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1. Hyperlink to reportage of this story with photographs:
http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=647117&category=ALBANY&BCCode=&newsdate=12/16/2007 Now Disabled.
2. Hyperlink to full text of this story:
http://timesunion.com/AspStories/storyprint.asp?StoryID=647117 Now Disabled. Full Text Below.
First published: Friday, December 14, 2007
ALBANY, NY-- Friends say 17-year-old Marc Strizzi had so much going for him.He was kind, thoughtful and excelled at pole vaulting and was being recruited by a number of colleges.
News that the promising Shaker High School senior was the person who plummeted 90 feet from the Patroon Island Bridge Thursday morning in an apparent suicide left many seeking support -- and answers -- to the senseless tragedy.
"He was smart. Funny. I can honestly say he's the last person in the world I thought this would happen to," said senior Alina Heim, a friend of Strizzi's.
His death occurred just hours after he showed up at school for homeroom.
A number of people apparently witnessed the 9:50 a.m. incident, including several motorists who stopped their cars and pleaded for the teenager to reconsider just moments before he jumped.
Strizzi's death is the second tragedy to hit the school this year; recent graduate Harrison Carnevale, 17, was killed by a reckless driver who crashed into his vehicle in Albany on July 1.
State Police investigators were still looking into why the teen would take his own life.
At school, Strizzi was a talented athlete who played volleyball and was named to the Times Union's Fall All-Stars Boys Volleyball team in addition to pole vaulting for the track team.
Yet for all his athletic accomplishments, Strizzi was an even greater friend, said Blaise Agnew Jr., who knew Marc his entire life.
"Everything he did he excelled," Agnew said in an e-mail. "And the amazing part of all this is that even though he was an unimaginable athlete, he was an even greater person. Anytime I was down, or I needed someone, Marc was there for me."
Agnew talked about how Strizzi once helped lift his spirits when he was down.
"I remember one time I was sad, I can't remember why now, it was during the third grade and it was probably some kid stuff, but Marc called me up and told me to come over. I went over to his house and we just sat in his basement and talked. This was just the kind of person Marc was."
A number of other friends also remembered Strizzi as funny and easygoing. But student Devon Sedgwick, 17, said Strizzi was also troubled.
He said he and his twin brother, Kyle, were close friends with Strizzi, as all three were members of the high school's track team. Sedgwick recalled his brother speaking to Strizzi "talking to him and convincing him that he had something to live for."
"He's always seemed like a mellow kid, but unless you talked to him, like you were close to him, like a family member, you would have never known," Sedgwick added.
Strizzi has two older brothers and a younger sister.
Around 9:30 a.m. Strizzi, who had been seen in homeroom, was spotted standing outside a guide rail on the Patroon Island Bridge.
A motorist who did not want his name published said Strizzi appeared "silhouetted against the sky" as he faced back toward the road wearing a tan sweat shirt with a hood covering his head.
Around 9:50 a.m., Strizzi stepped off the edge and landed on I-787, missing another guide rail by inches. A white sheet covered his body Thursday afternoon as State Police blocked off the scene and interviewed witnesses. They closed off a northbound lane of I-787 and the I-90 eastbound ramp.
An autopsy will be performed today at Albany Medical Center.
"He was so kind to everyone and was always asking what he could do to help," added Heim, another track teammate of Strizzi's. "When I started pole vaulting last year he would spend two hours after practice helping me."
North Colonie Central Schools Superintendent Randy Ehrenberg said grief counselors will be available today for students and faculty. She declined further comment.
More than 300 friends had joined an online group Thursday in remembrance of Strizzi on the Web site Facebook.com.
Heim said she last saw Strizzi at a track meet on Sunday. A crowd had formed around the mat as he prepared to pole vault.
"He was going ridiculously high and everyone was watching him in awe," she said. "He was so graceful. He was going to break the school record this year, I know it.'
3. Hyperlink to 1st Albany Times-Unionblog posted for readers to read andrespond:
4. Hyperlink to 2nd Albany Times-Union blog for readers to read andrespond:
5. Hyperlink to this young man's obituary published by the Albany Times-Union (Should allow access to Guestbookcomments):
http://www.legacy.com/TimesUnion-Albany/Obituaries.asp?Page=LifeStory&PersonID=99689242 Now Disabled.
