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Entries in Bill Zeller (1)

Friday
Jan072011

Promising Princeton Student Kills Self Over Rapes

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PRINCETON, N.J.) -- A promising Princeton graduate student who had been haunted by childhood rapes killed himself this week, leaving a 4,000-word suicide note disclosing the "darkness" that stalked him.

Bill Zeller, 27 and a "brilliant programmer," died Wednesday after suffering brain damage due to oxygen deprivation from a suicide attempt, according to the Daily Princetonian newspaper.

He was found by the university's public safety officers on Sunday and was brought to Princeton Medical Center, where he remained in a coma for three days before he was removed from life support.

Zeller was pursuing a doctorate in computer science.

His suicide note shocked family and friends with an exhaustive description of repeated rapes as a young child. He did not name his abuser, but referred to a male.

That letter was published on the Princetonian website.

In his suicide note, Zeller described an "inconsolable rage," and said programming had been an appealing career because "I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time."

"My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly," he wrote. "This has affected every aspect of my life."

He said the abuse had destroyed his career, his ability to function and even his relationships with women.

"This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me," he wrote.

The suicide note appeared on his personal website; he also e-mailed it to friend before attempting to take his life, according to the newspaper.

Zeller said in his suicide note that he had never revealed the childhood abuse to anyone until now. He wrote he had been kicked out of his home and financially cut off at age 19. But he also said that he called his family and knew that his mother loved him.

One friend, Amy Barackman, told her mother she had seen his depression and estrangement from family coming and tried to reach out to him Christmas week.  Zeller, who was from Middletown, Conn., and attended Trinity College as an undergraduate, was a talented programmer. He created such applications as Graph Your Inbox, which visualizes Gmail use over time, and myTunes, which enables users to download others' iTunes music.

Zeller was active in the graduate student government program at Princeton and wrote for an influential technology blog, among other activities.

"The university has lost a very promising computer science student and an individual with many close friends within his research group and across campus," said William Russel, dean of Princeton's graduate school, in a press release on the university's website.

"We in the graduate school and others from university offices offer sincere condolences and continuing support to Bill's family and his friends on campus and across the country," it said. "We are planning a memorial service to provide students and members of the Princeton family an opportunity to honor his memory."

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