Pubdate: Sun, 20 Nov 2005
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Note: The Journal does not publish letters from writers outside its 
daily home delivery circulation area.
Author: Monte Mitchell and Laura Giovanelli, Journal Reporters
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


Appalachian State University Administrators Deal With the Aftermath of
Two Drug-Related Deaths of Students Since October

By Monte Mitchell and Laura Giovanelli, Journal Reporters

The drug-related killings of two Appalachian State University students
a little more than a year apart has stunned this mountain campus.

It has also raised questions about drugs and the university.

According to university data, ASU's judicial system handled 142
drug-related offenses in 2004. That's more than any other school in
the University of North Carolina system. It averages about 1 in 100
students at ASU involved in drug incidents. By comparison, the
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which is about the same
size as ASU, reported 20 such incidents, or one for every 718 students.

The killing Nov. 8 of Stephen Harrington, a 19-year-old sophomore from
Raleigh, has ASU administrators asking what they can do.

"The safety concerns have hit a whole new level," said Cindy Wallace,
ASU's interim vice chancellor for student development. She plans to
meet on Monday with the dean of students, ASU's head of judicial
affairs, the county sheriff and the Boone and ASU police chiefs. "The
six of us are sitting down and going 'What on earth is going on
here?'" she said.

Officials say they don't believe that ASU students have an unusual
problem with drug use compared with those at other schools.

Neither do they think that there is an emerging pattern of
drug-related killings of students, but they do say that the death of
Harrington this month and the death of Joseph "Joey" McClure in
October 2004 have generated anxiety and concern on campus.

"It's something internally here in the police department. We're asking
questions of ourselves - 'What are we not doing that we should be
doing?'" said Chief Gunther Doerr of the ASU University Police.

There may be no easy answers. Students frequently experiment with
drugs and alcohol, Doerr said.

"My take is that students at Appalachian are probably typical of a
college student," Doerr said. Marijuana, he said, is the drug of
choice at ASU. Students busted for drug possession usually have only
small quantities of it, he said.

Harrington and McClure, however, were caught up in drug dealing that
went far beyond the casual use of a college student. Court documents
indicate that Harrington's accused killers were involved in a cocaine
deal with him, and that McClure, a 22-year-old senior from Pfafftown,
was shot in the head by someone trying to make a "substantial
purchase" of marijuana from him. His body was left on the edge of a
gravel road, near a junk pile.

Marty Lee Thompson, of Durham, was arrested Oct. 27, 2004, in
connection with McClure's death. During a court appearance Thursday,
his trial was tentatively scheduled to begin April 3, 2006.

Harrington's head was wrapped in duct tape, his arms were bound behind
his back, and his feet were wrapped in duct tape. His killers set his
body on fire in the trunk of his car and left the car on a road in

Three men were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in
Harrington's death and are being held without bond.

Both students lived off campus.

More Education on Drugs

Watauga County Sheriff Mark Shook said he would like to see more
education for students about the dangers of drug addiction and drug

"You get associated with a crowd and sometimes you might want to
experiment," he said. "It leads to a whole lot more, something they
weren't ready for and didn't bargain for."

Matthew Robinson, an associate professor of criminal justice at ASU,
said he believes that forces beyond the control of campus authorities
or even law enforcement drove the killings. Flawed public policy on
fighting the drug war has created the illicit market and the systemic
violence that comes from having no legal way to settle disputes, he

"However, what ASU can do is provide education about the dangers of
the drugs and the drug market," Robinson said.

In 2001, Robinson and fellow professor Kenneth Mullen published a
study in the journal Crime Prevention and Community Safety. They found
that ASU students generally feel safe on campus, and they're not afraid.

They also noted that ASU "is viewed within the state university system
as having a major drug problem, although this is largely attributable
to the campus having the most drug violations (known to police) among
all the state's public university campuses." More than half of student
respondents reported that they had been offered illegal drugs while on

Nicholas Cephart, 19, a freshman from Murphy, said that drug use at
ASU isn't out in the open, but is likely there for people who look for
it. "It's not really in your face all the time," he said.

In its required crime reports to the Department of Education, ASU
reported more judicial referrals on drug-related offenses than any
other school in the UNC system in 2002, 2003 and 2004, the most recent
years for which data is available.

Experts warn about reading too much into the numbers. For instance,
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill reported no violations
in the same category last year. The difference could be attributed to
different policies or how the universities do the self-reporting
rather than a true picture of how many people are using drugs.

"Here at Appalachian we have a pretty strict policy that if a police
officer is called to a location on campus and drugs or drug
paraphernalia is involved, every student in that room is going to be
referred to a judicial-affairs officer," Doerr said. "They're put on
notice the university takes this seriously."

Wallace said that ASU's policy might make it look as though drugs are
worse at ASU than at other schools, when in fact the numbers reflect a
difference in how things are handled.

"You hope to God if you do the right thing judicially on campus that
kids like Stephen don't end up dead," she said. "You're confronting
kids with high-risk behaviors and helping them deal with it in a
healthy way."

In comparing actual on-campus arrests for drug use, ASU's numbers are
in line with those reported at other state universities. ASU reported
10 on-campus arrests for drug violations in 2004. UNC Chapel Hill had
eight. N.C. State University had 10.

