Foul play ruled out in student's death

Alcohol poisoning of UM junior `highly unlikely'

Toxicology report awaited

Police statement eases speculation on campus violence

September 07, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Police ruled out foul play yesterday in the death of a University of Maryland junior Wednesday morning and said that a preliminary autopsy showed it was "highly unlikely" that he died of alcohol poisoning.

But the cause of Alexander Eugene Klochkoff's death remains unclear, police said. They are waiting for the results of toxicology tests, which could take at least two weeks.

The police statements put an end to some of the speculation that has dominated the campus since the 20-year-old from North Bellmore, N.Y., was found on the front porch of his Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house about 8 a.m. Wednesday. The police's initial unwillingness to rule out foul play in the death, along with a spate of armed robberies on campus, had fueled concerns about student safety.

Yesterday, Prince George's County police Maj. Gary Corso said worried parents and students can "take a breath."

"There were no physical injuries visible that caused this man's death," added Lt. Michael McQuillan. "Let's be honest. If he were beaten to death, we'd be calling this a homicide. There's no physical evidence to suggest he died violently."

Police would not elaborate on other potential causes of Klochkoff's death. They said they were unaware of any medical conditions Klochkoff might have had.

Quoting unnamed sources, the Washington Post reported yesterday that Klochkoff was found with a bloodied nose. McQuillan said this was not a sign of trauma. "There are things that happen to a body when it dies," he said.

Police declined to comment on whether illegal drugs were found on the porch or in the fraternity house. And Kenneth W. Krouse, chief of the campus police, said he was "not aware" whether his department had ever found illegal drugs at the fraternity house.

Police said they are trying to piece together an account of Klochkoff's activities before his death. Between 8 and 10 Tuesday night, they said, he was at a meeting inside the fraternity house. Students say the fraternity, like others on campus, was in the middle of Rush Week, when Greek societies court underclassmen.

Bar workers interviewed

The owner of R.J. Bentley's Filling Station, a popular bar a few blocks from Fraternity Row, said police interviewed his staff about reports that Klochkoff went to the bar later Tuesday night. The owner, John Brown, said his staff did not have a clear memory of Klochkoff at the bar, saying that it was very busy that night.

The bar's bouncers are careful about checking IDs at the door, Brown said, but many underage drinkers produce convincing fakes using advanced technology. The bar, which advertises half-price specials Tuesday night, closes at 2 a.m.

Police said they are looking for information about Klochkoff's activities after 10 p.m. As late as 4 a.m., they said, Klochkoff was seen alive outside the fraternity house.

"He was just sitting around, doing what college kids do," said McQuillan. "Nothing he was doing was out of the ordinary for what college students do."

The police briefing was attended by more than a dozen members of Klochkoff's fraternity, who sat slumped before the wall of television cameras, wearing purple and yellow ribbons and a few black armbands in Klochkoff's memory to go with their bandannas and baseball caps. The members have been allowed back into the columned fraternity house after a police search and have draped the lion statues outside the house, an SAE trademark, with black garbage bags as a sign of mourning.

The SAE members declined to comment, but other students said they were relieved that their fellow student's death was not a homicide - though other possible explanations for his death were unpleasant, too.

"That was scary, the thought that someone could be beaten up, that some stranger could come into our little bubble of security," said Charise Pfeffer, a senior from New York.

"But it's still sad. I feel bad for all the brothers. People were looking at them and wanted to go offer condolences, but you don't know if they want you to talk to them. You don't know if there's an unspoken wall around them."

`Amazing potential'

Friends in Klochkoff's New York hometown recalled a likable young man who seemed full of high hopes.

"He had amazing potential and could've done absolutely anything," Melina Dreyfuss, a high school friend, told Newsday. "To think that he isn't going to get that opportunity is hard to deal with."

Klochkoff spent the early part of his life in Florida. His parents divorced, and when he was about 12, he moved with his father and older brother to Long Island, where his father remarried, according to Newsday.

Friends said Klochkoff had no trouble fitting in with his new family or at Wellington C. Mepham High School, where he became a standout football player.

"He was the kid everybody wished they could be," friend Scott Margulies told Newsday.

After graduating from high school, Klochkoff spent one semester as a commuting student at Hofstra University in New York before transferring to Maryland. He did not play football at Hofstra. Nor did he try out for the Maryland team, according to a member of the coaching staff.

He had yet to choose a major at College Park and, according to police, was living at the fraternity house this semester.

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

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