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Autopsy inconclusive in death of U. of C. student found in dorm room

Updated: March 18, 2014 6:26AM

Authorities do not suspect foul play in the death of a University of Chicago student whose body was found in his dorm room Saturday afternoon. An autopsy to determine the cause of death was inconclusive, pending the results of toxicology tests, officials with the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said Sunday.

The body of Nicholas Barnes, 20, was found in his dorm room in the 1400 block of East 59th Street about 4:15 p.m. Saturday, authorities said. He was dead at the scene, and the body appeared to have been there for some time.

The third-year student lived in International House, a residential facility that includes mostly single rooms, according to a University of Chicago representative and the university website.

“Our thoughts are with [the student’s] family and friends, the Booth House community, residents and staff of I-House, and all who are touched by this loss,” Karen Warren Coleman, vice president for campus life and student services said in a statement.

She called Barnes “an excellent student, admired by faculty and peers alike.”

He was involved with the campus literary publication, Sliced Bread, according to a statement from the school.

Jessica Gurrentz, 20, a high school classmate of Barnes, recalled him as “quiet but brilliant.” “He was always well-spoken and had a philosophical and open mind,” she said.

Chicago native Kelsey Grant, 18, said Barnes was one of the first friends she made at the University of Chicago.

She was standing alone at a fraternity party during the first week of school when Barnes walked up and introduced himself.

“I was super intimidated because he was handsome and suave and willing to talk about anything,” she said.

Barnes asked what she wanted to study. When she said linguistics, he suggested she read Noam Chomsky — one of his favorite authors — and encouraged her to study abroad.

“He was brilliant and amicable and guy who thought beyond himself,” she said.

They often teased each other when they crossed paths on campus. Barnes poked fun at her for being a freshman, while she’d usually take jabs at his eclectic sweater collection, which she said included drawings of cats and dancing polar bears. “He was just a wonderfully weird guy, super comfortable in his own skin,” she said.

On Sunday, Grant reflected on a conversation she had with Barnes two weeks ago.

“We were talking about death and he was saying he wasn’t really afraid of it, and we both wondered what comes after you die,” she said. “I hope there’s something because people are really going to miss him.”

The student’s family is planning a funeral for him in Pittsburgh, where he grew up, Coleman said. The university also plans to hold a memorial on campus.

Contributing: Brian Slodysko and Matt McKinney

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