New York Cases 3

Fatal Fire at Ivy League College Never Solved


Cornell University in Ithaca, New York is one of the prestigious Ivy League Institutions in the United States.  Cornell has a solid reputation as perhaps being the most difficult as far as workload goes.  The Campus has been plagued for decades with suicides of students many of whom jumped into the ravines near the campus due to academic and personal pressures.

While Cornell has graduated many of the brightest in the world, eight students and one college professor were not able to due to a tragic incident in 1967.

On the early morning of April 5th at around 4pm a fire took hold of the Cornell Heights Residential Club.  In the end students Martha Beck,  Meimei Cheng, Peter Cooch, Carol Lynn Kurtz, Anne McCormic, Jeffrey William Smith, Jennie Zu-wei Sun,  and Johanna Christina Wallden, would lose their lives.  Professor John Alban Finch would die a hero as he ran back into the building to try and save students from the blaze.  The nine would die as a result of asphyxia by toxic smoke inhalation.”

The incident has largely been forgotten by the University and LAw Enforcement.  The deaths have never been declared a homicide.

Suspicion would deepen as as two more fires broke out at residences housing some of the displaced students  from the Cornell Heights Residential Club.  One was at the Watermargin Cooperative on May 23, 1967, and the second would occur at 211 Eddy Street, a week later.  In all three fires an accelerant was found.

The building had no sprinklers and a lack of fire escapes.

Years later in 1972, Cornell University would be found negligent by a United States Northern District Court of New York in a lawsuit by the parents of a deceased student.

Questions still remain and according to an article in the New York Times some survivors of the fire believe they may know a possible suspect.

New York Times Article

Additional information can be found at Cornell Sun