Three University student deaths in less than two weeks have rocked the LSU community.
A University freshman was found dead on Tuesday in Cypress Hall when LSUPD responded to a call around 3:50 p.m. The female’s body was released to the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office shortly after.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner William “Beau” Clark said the coroner’s office finished the autopsy, but cause of death remained unknown as of Wednesday. The coroner’s office will rule on the cause of death after receiving a toxicology report, which can take up to three weeks. The body showed no signs of trauma, or physical injuries, according to Clark.
Clark confirmed the student’s parents have been notified.
According to WBRZ, the student was identified as Marakah Dennis, an 18-year-old female from the Washington D.C.-Maryland area. LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard later confirmed the student's identity. Multiple students said the student lived on the second floor of her residence hall.
After hearing about the situation, University freshman Teejay Polk organized a prayer circle outside of Cypress Hall on Tuesday evening. He didn’t personally know the student who died but wanted to acknowledge the tragedy.
Polk spread the word about Tuesday’s prayer circle on Twitter. Just two hours later, over 150 University students arrived to honor the deceased.
Polk said the overwhelming student response showed that everyone was “Forever LSU.”
“What happened tonight truly shows we’re all together,” Polk said. “We’re all here to support each other. That’s what’s important.”
Mechanical engineering freshman Garrick Francis II, who went to high school with the deceased student, attended the prayer circle on Tuesday. Francis II heard about the student’s death from his high school counselor who also attended LSU.
“It’s a great tribute to her,” Francis II said. “I think it’s something that she would want -- to see people come together.”
LSU Student Government organized a vigil titled “An Evening of Remembrance and Reflection” for the student on Wednesday in the Greek Amphitheater, near Cypress Hall. Approximately 150 people, including LSU President F. King Alexander, were in attendance.
Following speeches from Alexander, SG President William Jewell, Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Mari Fuentes-Martin and Polk, students lit candles in remembrance of the three deceased students.
Construction management sophomore Isaiah Imanuel Carter attended the vigil and said the recent multiple deaths at the University shocked him.
“Three students have already died in the month of September, and I haven’t even taken my first exam,” Carter said. “This honestly hit home more than any exam I’ll ever take.”
Psychology freshman Russell Marshall also attended the vigil and said he appreciated the renewed sense of community following the recent tragedies.
“To see people come together is nice,” Marshall said. “There’s been a stronger feeling of community and people being nicer around campus.”
Two other University students have died within the past two weeks.
University freshman Gilgamesh “Gil” Homan died at 8:09 p.m. Tuesday, after being taken off of life support. He was 18 years old.
Homan suffered a severe skateboarding accident on Sunday, fracturing the back of his skull and rendering him unconscious. He was rushed to an LSU infirmary and later transported to a local emergency room, according to Nola.com.
The student’s father, Michael Homan, said on Facebook that Homan was placed on life support on Sunday and he would be taken off life support once his family found recipients for his organs.
A memorial service for Homan will be held on Sept. 28 at Xavier University, where his father is a professor.
“While the past three days have been so awful, one bright spot is that in the hospital room with visitors, and with email and social media, I’ve gotten a better understanding of the extent to which Gilgamesh positively impacted people’s lives,” Homan said on Facebook. “It makes me so proud of him.”
Homan and his family ask that donations be made to the Gilgamesh Homan Memorial Scholarship Fund in lieu of flowers or other donations. The scholarship will financially support a graduate of Lusher High School, where Gilgamesh Homan graduated, to attend Xavier University during their freshman year.
Computer science and engineering graduate student Md Firoz-Ul-Amin was shot and killed around 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 7 during a robbery of Mr. Lucky’s Valero gas station on Airline Highway in Baton Rouge.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office arrested Antonio D. Watts, 22, for the killing of Md Firoz-Ul-Amin on Sept. 12. Watts is being charged with first-degree murder, illegal use of a weapon and possession of a weapon.
Firoz-Ul-Amin researched cyber security under Computer Science and Engineering Professor Golden G. Richard III and was expected to receive his Ph.D. in 2023.
Richard praised Firoz-Ul-Amin for his enthusiasm and work ethic.
“He helped the University way beyond the call of duty. He helped students in the lab when he was tired and could be doing something else and worked so hard,” Richard said. “The students loved him.”
Firoz-Ul-Amin planned to return home to Bangladesh in December to marry his fiancee, Nazmin Sultana Smrity. The couple planned to return to Louisiana after the wedding for Smrity to pursue a master’s degree in library science at the University and Firox-Ul-Amin to continue his cyber security research.
Richard has contacted Smrity since Firoz-Ul-Amin’s death and said she is distraught over the loss of her fiancé. Richard hopes to create a scholarship in his former student’s name to finance Smrity’s goal of pursuing a master’s degree at the University.
“Her view now is that her life is destroyed,” Richard said. “The only thing that she sees that she can do is to pursue a little part of the plan that they had.”
Firoz-Ul-Amin’s father died due to illness last year, Richard said. Firoz-Ul-Amin wanted to help support his remaining family in Bangladesh.
LSU Bangladeshi Student Association program coordinator Md Tanvir Ahmed Sarkar started a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses, aid Firoz-Ul-Amin’s family through this time and transport his body to Bangladesh. The GoFundMe had raised almost $50,000, surpassing its $30,000 goal.
LSU President F. King Alexander released a statement on Wednesday concerning the three recent University student deaths.
“I know that these painful incidents, so close together and so early in the semester, have shocked and saddened our student body,” Alexander said. “All of LSU’s faculty and staff share in those feelings as well. These students, each with a bright future ahead, will never have the opportunity to realize their full potential.”
Alexander urged students who need assistance coping with the recent tragedies or other medical, emotional or academic issues to reach out to a University faculty or staff member.
Reveille reporter Nick Frewin contributed to this report.