Students, parents reflect on week's double tragedy at IU

Joseph Smedley

There was a lot of excitement Saturday surrounding IU versus Ohio State. Still, in the back of many students' and parents' minds were the unexpected deaths of two IU students this week that shook the campus and set a pall over the excitement of the start of a new school year.

"You get a lot of anxiety obviously. You wish that they were home with you," said mom Denise Wright at a tailgate outside Memorial Stadium.

It’s all Wright could think about when her son, a freshman at IU, told her about a murder-suicide at an off-campus apartment this week involving a junior transfer student from China. Then, days later in a totally separate situation, police discovered the body of another student at Griffey Lake.

"You just always pray that nothing tragic will ever happen to one of your children, no matter where they are," said Wright. "Unfortunately, our society is such that we never know. So, we just keep them close in our thoughts and our prayers and obviously our hearts go out to the families."

The Monroe County Coroner said the body of 20-year-old Joseph Smedley, II, was found at Griffey Lake Friday night. According to the coroner, foul play isn't suspected and it appears the sophomore bio-chemistry major from Indianapolis drowned. Smedley had been missing since Monday.

"That’s the last thing you think is going to happen," said mom Brenda Toth. "You’re going to get that phone call or whatever, it is saying your son is missing or something. It’s a devastating thing that might happen."

IU President Michael McRobbie addressed both untimely deaths, saying to lose two students in a span of days increased the collective grief on campus and sense of mourning there. McRobbie extended his sympathies to the families and friends of both 21-year-old Yaolin Wang and Mister Smedley.

Police say Wang’s boyfriend, who was visiting from Washington State, stabbed her to death in her off-campus apartment and then hung himself.

"I was just kind of taken aback that someone would really do that to their girlfriend and, like, I just thought that it was unbelievable that it would ever happen here," said IU freshman Jordan Dixon.

"You pray for the families that this just happened to because that could be any of us and we all know that," said Brenda Toth.

IU’s Counseling and Psychological Services has counselors available around the clock for students having a difficult time dealing with either student’s death.