Midshipman found hanged in shower

January 23, 1993|By John Rivera and JoAnna Daemmrich | John Rivera and JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writers

A varsity football player at the U.S. Naval Academy was found hanged Thursday in a shower stall, the academy confirmed yesterday. His death was ruled a suicide.

Midshipman 3rd Class Gil Wendel Greene, 20, a sophomore economics major, was found about 11 a.m. Thursday by an academy staff member in a private bathroom on the second floor of Rickett's Hall, said Cmdr. Mike John, a spokesman for the academy. No note was found.

The building houses the Visitors Center, coaching offices, the ticket office and a weight room.

The state medical examiner conducted an autopsy yesterday and ruled Mr. Greene's death a suicide.

Commander John refused to answer most questions about Mr. Greene's death, providing only sketchy details of the incident.

He said Mr. Greene had been having academic problems, but he declined to disclose the midshipman's grade-point average. The commander also said he did not know if Mr. Greene had been despondent or if he had been receiving counseling.

Mr. Greene had decided recently to leave the academy and attend a college nearer his parents' home in Santa Ana, Calif., said Tom Bates, Navy's sports information director.

"Last week he had asked for his release from the academy to attend a school on the West Coast, and we were in the process of granting that request," said Mr. Bates.

Mr. Greene's mother, Josie Greene, said yesterday in a telephone interview that she and her husband were aware their son had asked to leave the academy and they had been expecting him to return home any day.

She said he had told her that he was unhappy about his limited playing time on the Navy football team, and that "he just wanted to go where there was a football program where he could play more."

Mrs. Greene said that after being home for Christmas, her son had returned to the academy Jan. 4 and they had expected him back in California by the next weekend.

"We were really wondering why it was taking so long, from the first of month," she said. "I thought it was sort of a long, drawn-out procedure. I talked with him on Saturday. He was fine. We had a good talk. He said he was waiting -- I guess he had a meeting with someone -- and he thought maybe he'd be home by Tuesday."

Mrs. Greene said her son did not seem to be depressed, at Christmastime or in recent weeks, and he had no history of mental illness. "He's a really outgoing kid with a lot of fight and a lot of hope," she said. "It eludes me. I just don't understand."

Members of the football team were told of Mr. Greene's death Thursday night and the rest of the 4,300 midshipmen were informed of the suicide over electronic mail yesterday morning, Commander John said.

A moment of silence in Mr. Greene's memory will be observed before the men's basketball game against Bucknell University at 3 p.m. today in Alumni Hall.

Counselors and the academy's seven chaplains met with students individually and in small groups yesterday. "Whenever we have a problem such as this, we consider it extremely important to set up a counseling program so they can air their grief," Commander John said.

Mr. Greene, a star tailback at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., where he was an all-league player two straight years, played sparingly as a defensive back for Navy. He appeared in only two games this season, for five downs against Rutgers University and for seven downs against Vanderbilt University.

His brother, Gaylord, is a senior wide receiver for the U.S. Military Academy. Although Gil Greene did not play in the Army-Navy game in early December, it was the first time since 1926 that two brothers played for the opposing teams.

The game presented a "joyous dilemma" for their parents, James and Josie Greene, who said they sat on one side for the first half and then switched for the second half.

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