Naval Academy midshipman is found dead near his dorm

August 19, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg and Athima Chansanchai | Lisa Goldberg and Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

The body of a 20-year-old Naval Academy midshipman was discovered on the ground beneath his fourth-floor dormitory window yesterday morning, the victim of what authorities said was apparently an accidental fall.

Midshipman 2nd Class John Paul Vito Ruggiero, an aerospace engineering major who would have started his junior year today, had been dead "for some period of time" when his body was discovered outside Bancroft Hall about 7:15 a.m., said Cmdr. Bill Spann, a Naval Academy spokesman.

Ruggiero's injuries were "consistent with a fall," and investigators believe his death was an accident, Spann said, adding that the incident remains under investigation. The body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Baltimore for an autopsy and toxicology tests.

Spann described Ruggiero as an "excellent student" who played intramural sports and had been in the drum and bugle corps.

He loved being at the academy and had returned Friday night after a week of training at sea, his father, John Ruggiero, said in a telephone interview from his home in Gouldsboro, Pa.

Saturday night, the family spoke with the midshipman while he was visiting the home of a friend's sponsor, the elder Ruggiero said. So when the phone rang at their home in Gouldsboro yesterday morning, the Ruggieros thought it was John making his traditional Sunday call, the father said.

Instead, it was notification that their son was dead.

Ruggiero, who would have turned 21 Sept. 17 and planned to attend flight school after his 2004 graduation, was a "traditional" young man who "loved his family," his father said.

"He had some good friends. I don't know what happened," the father said. "He was just a good kid."

Spann said he could not comment on when Ruggiero was last seen alive or who found his body.

Midshipmen began moving back into Bancroft Hall, which houses all of the academy's approximately 4,000 midshipmen, Wednesday and had spent their time getting their books, attending briefings and returning to Naval Academy life, Spann said.

Yesterday was business as usual on the Annapolis grounds, with civilian tours filling the campus and midshipmen walking briskly in dress whites or running in gym shorts and T-shirts.

At Bancroft Hall, other midshipmen unloaded boxes into the building. Most of the dorm windows were open and fans whirred in the lower part of several of them. The dorm rooms are not air-conditioned, Spann said.

Naval Academy psychologists were at the school yesterday to provide grief counseling, Spann said.

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