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Deceased GVSU student identified as Taylor DeRosa of Royal Oak

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The Grand Valley State University student whose body was found over the weekend has been identified as Taylor DeRosa, a first-year student from Royal Oak, college officials said Tuesday.

University police and the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office are continuing their investigation into the 18-year-old's death, calling it "suspicious." Her body was found in the intramural fields and cross-country trail at the Allendale campus. The cause of her death has not been determined as of Tuesday.

Taylor DeRosa

GVSU students are planning a candlelight vigil in memory of DeRosa at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Cook Carillon Tower on the Allendale campus. Face masks are required, along with social distancing.

DeRosa was majoring in international business with a minor in French at GVSU, and "her warmth, friendliness and humor brought joy to everyone who knew her," according to a GoFundMe page organized by Gina Mollencopf of Royal Oak to pay for DeRosa's memorial expenses. By Wednesday morni, it had raised more than $55,000 in donations.

"Taylor lived a passionate, involved life as an advocate for gun control, Black Lives Matter, women’s rights and a host of other organizations and movements that supported human equality, fairness and truth," wrote Mollencopf, who identified herself as a close friend of Taylor's mother. 

Mollencopf wrote that DeRosa was active in many activities throughout her life including attending YMCA Camp Nissokone in Oscoda since she was 11, and serving as a counselor there for several years. DeRosa was also on the Royal Oak High School lacrosse team.

"Taylor’s mother, Carolyn (Cara), a single mother who raised Taylor by herself since she was born, worked seven days a week at two different jobs to provide her the perfect life she deserved," wrote Mollencopf. "They were the best of friends and FaceTimed or spoke every day."

One of the donors, Julie Hentschel, wrote that DeRosa "was an amazing young woman."

"I met her through her gun violence prevention work," Hentschel said. "She was mature beyond her years. She truly made a difference in this world. A beautiful light has left this world."

Rozy Panis, also a donor, wrote that DeRosa "was a beautiful soul, always a smiling face that I passed in the hallways."

Meanwhile, GVSU President Philomena Mantella wrote a letter to the campus community.

Taylor DeRosa

"The family of Taylor DeRosa is aware of the outpouring of concern for their loss," said Mantella. "Taylor became part of our on-campus community as a first-year student this Fall semester. Our thoughts and prayers surround the DeRosa family during this tragic time."

Cara DeRosa, Taylor's mother, posted a photo of her daughter on Facebook with the hashtag, #rememberingtaylorderosa.

"It is with a heavy heart and unimaginable sadness that I regret to inform you my daughter, Taylor DeRosa, passed away on Saturday," Cara DeRosa wrote. "Please continue to pray for my family and her friends during this difficult time. 1/13/02 - 12/12/20."

In a statement from the university, Brandon DeHaan, director of GVSU public safety and chief of police, said it appears that the general public or campus population is not in danger. 

But DeHaan urged the campus community "to be patient, not to rush to any conclusions and to stop spreading false information, particularly on social media."

"Misinformation is not helpful to the investigation or to the family of our student," he said in the statement. "Truthful and accurate updates will come from police authorities and the university when appropriate."

Royal Oak High School Principal Michael Giromini said grieving students will be encouraged to speak to support staff in the coming week.

“As we all struggle to process this news, our thoughts go out to Taylor’s family and friends," Giromini said in a statement. "Taylor had an immensely positive impact on our community, and that influence will help us in our grieving process."

DeRosa's body was found Saturday and her family asked that her name be released to the public, university officials said.

The Michigan State Police is assisting in the investigation. Anyone with any information should contact the Grand Valley State University Police Department at (616) 331-3255 or Silent Observer at (877) 887-4536.