6. Hyperlink toGuestbook comments posted to the obituary published by the Albany Times-Union (By-passing the obituary.)
http://www.legacy.com/TimesUnion-Albany/GB/GuestbookView.aspx?PersonId=99689242 Now disabled.
7. Hyperlink to incidents in Schenectady, N.Y. Printed March 4, 2009.
ByLauren Stanforth, Staff writer
First published: Wednesday, March 4, 2009
SCHENECTADY - City school officials are publicly addressing the topic of suicide after two students killed themselves in one week.
Superintendent Eric Ely said that typically, the district won't discuss the matter of suicide for fear of glorifying it. A 15-year-old female student committed suicide Feb. 23. But city school officials said they couldn't ignore it after a second student committed suicide last weekend.
Associate Superintendent Gary Comley made an announcement over the high school's public address system Tuesday morning alerting students to the presence of extra counselors, and a letter was sent to parents discussing the need for heightened awareness concerning their children and their classmates.
''The bottom line is that it's a community issue. We want kids to know there's someone they can talk to,'' Ely said.
But some parents are angry that the district didn't reach out to students after the first suicide.
Patricia Hymes said her freshman daughter, who knew the girl who committed suicide Feb. 23, didn't go to school last Tuesday because she was so upset and then had to return Wednesday to hear rumors about how the student died. Hymes said she bought a T-shirt for her daughter that memorialized the student, and that many other students wore the T-shirts to school.
''It was (the district's) responsibility to do something, to say something,'' Hymes said. ''It might have stopped the suicide over the weekend.''
District spokeswoman Karen Corona said the two students were acquaintances. Ely said while it was confirmed that a student died last weekend, he said he didn't know the student's name.
Another high school student, who attended the Career Center at Steinmetz, committed suicide in December, Ely said.
Rumors are swirling about how many students have taken their lives over the last year. An e-mail promoting a student gathering Tuesday at North Brandywine Avenue's Faith United Methodist Church, which was where the girl who committed suicide worshipped, speculated that seven students have killed themselves.
The district only commented on the three recent suicides. Schenectady police spokesman Sgt. Eric Clifford said authorities are referring comment to the school district. He said it would be difficult for the police department to list student suicides since unattended death is a general category that includes people of all ages and situations, including natural death.
The Rev. Yolanda M. Dozier, pastor of United Methodist, didn't want to comment on the speculated numbers. She said she wasn't sure if students would come to the closed meeting Tuesday, but wanted to give them a place to gather and discuss their grief.
Eleventh-grader Brandon Lewis said outside the school Tuesday afternoon that a lot of talk among students is about heaven and hell, and where those who take their own lives fit in. He also said it seems too late to start talking about the topic now.
Freshman Patrick Brehm said Tuesday that the school is open about the names of those who took their lives, but not about the circumstances. ''(The school) is worried a lot of other people will start to do this because of the attention,'' Brehm said.
''(The district) is trying to help, which is nice,'' said freshman Jeneva Baldauf outside the high school.
The district said in its letter home to parents that it has assembled a team of counselors, psychologists and teen suicide experts to plan a community forum and restart the formation of a grief and bereavement group.
Joe Gallagher, director of the child guidance center at Northeast Parent and Child Society, and Laura Combs with Capital Region BOCES, were listed in the letter as contacts for more help and information. Gallagher and Combs couldn't be reached for comment.
''We, as a district, are balancing our duty of keeping you informed while being cautious not to, in any way, 'glamorize' the act of suicide,''' the letter home to parents stated.
8. Hyperlink to incidents in Schenectady, N.Y. Printed March 15, 2009.
Life preservers:Recalling her daughter's death, a mother says openness may help prevent suicides
By MO THERESE HANNAH
First published: Sunday, March 15, 2009
Like so many others, I reacted with sadness and horror upon hearing about the suicides of three teenagers from Schenectady High School in as many months. Those are, by the way, on top of two others that took place in 2007.
