Santa Clara DA: Second investigation into death of SJSU student at fraternity house ruled as suicide

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The Santa Clara County District Attorney Office and County Medical Examiner announced Friday that a joint investigation reconfirms that a San Jose State student committed suicide at an off-campus fraternity house 13 years ago.

The press release states that the second investigation into the 2008 death of SJSU student Gregory Johnson had reached the same conclusion of previous investigations.

On November 22, 2008 — Johnson was found dead inside the Sigma Chi Fraternity house, located off campus.

Last November, Johnson’s family and nearly 100 activists and supporters blocked off a section of 11th Street in downtown San Jose — calling for a reinvestigation into Johnson’s death.

Johnson’s death was ruled a suicide after fraternity members said to have found his lifeless body in the basement of the house — but family and activists say Johnson was murdered. 

Johnson’s death was initially investigated by SJSU Police in 2008.

The late Dr. Glenn Nazareno, a forensic pathologist with the County’s Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office, performed an autopsy on Johnson and concluded that the cause of death was due to “ligature hanging.”

Sigma Chi Fraternity house located on 10th street near San Jose State University in San Jose, Ca.

For years Johnson’s family have disputed Dr. Nazareno’s findings, nothing that Johnson was not suicidal, did not leave behind a suicide note, and could not have killed himself in the manner described in the autopsy report.

Earlier this year, the County’s DA’s Office asked County Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Michelle Jorden, to re-examine the death investigation.

According to the press release, SJSU Police worked with the County and shared their entire fire with Dr. Jorden — including crime lab reports and written submissions by Johnsons family detailing why they disputed the cause and manner of death.

As part of Dr. Jorden’s investigation a scene visit and scene re-enactment was conducted.

On November 2, Dr. Jorden reached the similar conclusion as Dr. Nazareno: Johnson died by “suicide caused by hanging.”

Dr. Jorden also addressed Johnson’s mental state at the time of his death.

“Medical records were reviewed and confirms Mr. Johnson did not have a history of depression or other significant neuropsychiatric illness,” said Dr. Jorden.

“However, this is not uncommon. Review of the scene did not reveal a suicide note but not all suicides have notes present at the scene.”

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