Hundreds of Princeton University community members gathered Monday, the first day of classes after fall break, to remember Misrach Ewunetie ’24, who was found dead on campus on Oct. 20.
Mourners, including Ewunetie’s family, nearly filled the Chapel in a vigil that was organized by the Princeton Ethiopian and Eritrean Students Association (PEESA) and open to the University community.“We lost a really, really integral part of our community here with Misrach. We loved her very much,” said Joachim Ambaw ’24, PEESA co-president.
The vigil also included remarks from Ewunetie’s close friends and family, both in English and Amharic. There were laughs as well as tears.
“Misrach was always smiling,” said Jamie Feder ’23, who was introduced as one of Ewunetie’s two best friends. “She was a great friend, she was beautiful, she was smart and funny, and she will be forever missed.”
After a moment of silence and the singing of a hymn at the family’s request, Ewunetie’s father, as identified by The Daily Princetonian, said his daughter was a gift to the world. “I don’t know how I will survive,” he said.
According to The Daily Princetonian, the Office of Religious Life also organized a vigil Monday night that was attended by about 120 students as well as New College West staff, Dean of the College Jill Dolan, and Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun.
Meanwhile, Terrace Club, where Ewunetie was a member, is planning to host a candlelight vigil Tuesday night on its grounds, as well as a dedication in the near future. “We are still deciding in what form that will be presented,” Steve Krebs, general manager of Princeton Terrace Club, told PAW via email. Krebs also noted that Terrace is providing professional counseling for members in addition to the services offered by the University.
One student who requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the situation told PAW that they have started carrying a GPS beacon and a Birdie — a personal safety alarm that emits a loud noise and flashing strobe — when walking around; that’s in addition to pepper spray, which they already regularly carried.
Ariel Sylvain ’26 said that she has also taken extra precautions such as asking a roommate to walk with her at night. “[The University says] that they don’t think there’s a threat, but it’s still just scary, and [we] don’t know a lot about what happened to her.”
The Oct. 20 press release from the Office of the Mercer County Prosecutor that announced the discovery of Ewunetie’s body behind the tennis courts said that “there were no obvious signs of injury, and her death does not appear suspicious or criminal in nature.”
In a note sent to students on Oct. 23, Dolan and Calhoun reiterated that sentiment, but also said that “out of an abundance of caution, the University has increased staffing and patrols in student living areas.”
According to a timeline compiled by The Daily Princetonian, Ewunetie was captured on footage leaving the Terrace Club at 2:33 a.m. She was last seen around 3 a.m. by one of her suitemates, who said Ewunetie was brushing her teeth. She was gone by around 4:30 a.m.
Few other details have been released. In an interview with The U.S. Sun, Ewuntie’s brother, Universe, said that his sister was found fully clothed and that “the area she was found makes us feel it was suspicious, some trees had to be cut when they were removing Misrach.”
“Everyone thinks it’s over with, and they released that statement before doing any autopsy and without telling us,” he said.
Universe also insisted that his sister wouldn’t have taken her own life.
“She was talking to me about a savings account she was going to open, her interview, buying clothes and shipping them to Cleveland, and volunteering at her student club organization,” he told The U.S. Sun.
A GoFundMe page that had raised $73,816 as of Tuesday afternoon stated that, “Due to her sudden death and bizarre circumstances surrounding her passing, we ask family, friends, and anyone aware of her story to support Misrach’s family by assisting with the expenses associated with a funeral, an independent autopsy, and significant travel.”
Casey DeBlasio, a spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, told PAW via email that an autopsy was conducted on Oct. 21, but that “they will not rule on a cause and manner of death until all of the test results, including toxicology, are received. That will most likely be weeks.”
In the wake of the tragedy, campus tours were temporarily canceled.