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Alcohol, hypothermia caused Grand Valley student Taylor DeRosa's death, officials say

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

The on-campus death of a Grand Valley State University student last month was caused by hypothermia and alcohol was a contributing factor, school officials said Thursday.

Taylor DeRosa

Taylor DeRosa, an 18-year-old freshman from Royal Oak, was found dead on the morning of Dec. 12 in an area near the intramural fields and cross country trail on the university's Allendale campus.

An investigation by university police showed DeRosa had attended several social gatherings, said Mary Eilleen Lyon, Grand Valley spokeswoman. Police determined she was with friends in a vehicle and asked to be let out to go see a friend around 2:40 a.m., Lyon said. 

A jogger found DeRosa's body on a sidewalkat 10:30 a.m., about 400 to 500 yards from where she had gotten out of the vehicle, Lyon said.

The autopsy report by the Ottawa County Medical Examiner's office shows she died of hypothermia, which occurs when a person's body temperature dips too low. The temperature that morning was about 39 degrees and there was a steady rain, the National Weather Service said.

Additionally, DeRosa's blood alcohol content was 0.24%, Lyon said. That level of intoxication is three times the legal limit of 0.08% to drive in Michigan.

The university has more than 1,000 security cameras on campus, and footage led investigators to conclude that DeRosa did not interact with anyone else before she died, said Lyon. 

A memorial with flowers, candles and personal notes for Taylor DeRosa lays at the foot of the Cook Carillon Clock Tower at GVSU. A candlelight vigil honoring Taylor DeRosa, the first-year Grand Valley State University student from Royal Oak, was held at the tower on the GVSU campus on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. DeRosa's body was found in the intramural fields and cross country trail at the Allendale campus.

“Taylor’s death is a terrible tragedy for her family and all those close to her,” said GVSU President Philomena Mantella. “We are a caring community and our hearts go out to all who knew and loved Taylor. Our routines during COVID have put physical space between us, but we should work to stay emotionally connected, especially as we grieve the loss of a promising young woman who was part of our campus community.”

DeRosa was majoring in international business with a minor in French. Friends said she was an activist for numerous causes including gun control, Black Lives Matter and women’s rights.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that alcohol contributes to the deaths of 1,825 college students between the ages of 18-24 every year.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

@kimberkoz