Salisbury State freshman, 18, jumps to his death Student showed no sign of depression WICOMICO COUNTY

October 05, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron and Lan Nguyen | Thomas W. Waldron and Lan Nguyen,Staff Writers

An 18-year-old Salisbury State University freshman jumped to his death from a fifth-floor dormitory room early yesterday after a night of drinking, authorities said.

State police said they were treating the death of Jeffrey Steven Welkos as a suicide, but they were hoping to interview more students and review drug and alcohol test results before concluding their investigation.

Jeffrey, whose family lives in the 3100 block of Evergreen Way in Ellicott City, graduated last spring from Howard County's Glenelg High School, where he played varsity soccer for three years.

Both his mother, Kathleen Welkos, and campus officials said he had shown no sign that he was depressed or contemplating suicide.

He left no note, officials said.

"He seemed very happy," Mrs. Welkos said yesterday.

Jeffrey spent Sunday night drinking beer with a few other freshmen in another student's room, according to campus officials. Police and campus investigators said they did not know how much he had to drink.

Other students told investigators that around midnight, he became sick and vomited in a dormitory bathroom. He then went to his room in Choptank Hall, where, with two students watching -- one of them his roommate and friend since ninth grade -- Jeffrey ran to a window. He climbed onto a heater and jumped out the open window, pushing through a screen, said Jim Phillips, campus public safety director. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Everybody was shocked," said Cpl. George Jacobs, a state police investigator. "Nobody can offer any reason why he would have done what appears has happened."

Jeffrey's mother and father, Steven Welkos, found out when a school official called their home shortly after the incident. They drove to Salisbury yesterday, met with a campus dean and returned home to make funeral arrangements.

"He was a sweet, loving, outgoing person," Mrs. Welkos said. "He loved his friends. He was just a joy to be around. He will be deeply missed."

Jeffrey was studying biology and liked environmental science.

As word spread, some of his high school friends returned home from college yesterday to mourn his death. They described Jeffrey, who had spent part of the summer working in Ocean City, as a warm, fun-loving person who looked out for friends.

"I can't really believe it," said Matt Murray, 17. "He was always happy. He cared about everybody. He had the biggest heart out of everyone I knew. He was everybody's best friend."

Jeffrey's roommate, David J. Bedingfield, 18, did not want to talk about the incident, but said Jeffrey "had a lot of fears" and "always said he wasn't going to live past 25. Maybe he said it as a joke because of the wild life he lived."

He said Jeffrey would "drink a little here or there," and experimented with marijuana. But he had no idea whether Jeffrey had used any drugs before jumping out the window: "He never said a word to me."

On campus, counselors were meeting with distraught students.

"Some are emotional, some are numb," said counselor Kathryn Reading. "A lot of them haven't experienced a death close at hand. That first time around can be pretty difficult."

Counselors urged students to continue going to class and continue their routines.

The death is at least the third of a SSU student in recent years. In 1985, a student died when he fell off the roof of the university's main administration building as he took part in a game with other students, said campus spokesman Gains Hawkins.

Another student, Heather Miller, was stabbed to death in 1991 in a restroom at Salisbury Mall.

Although Jeffrey and the other students were underage, Mr. Phillips said it was not unusual that students would have alcohol in a dormitory.

"Alcohol is the drug that causes most of the concerns on any college campus," he said.

Services for Jeffrey are planned for 11 a.m. Thursday at the Harry H. Witzke Funeral Home, 4112 Old Columbia Pike, Ellicott City.

The family will receive visitors there from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow.

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