One was by a sophomore girl who bought sneakers with her mother one day and took her own life the next, right out of the blue. The other, in April 2007, was by a female college student who, as a 2005 honors graduate from Schenectady High, had earned certificates from two of its signature programs: The fine arts concentration at the Sayles School of the Arts and the highly respected International Baccalaureate degree program.
That 2005 graduate was my 20-year-old daughter, Monique Hannah. When she died, she was a sophomore majoring in acting at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, a top spot for students set on pursuing professional acting careers. After a year and a half of success, she became suddenly, severely and intractably depressed.
I became frantic, and for good reason: Our insurance company would not pay for treatment at a psychiatric inpatient facility. After we switched contracts, Monique was allowed some inpatient treatment, but only in a limited amount. The hospital had to justify to the insurance company each and every day it wanted to keep her inside its walls.
When she was released, we were told she was out of danger. We felt it was too soon. It was. The moment we took our eyes off her, she took her life. She was gone.
During this recent spate of suicides at Schenectady, parents became so upset that they contacted local news outlets. They complained, understandably, that the school district officials didn't publicly address the first suicide that occurred, nor the second. Bad call, for sure. But at least after the third happened a couple of weeks ago, they began to tackle this monster head on.
It certainly is understandable to believe that, given these numbers, the school must be to blame. But with all I've been through and witnessed myself, I'm convinced that the blame, if any, needs to be spread all around.
I think it's safe to say that virtually none of the systems in our country are doing a good job of preventing youth suicides: not our schools, colleges, mental health providers, psychiatric hospitals, or even the suicide hot lines that have been in place for decades. Despite media campaigns to increase awareness of suicide, the rate among young females, especially, has been skyrocketing. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students and the third cause among high school kids.
Scary, I know. So what can be done?
To start with, all of us, especially schools, need to pay more heed to the real social, emotional, psychological and economic landscape today's kids are facing. Many of them are being raised by parents who have to work two or three jobs to pay the bills. Some of these parents, along with their kids, are unraveling under the stress.
Imagine developing a suicidal depression - which, by the way, often first emerges during adolescence or early adulthood - without having any health insurance coverage. How would you be able to afford to get better?
Yet, even with health insurance, mental health treatment is often limited if not outright refused. I should know: My daughter got the best treatment my insurance would allow. It clearly was not good enough.
Next, suicide needs to be named and discussed openly by teachers and students, parents and peers, in churches and by the media, instead of being euphemized into non-existence. Talking about suicide doesn't cause it, and in many cases, could prevent it.
Teens, especially, should be urged to be on the front lines of suicide prevention, to make a pact to "tell" rather than keep each other's suicidality a secret. Young people need to be reminded, over and over again, that suicidal thoughts and behavior are neither glamorous nor a ploy for attention; they are, in the vast majority of cases, signs of life-threatening mental illness which can usually be successfully treated.
But I would caution parents and others against relying too much on the mental health system to save the life of their depressed, suicidal child. The inadequacy of that system is painfully clear to those who most need it, with its long waiting lists, limited inpatient days and high co-pays engineered by insurance companies dominated by the profit motive. When people develop a mental illness, they need, frankly, much more than what our current mental health system is able to provide.
For young people to thrive as well as survive, we need a transformed society. We need a society that puts people before things, that honors human needs over profits. We need schools that emphasize not only children's conformity but also their uniqueness, that value young people's character at least as much as their GPA.
We need a society that practices kindness and interpersonal sensitivity while rejecting the relentless competitiveness and self-absorption and materialism that rule the day.
We need a country where all people, but especially young people, feel so valued, so respected and so needed by others that to take one's own life, no matter how painful, would be unthinkable.
Mo Therese Hannah, Ph.D., is a professor at Siena College and a psychologist.
9. Hyperlink to an extensive discussion of "Depression".
10. Hyperlink to a federal U.S. investigation into violent gang activity in Schenectady, N.Y., published Thursday, May 26, 2011.