"I don't think drugs are a problem up here," said Mitchell Askew, 18,
a freshman from Murphy. "There's a lot of weed up here, but a lot of
people don't consider that a drug. As far as hard drugs, I don't see

Being from the mountains themselves, Askew and his hometown friend
Cephart say they believe that the mountain region's reputation for
illicit substances such as moonshine and meth feeds into the
university's "Happy Appy" image as a party school.

Askew said a student from the Atlanta area once told him that he came
to school at ASU because "they've got a lot of weed."

"It's known down there," Askew said. "It's kind of that hippie

A college guidebook, Princeton Review's Best Southeastern Colleges,
also hints at ASU's drug culture. The guide evaluates colleges and
asks about student life. Students at many schools refer to alcohol and
partying on their campuses, but mention of drug use is rare.

At ASU, though, "there is a lot of pot on campus; some people come
here just because of the excellent quality of local weed," according
to one student quoted in the book.

Even so, the university doesn't crack the latest Princeton Review
annual list of top 20 "party" schools or the ones where marijuana is
most prevalent.

ASU and local law enforcement face an additional obstacle in fighting
drugs - nearly 10,000 of the university's 14,600 students live off
campus, most of them in Boone or Watauga County.

Other Students Affected

The deaths have affected even students who shun drugs and

"My parents always call me now," said Amanda Bishop, 19, a sophomore
at ASU. She said her father checked on her as soon as he heard about
the homicide.

"He said, 'I don't want you walking out by yourself anymore,'" said
Bishop of Hickory. Bishop said she always tries to have a friend with
her when she goes out, especially at night.

Boone is a relatively safe place, said Bill Post, the police chief of
Boone. He pointed out that Harrington's was the first homicide
committed in town limits in at least nine years.

"So many people have this image of Boone as a Mayberry, and we have to
educate them (about crime)," he said.

Five years ago, the Boone Police Department established a liaison with
students and campus police to help increase safety and awareness.

The liaison, Lt. Johnny Reese, meets with incoming freshman. He talks
to student-government leaders, and to members of sororities and
fraternities. He warns them about crime and the dangers of drinking
and driving. He leaves his name and number and tells anyone on campus
to call him with a problem.

Doerr and the campus police also reach out to students. They go to
residence halls to give talks about drugs and alcohol.

Reese said he sometimes worries that the seminars and lectures about
crime go in one ear and out the other.

"People don't wake up until something like this happens," he

This is the second time in recent years that two unrelated but similar
killings have happened in the UNC system.

In the spring of 2004, two female students at the University of North
Carolina at Wilmington were killed within a month. Their accused
killers had both been admitted to UNCW after concealing their criminal
histories from admissions officers.

Within weeks of the homicides, the university's chancellor established
two groups to review university policies. A systemwide task force
appointed by Molly Broad, the president of the UNC system, made
several recommendations, including changes to application questions
regarding criminal history and education programs to make faculty more
attuned to changes in student behavior.

Bobby Kanoy, a senior associate vice president for academic and
student affairs for the UNC system, said that the task force that was
formed after the Wilmington homicides will reconvene if the
investigations at ASU find anything that the university could have
done different.

Remembering Harrington

Inside the Plemmons Student Union last week, there was a table set up
in honor of Harrington. On it was a bouquet with sunflowers and day
lilies. A placard held an obituary that said: "His quick smile, joy
for life and eagerness to help his family and friends will be missed
by all who knew him."

People signed a memory book. Among the expressions of sympathy,
someone had scrawled "Steve sold me pot in the dorms."

Harrington and McClure were young men who had positive things in their

McClure was a good golfer who placed well in amateur county
tournaments. Friends and acquaintances at his Boone apartment complex
described him as a nice, friendly guy. They called him "Uncle Joey" or
"GQ" for his good looks.

Harrington was an Eagle Scout, who volunteered to help younger scouts.
He played the trumpet and later the euphonium at Wakefield High School
in Raleigh. He was captain of both the swim and cross-country teams

"I clearly remember friends of both people talking about what great
guys they were," said Brad Norman, the editor of ASU's student
newspaper, The Appalachian. "How they were friendly, always had a good
word for everybody."

Within 12 hours of the discovery of Harrington's partially burned body
in the trunk of his car, police questioned Matthew Brandon Dalrymple,
20, of Bessemer City; Neil Matthew Sargeant, 24, of Boone; and Kyle
Quentin Triplett, 21, of Boone. Each man was later charged with
first-degree murder. All three are being held without bond.

Sargeant, who worked on special events at ASU, is the only one of the
three with any connection to the university.

Wallace said that as details about Harrington's death have emerged,
she was struck by the fact that Boone police were watching the house
where authorities believe that Harrington was bound with tape.

Police had gotten a tip that people at the house were involved in drug
dealing. An investigator repeatedly went by the house conducting loose
surveillance in the night or early morning when Harrington was killed.

Were police actually watching the house when he was killed inside? "I
thought about that," Wallace said.

"The what-ifs for the Harrington family, or even these three (accused
killers)... You could have saved four lives. What if the police had
chosen to intercede? Because they were that close. We don't get that
one back. It's been a heavy, heavy week."