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“The Events of October”

Murder-Suicide on a Small Campus

Gail Griffin

Publication Year: 2010

On a Sunday night during Homecoming weekend in 1999, Neenef Odah lured his ex-girlfriend, Maggie Wardle, to his dorm room at Kalamazoo College and killed her at close range with a shotgun before killing himself. In the wake of this tragedy, the community of the small, idyllic liberal arts college struggled to characterize the incident, which was even called “the events of October” in a campus memo. In this engaging and intimate examination of Maggie and Neenef’s deaths, author and Kalamazoo College professor Gail Griffin attempts to answer the lingering question of “how could this happen?” to two seemingly normal students on such a close-knit campus. Griffin introduces readers to Maggie and Neenef—a bright and athletic local girl and the quiet Iraqi-American computer student—and retraces their relationship from multiple perspectives, including those of their friends, teachers, and classmates. She examines the tension that built between Maggie and Neenef as his demands for more of her time and emotional support grew, eventually leading to their breakup. After the deaths take place, Griffin presents multiple reactions, including those of Maggie’s friends who were waiting for her to return from Neenef’s room, the students who heard the shotgun blasts in the hallway of Neenef’s dorm, the president who struggled to guide a grieving campus, and the facilities manager in charge of cleaning up the crime scene. Griffin also uses Maggie and Neenef’s story to explore larger issues of intimate partner violence, gun accessibility, and depression and suicide on campus as she attempts to understand the lasting importance of their tragic deaths. Griffin’s use of source material, including college documents, official police reports, Neenef’s suicide note, and an instant message record between perpetrator and victim, puts a very real face on issues of violence against women. Readers interested in true crime, gender studies, and the culture of colleges and universities will appreciate “The Events of October.”

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece

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Prologue: October 18, 1999

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p. xi-xi

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1 Fair Arcadian Hill

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pp. 1-7

"If you were a painter and wanted to paint the ideal college, you'd go out there and paint that quad," mused President James F. Jones, always known as . . .

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2 Millennium Girl

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pp. 9-23

This is Maggie Wardle in third grade, as seen through those same green eyes. The words are printed carefully in pencil on soft, buff-colored paper lined in blue. The letters are shaped beautifully, even . . .

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3 Wounded Bird

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pp. 25-54

It's difficult to find a picture of Neenef Odah smiling, though the first thing his good friends mention is his comedy. Dan Poskey says he often smiled, but "more like a half-smile."The photo that comes . . .

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4 So Scared and So Lost

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pp. 55-82

When exams ended in the spring of 1999 and the deep green summer settled in, Maggie's crew dispersed. She moved back to the octagon house in Plainwell. She would be working for . . .

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5 Homecoming

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pp. 83-103

The convocation that opens each academic year at Kalamazoo College invariably takes place under the same perfect sky: brilliant blue, lit by sharp mid-September sunlight. . . .

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6 This Endless Night

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pp. 105-129

At about 11:20 p.m., something prompted Navin Anthony to check on his neighbor. Not realizing that Maggie was already there, he went through the bathroom, knocked on the door, opened it, and . . .

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7 Hold Fast

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pp. 131-157

Jimmy Jones had canceled classes for the day, but the Crisis Management Team knew that students who awoke unaware of what had happened wouldn't necessarily find out before heading to . . .

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8 Fault Lines

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pp. 159-183

In her role as student government president, Simone Lutz had spoken at the vigil outside the chapel on the night of October 18. She remembers saying, "'This is a time for hugging and . . .

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9 Another Sad Chapter

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pp. 185-193

At 1:34 a.m. on Friday, November 12, twelve Kalamazoo students received this . . .

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10 All Survivors Are Victims

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pp. 194-224

At some point in the months following October, someone in the upper administration remarked, "I think we've lost a year."
"We were kind of like zombies," Kelly Schulte says of the group of women closest to Maggie. "We were expected to go to class, . . .

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11 The Why of Everything

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pp. 225-250

"Odah shot Wardle and then shot himself."
This is the simplest version, the Public Safety Report version. Maybe it's the best version, or at any rate the safest. If only we could live . . .

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Conclusion: Hauntings and Visitations

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pp. 251-277

The college kept DeWaters 201 “offline”—unoccupied during regular academic sessions—until Neenef’s class had graduated, but not Maggie’s. In the summer of 2000, Dan Poskey . . .

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 279-281

First and foremost, I thank the people who gave me their stories. Several of them knew me very little or did not know me at all and had no reason to trust me with their memories. For many of them, it was . . .

Appendixes

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pp. 283-300

Notes

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pp. 301-309

Sources

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pp. 311-313

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 315-317

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814336922
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334720

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 7
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a
Series Title: Painted Turtle

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Subject Headings

  • Murder -- Michigan -- Kalamazoo.
  • Suicide -- Michigan -- Kalamazoo.
  • Wardle, Maggie, d. 1999.
  • Odah, Neenef, d. 1999.
  • Kalamazoo College.
  • Kalamazoo (Mich.) -- History.
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