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University of New Hampshire student was in ‘altercation’ at fraternity before death, school says

Vincenzo LirosiDurham Police Department

A University of New Hampshire fraternity is on suspension status after authorities learned that 22-year-old Vincenzo Lirosi of Whitman, Mass., was in an “altercation” at a fraternity event hours before his body was found near the school’s Durham campus on Sunday, according to the school.

Lirosi was last seen Saturday night when he attended an event organized by the Sigma Chi fraternity, according to a letter sent to UNH students by Kenneth Blackman, dean of students. Lirosi was spotted between 1 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Saturday and was reported missing at 3 a.m., police said. His body was found Sunday in a marshy area off Coe Drive, officials have said.

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“Prior to going missing Vinny was involved in an altercation at a gathering hosted by the members of Sigma Chi Fraternity,” Blackman wrote. “As is common practice when an investigation involves a fraternity, we were in touch with the organization’s national headquarters and collectively agreed to interim suspend the organization effective immediately.”

Blackman wrote that the suspension was not “the result of an investigation or a formal finding of responsibility” because the investigation into Lirosi’s death is ongoing. Separately, Durham police Chief Rene Kelley said via e-mail to The Boston Globe Monday that Lirosi’s death “does not appear suspicious in any way.”

Lirosi’s aunt, Sally Nichols Prescott, said via Facebook that relatives take at least some measure of comfort in knowing he’s now with his late father.

“This sweet boy left us far too early,” she wrote Sunday. “My nephew Vincenzo Lirosi. It is tragic for so many wonderful people that have been here for days. The search teams and law enforcement have been determined and dedicated to find some kind of answers. For now, knowing Vin is with his dad is comforting.”

Prescott also provided a link to a GoFundMe started by Lirosi’s brother, Gio, to raise money for funeral expenses. The appeal had raised more than $62,000 as of Tuesday morning.

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“He meant a lot to so many people and me and my mom really appreciate everything you guys are doing to help us out during this tough time,” Gio Lirosi wrote.

The New Hampshire state medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine the cause of death, police said.

Blackman urged students to reach out to professors if they are struggling with the emotional impact of Lirosi’s death as exams begin. “I know the weight of exams must feel especially heavy during this time. Faculty are aware of the situation and the potential impact on students. Students may reach out to me directly if they need assistance notifying their faculty due to a personal connection to Vinny’s passing” he wrote.

The UNH Police Department also offered condolences in a statement posted Sunday to its official Facebook page.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Vincenzo and know that this loss will impact his fellow Wildcats. Whether you knew him or not, he was one of us; please take care of yourselves and one another,” campus police said. “Reach out for help, be kind to one another and know he is #ForeverAWildcat.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickStoico.