Nowottnick of Titusville, Fla.; and her paternal grandparents Catherine and Conrad M. Jones of Rockville.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church, 3820 Aspen Hill Road, Wheaton.

There will be a memorial service at 4 o'clock this afternoon at the Delta Delta Delta sorority, just east of the College Park campus.

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