Index Throwback: What You Didn’t Know About the DeWaters Murder-Suicide

By Katie Schmitz, News Editor 

“Investigation confirms deaths to be murder-suicide,” reads the headline of The Index on October 20, 1999. The story, written by Shannon McVay ’00, is paired with an ominous picture of police tape blocking off the hallway leading to the DeWaters dormitory, room 201.

According to the article, the incident began when residents of DeWaters started hearing shout coming from the room of Neenef Odah ’01. When the shots were fired, a student commented that it sounded more like “books hitting the wall than the firing of a gun.”

Police arrived on campus Oct. 18, 1999 at 1 a.m. to find the bodies of Odah and Maggie Wardle ’02. It did not take long before it was confirmed by police that the incident was a murder-suicide. Odah shot Wardle before turning the gun on himself.

The facts of this horrible incident in Kalamazoo College history have been heard many times by most students. However, the aftermath and the effects that this event had on the college are not as often discussed.

Articles published by the Index in the weeks following the incident are very telling to what exactly happened to this campus.

Following the crime, one argument that arose on campus was whether or not to consider Odah a “victim”. In another article published by The Index on Oct. 20, 1999, titled “Students pay tribute to Wardle and Odah,” Cullen Hendrix ’00 stated that students gathered around Stetson Chapel to “mourn the deaths of [Wardle and Odah] the victims of a murder-suicide.”

In a Letter to the Editor published in the next week’s paper, Adam Glick ’00 asserted, “Odah is not a victim. He is a murderer…. To say Odah is a victim is unacceptable.” He went on to critique the headline of the article, saying, “we should not pay tribute to a murderer, and especially not in the same line as his victim.”

Some students were also divided by President James Jones’ (1996-2004) comments on gun control during the memorial service.

“I wish every congressman in Washington who has taken a position against gun control could walk this campus on this tragic day,” said Jones.

Glick disagreed with this, stating, “gun control is not the issue; self-control is the issue.”

Pat Ponto, the current Director of the Counseling Center at K, offered some words of advice to students to prevent future tragedies like this one.

“If students worry about couples fighting, it’s very important that they let someone who works at the College know – a residence assistant, area coordinator, counseling center staff, student development staff or security (after hours). The Counseling Center staff strongly believes that students should NOT worry about other students without getting some ‘official’ help from the College.

“If the student is a good friend of the couple that is fighting and feels safe saying something to them or interrupting the fight, that might work, but I would prefer that the student take another person with him/her to have that conversation.  The only thing that would have made the murder-suicide worse would have been having another student intervene and get hurt.”