A Johns Hopkins University student whose body was found Sunday afternoon in her Charles Village apartment was the victim of homicide, the state medical examiner's office determined yesterday.
The slaying - the second in the Hopkins community in nine months - stunned students and administrators and prompted university President William R. Brody to announce tighter security around the high-rise apartment building where 21-year-old Linda Trinh was found dead.
Friends of the victim, a senior biomedical engineering student and former Hopkins volleyball team member whose family lives in Silver Spring, hugged and wept last night in the lobby of The Charles, at 3333 N. Charles St., where Trinh had shared a second-floor apartment with two roommates.
Some of the women were in the Alpha Phi sorority with Trinh, who was formerly its president.
In an e-mail message sent to students shortly after 7 p.m. and posted on the university Web site, Brody said that he was writing with "very painful news."
"This is the second time in less than a year that our undergraduate community and the university at large have suffered such a tragic loss," Brody wrote. "We do not know what happened. But we do know that words cannot begin to convey the grief and outrage we all are feeling."
Police officials said last night that they were without conclusive leads and had no suspect or motive.
In the meantime, security at the sprawling North Baltimore campus will be tightened, Brody said. A guard will be stationed around the clock at The Charles, and city police will step up patrols in the area, he said.
"We are working very closely with Hopkins University staff members and students who knew the victim in order to find the person or persons who committed this heinous crime," said Detective Donny Moses, a city police spokesman.
One of the roommates found Trinh lying unconscious about noon Sunday and called police, Moses said. The roommate, whose identity has not been released, had just returned from her job as a waitress. A third roommate was away on vacation. The spring semester begins Monday, and many students are still away on winter break.
Trinh was pronounced dead at the scene, and her death was ruled "suspicious," as there was no immediate evidence of foul play, Moses said.
However, after conducting an autopsy and determining that the cause of death was asphyxiation, the state medical examiner's office ruled Trinh's death a homicide. Police received the autopsy report about 5:30 p.m. yesterday, Moses said.
Police officials declined to detail the manner of death, where the body was found in the apartment, or how long Trinh had been dead.
The door to the sparsely furnished apartment was covered in fingerprint dust last night. From Charles Street, the apartment appeared to be illuminated by a single floor lamp.
Students who live on the same floor said they had seen a number of uniformed police at the apartment in recent days. They said they had smelled a strong odor of natural gas emanating from Trinh's end of the hall Saturday night. At least one neighbor called building maintenance, but it was unclear last night whether anyone had checked Trinh's apartment.
"It was so coincidental that we smelled the gas and then the police were there," said Katie Chunka, 21, a senior English major who lives a few doors away.
Word of the slaying spread rapidly as students learned of the president's messages, and students called each other and parents to tell of the tragedy. The Hopkins community recalled the slaying of another student in the Charles Village neighborhood nine months ago.
Early on April 17 , a man entered the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity house in the 2900 block of St. Paul St., and the bedroom of Christopher Elser, 20, a Hopkins junior from Camden, S.C., and stabbed him in the chest and arm when Elser confronted him. The killer fled with a computer.
Elser, a student in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, died the next day at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
Despite police having someone they called a "person of interest" as a possible suspect in the case and an announced reward of $50,000, no one has been charged with Elser's murder.
"There is no reason to believe Mr. Elser's death and that of Miss Trinh are in any way connected," Moses said. He declined to elaborate.
Anyone having information concerning Trinh's slaying is urged to call homicide Detectives Chris Beiling or Joseph Phelps at 410-396-2100.
Those who knew Trinh said she was popular and well-liked. In his e-mail, Brody said she was "widely admired, liked and respected," and that her loss "diminishes all of us, even those who did not know her, because her contributions as a student, leader, colleague, and, most important, friend, have helped to build the Johns Hopkins we love so much."