Text Of Article:
SCHENECTADY -- An investigation into the suicide of teenaged girls in 2008 and 2009 triggered a two-year federal probe of a local gang that on Thursday culminated with the arrests of 35 people who authorities say dealt drugs and meted out violence in thecity.
Nineteen suspects were indicted on federal racketeering charges that could put them in prison for decades. The rest were arrested on drug traffickingcharges.
U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced the arrests at a news conference in CityHall.
The probe got its start when local authorities began looking into the suicides of girls who attended Schenectady High School.
District Attorney Robert M. Carney said police determined the girls had spent time with members of the Four Block gang, a collection of violent drug traffickers. The girls had even created their own group, which they referred to as the HillBitches.
As the investigation began to unearth the outlines of a major drug trafficking operation, Carney said authorities asked the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI to take over. Federal racketeering charges carry longer penalties than state charges, making a criminal case in federal court more appealing toauthorities.
Carney said the girls' contact with gang members contributed to the feelings of loss of self worth that led to theirsuicides.
"There is some measure of justice for those teen girls," Carneysaid.
Federal agents and state and city police spread across Schenectady Thursday morning, apprehending dozens of suspects. They are being arraigned in federal court inAlbany.
In recent years, federal agents prosecuted street gangs in Albany. Hartunian spearheaded both of those investigations as an assistant U.S.attorney.
Dozens of people were arrested in the two racketeering cases that authorities filed in an effort to crack down on narcotics trafficking inAlbany.
Hartunian, Carney and Clifford Holly, the special agent in charge of the Albany FBI, discussed the investigation at a Thursday newsconference.
Federal agents also have mounted major investigations against gangs inSyracuse.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Teens-suicides-led-to-sprawling-drug-probe-in-1396874.php#ixzz1NVnNrloq
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Teens-suicides-led-to-sprawling-drug-probe-in-1396874.php#ixzz1NVmsjJRw
11. Hyperlink to "Grieving Moms Seeking Justice" in Schenectady, N.Y.. Published Saturday, May 28, 2011.
SCHENECTADY -- A sweeping crackdown and arrests of dozens of Four Block gang members who terrorized Hamilton Hill for years brought small comfort to three mothers in two cities who still grieve over the deaths of their children lost in the murderous undertow of gangviolence.
"I feel relief that they were finally arrested and that my daughter's death wasn't forgotten," said Lisa Seymour, whose 14-year-old daughter, Cherelle Clarke, was one of four teenaged girls who committed suicide during a heartbreaking 12-month stretch between 2008 and2009.
The suicides sparked an investigation that led to a two-year federal probe that culminated with the arrests on Thursday of 35 people, mostly in their late teens and early 20s who officials said dealt drugs, shot at rival gang members to protect their criminal turf and left a trail of violence across the city andbeyond.
Authorities said Four Block gang members bullied, harassed and forced teenaged girls to perform sexual acts as a form of gang initiation. In turn, the teenaged girls tried to gain acceptance and curry favor among the young male gang-bangers by forming their own offshoot girl crew they called the HillBitches.
Girls who tried to resist the pressure to join the gang were bullied relentlessly on the streets and in school. Sometimes, they were jumped and beaten by members of the Hill Bitches in the girls' brand of ganginitiation.
"The girls did a lot of fighting and threatened the girls who wouldn't join," said Seymour, who said her daughter was jumped and beaten so badly by the Hill Bitches that she suffered three broken ribs and a head concussion. Her daughter committed suicide about six weeks after that beating, a dark period in which she fell into a spiral ofdepression.
"They kept trying to get Cherelle into the gang and they taunted her terribly," Seymour said. "They kept saying all she had to do was join the gang, say she was a Four Block bitch and nobody would bother heranymore."
After her suicide, Seymour discovered a diary in her daughter's room with entries that talked about her fear of the gang, the bullying she got in school and on the streets and her suicidal thoughts. She also wrote poetry that gave voice to her struggles of trying to stay on a straight and productive path that avoided the cheap, shiny allure of gold chains, expensive sneakers and the thuglife.
"The Four Block gang treated these girls like their property," said Schenectady District Attorney Robert Carney. "They considered the forced sexual acts the benefits of gangmembership."
