On Monday, June 1, the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed in a media release that former College junior Timothy Hamlett’s death was a “suicide by drowning.” Hamlett’s body was found in the Hudson river on Friday, May 29. His mother, Katherine Hamlett, believes that her son committed suicide by jumping from the George Washington Bridge.
“We never had any indication that our son was suicidal at all. It is important to me that people do know that this is what he did,” Hamlett said. “I don’t want to sweep it under the rug and avoid the reality of how he died.”
A Facebook page dedicated to searching for Hamlett announced his death on Monday afternoon.
Hamlett, who was recruited to run track for Penn, . His wallet was found in a park near the George Washington Bridge in New York.
Hamlett’s cell phone was traced to two young people who said they found the belongings at a park near a school. Police did not suspect foul play since $10 remained in the wallet. In March, the Teaneck Police Department confirmed that the investigation of his absence was still open.
On the evening of June 1, the Teaneck Police Department declined to comment until the following day and did not confirm that Hamlett’s death was a suicide.
During his sophomore year at Penn, friends said that Hamlett’s personality changed. His parents believe that this change in character was caused by his use of performance-enhancing drugs. In September 2014, Hamlett was arrested for throwing a brick through someone’s window. Following the incident, Hamlett took a medical leave of absence from the University.
“We as a family strongly believe that his use of supplements was an aggravating, if not primary force for the change in his behavior,” Katherine Hamlett said.
Timothy Hamlett was home with his family at the time of his disappearance. In the months since, his mother has led her own investigation to find her son. In early May, the family announced that they would offer a $10,000 reward to whoever could provide information about Hamlett’s disappearance. Katherine Hamlett said the family was considering raising the award to $25,000 before Timothy’s body was found.
Hamlett’s death marks the seventh Penn student suicide in the past two years. After two suicides occurred within three weeks last spring, Penn launched the Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare in February 2014 to evaluate its mental health initiatives.
Katherine Hamlett said her son did contact Counseling and Psychological Services for help while he was a Penn student, but found that the center’s 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. service hours did not accommodate his schedule. He initially sought help from a private counselor, she said, although he did eventually see a counselor from CAPS before he began his leave of absence.
“CAPS had limited availability for counseling,” she said. “With respect to college counseling services generally, they need to be available at times that are outside the regular working times.”
Katherine Hamlett believes that all students should receive a regular mental health checkup, similar to annual physical check-ups. Although she said there is a resolution to the mental health crisis facing college students, she believes that it has yet to be found. “There is more work to be done,” she said.
Hamlett also drew parallels between her son’s suicide and that of Madison Holleran, the track athlete who committed suicide last year.
“There have been two suicides in the same year on the same team,” she said. “It’s devastating.”
“I was at Madison Holleran’s service. And I was absolutely so hurt for the grief and pain of the community and the loss of her beautiful life,” Hamlett continued.
Penn President Amy Gutmann expressed sympathy on behalf of the University.
“The entire Penn community is deeply saddened by Timothy Hamlett’s passing. A popular and talented member of the Penn family, his was a life of tremendous promise that ended far too soon. We share the pain felt by Timothy’s family and loved ones, and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Gutmann said in a statement.
The Facebook post announcing Timothy Hamlett’s death stated that a ceremony would be held in his memory on June 12 in Englewood, N.J. There was also a private ceremony for family and friends held in Martha’s Vineyard.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be sent to , to the Timothy Akil Hamlett Fund in support of their Summer Law Institute at the NYU School of Law/PACT.
“Please know that we are comforted by your prayers, support, the wonderful memories of extraordinary joy that we shared with our son, and of course, God’s healing grace and love,” the Facebook post concluded.
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