Community grieves loss of sophomore student
In an instant – early Saturday morning – an off-campus house party in East Orange turned into a scene of chaos, leaving one Seton Hall student dead, two others wounded and the campus community in grief.
For the first time in a decade, since 2000’s Boland Hall fire, the University is coping with a major tragedy. A house party shooting took the life of 19-year-old sophomore Jessica Moore, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head. She died later that day at University Hospital in Newark.
Sophomore Nakeisha Vanterpool, a suitemate of Moore, was reportedly shot in the chin and released from University Hospital over the weekend. Freshman Nicosia Henry, a women’s basketball player, was reportedly shot in the foot. She was released on Saturday from medical care.
Funeral arrangements for Moore have been made in her home state of Virginia. The service will be on Saturday at the J.M. Wilkerson Funeral Establishment in Petersburg.
The University announced on Tuesday that it would run buses from the campus to the services, with transit out of South Orange leaving between midnight at 1 a.m. according to a broadcast e-mail. The group of Seton Hall students – asked to wear Pirate blue by the Moore family – will return immediately after the funeral concludes.
Moore’s funeral will coincide with University Day on the campus. While several University administrators are expected to attend the services in Virginia according to sources, some changes to University Day have been made as well.
A moment of silence is planned across the campus for the victims of the incident toward the start of the day, as well as a safety-themed event and a chance for parents to speak with administrators about the topic, according to a University official.
Athletic teams at the Hall have also been observing moments of silence for the victims during the week prior to their games.
To help cope the emotionally-stricken campus on the evening of the shooting, the University held a prayer vigil in the Main Lounge last Saturday night.
The service was led by members of the priest community, as well as interim University President Dr. Gabriel Esteban.
Msgr. James Cafone and Msgr. Anthony Ziccardi were among those who spoke during the service.
Fr. John Dennehy led a somber, remembrance-themed homily that began with him asking the attendees to think of just one word to describe Moore.
Several people spoke, using descriptions such as “sunshine,” “lively” and “vibrant.”
Another person said Moore had an “infectious smile.”
One person used a simple term – “Tennessee” – a nickname Moore had as she had grown up in the state before moving to Virginia. After the service, a car in the Xavier Hall parking lot was seen with writing on the back windshield, “There’s always sun in Tennessee.”
Dennehy spoke at the vigil of having faith in God and knowing that Moore has gone on to a better place.
See Tragedy, Page 3.
“I do know and do believe that Jessica got on a train ride today with a loving God that will bring her home to the heavenly kingdom,” Dennehy said.
An estimated 600-plus people appeared in the Main Lounge, with many standing in the rear of the room and into the hallway.
Esteban spoke before the final prayers, asking that the community acknowledge the family’s requests for privacy. He also said the Moore family is one of strong faith – a topic Dennehy mentioned in his remarks as well.
During the day last Saturday, just hours after most on the campus heard of the shooting, an impromptu vigil was held on the campus Green.
Around 2 p.m., around 100 students, staff and faculty gathered on the Green near the Immaculate Conception chapel to hold hands in solidarity and prayer for Moore. The vigil concluded roughly an hour before Moore passed away.
Around 6:30 p.m. last Saturday night, Esteban fought back tears in speaking to the media in front of the Ring Building.
“I’m still trying to process this myself,” Esteban said at the time.
Esteban also spoke about his connection to this tragedy outside his role as interim president.
“As a parent, my first instinct was to go home and hold my child,” Esteban said, referring to his daughter who attends the University.
Junior Derel Stroud, an at-large senator with the Student Government Association and eyewitness to the incident, e-mailed The Setonian just hours after the shooting allegedly occurred. He was reached just prior to Esteban’s press conference.
“I had dropped off two girls at the party, but there were too many people and they couldn’t get in,” Stroud said. “So, I went back around the corner to pick them up. I saw the suspect walk out of the house, up to his friend and said ‘give me the banger.'”
Stroud said he immediately called 911 and flagged down an East Orange police officer nearby making a traffic stop.
“I had my van from work…I squeezed as many students as I could – 14, 15 – into the van and drove back to campus.”
Stroud said he knew Moore and described her as “always smiling, always nice.”
“She was from Tennessee but living with her mother in Virginia… everyone called her ‘Tennessee,'” Stroud said. “I was at the hospital all night with her.”
Though Stroud wasn’t allowed in the room with Moore, he stayed at University Hospital until around 8:30 a.m., he said. Stroud also expressed strong feelings about the University’s response during the first hours of Moore’s hospitalization.
“One of the (women’s) basketball players was injured (at the shooting), and coaches, trainers and players came to see her,” Stroud said. “But I was very dissatisfied that not one administrator was visiting the other two girls (right after the incident). It sends a sign that they don’t care.”
Stroud added that he spoke to University officials this morning and was glad that Esteban had since gone to the hospital to visit Moore.
Right before departing for the 9 p.m. prayer service on campus last Saturday, Esteban offered one last emotional remark.
“We (the Seton Hall community) have to be together,” Esteban said. “She was one of us – she was a Setonian.”
Community and Opinion Editor Brenden Higashi and additional staff writers contributed to this report.
Brian Wisowaty can be reached at email@example.com.
Nicholas Parco can be reached at Nicholas.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica Sutcliffe can be reached at email@example.com.