Carney said the gangs' abusive behavior over time tore at the fragile psyches of young girls, creating low self-esteem and a sense of worthlessness that contributed to depression and thoughts ofsuicide.
The gang's criminal enterprise -- which focused on a cluster of gritty blocks bounded by State and Strong streets and Brandywine and Veeder avenues -- led to federal charges of racketeering, conspiracy, drug trafficking and other felonies. If found guilty, those charged could face sentences ranging from a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of a lifesentence.
Authorities said Four Block was responsible for more than two dozen drug sales of crack cocaine, cocaine and heroin, nine gun incidents and multiple acts of violence in that small section of Hamilton Hill in the past twoyears.
"I'm happy and I feel good that they took down Four Block," said Caroline Turner, whose 18-year-old daughter, Mary Turner, committed suicide in 2009. The girl was pregnant when she took her life. The teenaged boy who impregnated her was an alleged Four Block gang member, the mothersaid.
"We lived in fear of that gang because they terrorize you every day," said Turner, who was once jumped and beaten by a group of young men she believes were Four Blockmembers.
"I'm glad they got arrested so that some other mother won't have to go through what I've been going through. The pain never goes away," shesaid.
Meanwhile, the news of the arrests was met with jubilation in Albany, where Allison Banks has waged a campaign against gun violence since her son, Eleek Williams, was shot to death in 2006 outside a bar in the city's West Hill neighborhood during a celebration of his 24thbirthday.
Dushan "Lil' Du" Wilson, who was 18 at the time, was acquitted of killing Williams during a 2008 murder trial after deadlocked jurors deliberated more than seven hours. Wilson faced 25 years to life in prison if he was convicted of killingWilliams.
The murdered man's mother never felt justice was done in that case and she crusaded tirelessly to try to get Wilson re-tried andconvicted.
Banks felt vindicated when Dushan Wilson and 40-year-old Gregory Wilson, who is believed to be Dushan's father, were arrested in Thursday's Four Block gang sweep and were charged with conspiracy to procure, distribute and sell crackcocaine.
"I'm happy because justice was served. I'm feeling closure because my son's killer has been walking around free for five years," said Banks, who was a member of Albany's Gun Violence Task Force and co-leader of the Capital Region chapter of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
"I knew they'd get him eventually," she said. "He thought he was untouchable ... I stayed patient and knew his day was coming. I'm ecstatic they got him off thestreets."
Back in Schenectady's Hamilton Hill, where Four Block's intimidation was widespread, a sense of pessimism mixed with cautious optimism was expressedFriday.
"When a tree falls, four or five usually grow back up," said Paul Stewart, who owns a home across from the troubled corner of Craig and Emmett streets, the site of open-air drug dealing, murders and a long history ofviolence.
"We need police on every corner here and 24-hour patrols," said Stewart, a native of Jamaica who's lived in Schenectady for the past eight years. "People are still scared around here, even with the Four Block arrests. I'm not scared of these guys. They threaten me all the time. Now, they're going to prison and I'm still standing in front of myhouse."
As part of his dark humor, Stewart painted targets on the sidewalk in front of his house. He has grown used to gunshots on his street, but he said he will not be bullied by thugs. He will not hide inside or be a virtual prisoner of his house, as many of his neighbors have become as violenceescalated.
"The arrests were the best thing that ever happened on the Hill," said Fernando Ramos, who's lived in the neighborhood for seven years. "It's good the city is doing something to fightcrime."
"We can only do so much as residents," said Christopher Stevens, who's lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years with his mother, who is 90. "We're afraid. These guys are dangerous. We're glad the authorities are finally doing theirjobs."
The crackdown came too late for the teenaged girls who long suffered in silence as the gangs beat them down, until they finallybroke.
Seymour's dead daughter wrote these verses in a poem she called "This Is MyLife:"
"Sometimes I'm mad at the world
And sometimes I'm just sad.
Nobody can see the pain.
Behind my eyes."
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/default/article/Grieving-moms-seek-justice-for-girls-lost-to-1399750.php#ixzz1NcVIgG9U