As the University community mourned the loss of Misrach Ewunetie ’24, a junior who was found dead on campus Oct. 20 after first being reported missing by the University Oct. 17, questions about her mysterious death remained, with students expressing uneasiness about campus safety.
“[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,” Ariel Sylvain ’26 said.
Casey DeBlasio, a spokesperson for the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, told PAW via email that an autopsy was conducted on Oct. 21, the day after Ewunetie was found, 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 a note to students on Oct. 23 and a follow-up sent Nov. 1, Dean of the College Jill Dolan, Vice President for Campus Life Rochelle Calhoun, and other University administrators reiterated that there was no suspicion of foul play but acknowledged ongoing concerns on campus. “While we know that our campus is safe, it’s important that you also feel safe,” the latter message said.
The Council of College Heads decided to lock common areas in all residential colleges and limit access to students and authorized faculty and staff in the hours between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.
According to a timeline compiled by The Daily Princetonian, Ewunetie was captured on video leaving Terrace Club at 2:33 a.m. on Oct. 14. 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.
“Misrach was always smiling. She was a great friend, she was beautiful, she was smart and funny, and she will be forever missed.” — Jamie Feder ’23
Few other details have been released. In an interview with The U.S. Sun, Ewunetie’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.” Universe also insisted that his sister wouldn’t have taken her own life.
A GoFundMe page that had raised more than $150,000 as of Nov. 7 stated that it was raising money “to support Misrach’s family by assisting with the expenses associated with a funeral, an independent autopsy, and significant travel.”
Mourners, including Ewunetie’s family, nearly filled the Chapel in a vigil Oct. 24 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 by 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 an Oct. 24 vigil that was attended by about 120 students as well as New College West staff, Dolan, and Calhoun. The following night, Terrace Club, where Ewunetie was a member, hosted a candlelight vigil on its grounds.
A somber mood could be found around campus. Andy Tutuc ’24 told PAW, “I think a lot of people are sad. A lot of people are kind of shocked really.”