Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 43
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
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Student Death Shocks Choir College

Matthew Hersh
Nancy Plum

Four Westminster Choir College students have been charged relating to the October 17 heroin-related death of a freshman student.

The charges linking the four students are the latest findings in an ongoing investigation concerning the death of 18-year-old Westminster freshman Justin Warfield, who died last week hours after a fellow student, 19-year-old Kieran Hunt, purchased heroin and then injected it into Mr. Warfield, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.

Around 5 a.m., on October 17, the Princeton Borough Police Department received a 911 call reporting an unresponsive male at a Witherspoon Street apartment. Police attempted to resuscitate Mr. Warfield until the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad arrived. Mr. Warfield was transported by ambulance to the University Medical Center at Princeton where he was pronounced dead on arrival at approximately 6 a.m.

The County Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that Mr. Warfield, of Columbia, Md., was under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and had been taken by friends to another friend’s apartment on Witherspoon Street around 11:30 p.m. the evening of October 16.

On Thursday, the Prosecutor’s Office announced that Mr. Hunt had caused Mr. Warfield’s death, and charged the Piscataway resident with strict liability for the drug-induced death, a first-degree offense. If convicted, Mr. Hunt could face between 10 and 20 years in prison, according to Casey DeBlasio, a spokesperson for the county prosecutor.

Mr. Hunt was scheduled to appear in Princeton Borough Municipal Court Monday, but that appearance was postponed to October 29, according to department officials.

Princeton Borough Police have also issued summonses to Robert Kelly, 19, of Danby, Vt., Nicholas Landrum, 20, of Mullica Hills, and Bryan Smith, 19, of Freehold, for harassment. According to the prosecutor, Mr. Warfield passed out after Mr. Hunt administered the heroin, causing Mr. Hunt to call Mr. Landrum for help. They then drove to Mr. Landrum’s apartment on Witherspoon Street and placed him on a couch.

The ripple effect of Mr. Warfield’s death has shaken Westminster Choir College, the music college of Rider University. In his freshman year, Mr. Warfield was a member of the Westminster Chapel Choir, conducted by Sun Min Lee and Ronnie Oliver. The Chapel Choir serves as the student’s introduction to the “Westminster Choral Experience,” and he had spent the fall rehearsing with the men of the Chapel Choir under Mr. Oliver’s leadership. According to Mr. Oliver, he was always “very engaged in rehearsals and had a very nice baritone voice, singing Bass I in the Choir.” Mr. Oliver added that Mr. Warfield “was always on top of his music, was a good musician, and did well on the hearing tests for the concert music.”

Mr. Warfield was also recognized as a good musician by his voice teacher, Marvin Regier, who had begun working with him this fall. “There was a depth about him that made him an interesting person, and I would love to have gotten to know him better,” Mr. Regier said.

After news of Mr. Warfield’s death spread on campus last Wednesday night, the students of the Choir College held a previously-planned candlelight unity vigil, which doubled as a tribute to Mr. Warfield as the students inserted a moment of silence and prayer into the vigil.

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