Family of University of Dayton student Larry Cook disputes ruling that he committed suicide

Sycamore High grad fell six stories from dorm

DAYTON, Ohio - The family of a University of Dayton student from Cincinnati who died on campus last week has hired an attorney from the notorious Florida A&M band hazing case to investigate.

Larry D. Cook, an 18-year-old freshman who graduated from Sycamore High School, plunged to his death from a sixth-floor dormitory window April 2, officials said.

Montgomery County Coroner's Office Chief Investigator Michael Fox confirmed Cook's death a suicide.

"There is no indication whatsoever it was an act somebody else did," Fox said Tuesday. "If something else comes up in the course of the police investigation, we'll take another look."

Fox said Cook died as a result of blunt force trauma to the head and body.

Attorney Christopher Chestnut, who is based in Florida, said Cook's family does not feel the university or police investigated adequately; they charge it was premature to rule that Cook committed suicide.

"We are very confident - in fact, 100 percent emphatic - that this was not a suicide and that this warrants further investigation," Chestnut said.

Chestnut also represented the family of Robert Champion, a Florida A&M drum major beaten to death by other band members in a hazing ritual on a bus in 2011. A dozen former band members were eventually charged with manslaughter in his death, the marching band was suspended, and the university president and band director were ousted. Chestnut has filed a wrongful-death suit against FAMU.

Chestnut said there's no reason to think Cook killed himself.

"There were no psychological issues, Larry was a student leader here. He was very jovial," Chestnut said.

Demante Mitchell, who said Cook had been his close friend for about five years, said Cook's mother thinks he was the victim of hazing.

"She believes it was a homicide," Mitchell said.

The university said Cook, a chemical engineering major, did not belong to a fraternity and was not in the process of pledging one.

Mitchell said he couldn't comprehend why Cook might take his own life. He said he knew Cook as a popular student at Sycamore High School who played baseball and football there.

"I personally think, well, you never know what somebody's thinking – a smile can hide a lot of things – but Larry was never mad. He was always smiling," Mitchell said. "When they said he committed suicide, it was so unexpected. You never, never would have expected that from him."

More than 700 people attended services for Cook on Monday at Quinn Chapel A.M.E Church in Forest Park. Speakers said Cook was an active member of a suicide prevention group during high school and discounted that  he killed himself.

Officials said students found Cook's body about 7:20 a.m. outside Meyer Hall. Mitchell said he heard Cook was up until 5 a.m. studying with someone.

"I want to see justice served. I just want the facts to come out. I hope anybody who knows anything will speak up," Mitchell said.

A rally called "Justice for Larry Cook" is being held at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday at the campus entrance, Mitchell said.

The family requests donations be made to the Larry D. Cook Memorial Fund through U.S. Bank.

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