‘It just seemed like it wasn’t even real’

Cody Francis and Kelly Byer

Cody Francis

Daily Kent Stater

On Jan. 22, Jon Koch went downtown to a few bars for his friend’s birthday. With Koch, among others, were his girlfriend Heather Weber and his friend John White.

Weber and a friend decided to call it a night around 1 a.m. Koch and a few others stayed out until 2 a.m., when they got into a cab to go home. Koch said White decided to walk to his house instead of getting in the cab.

Shortly after Koch left, White was assaulted. On Sunday, White died from injuries suffered in that assault at Akron City Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Weber, senior art history major, said she and White’s other friends had been receiving updates on his condition from White’s mom and his friend Ted. She said she was startled when she received the news of White’s death.

“It’s really shocking,” said Weber. “It’s really hard to wrap your mind around.” Koch, a graduate student in the College of Business Administration, said he was under the impression that White was on his way to healing from his injuries before he heard about his death on Sunday.

“We had heard nothing but good things,” he said. “He was going into physical therapy. He was having some short-term memory issues, but we figured that was normal. I didn’t think anything like this would happen. I was just shocked. We thought he was going to be on his road to recovery.”

Koch said he still remembers when he heard about the assault almost a month ago.

“I woke up to make some coffee and I found out,” Koch said. “None of us really knew what to think, it just seemed like it wasn’t even real. There’s no way it could have happened, we just saw him six hours ago.”

Weber said many of White’s friends would describe him as an intellectual. White, a 28-year-old Kent State graduate student and a veteran of the Iraq War, “had a strong opinion of pretty much everything.”

“He was really, really smart,” Weber said. “He would debate with you about anything and even if you disagreed about something, it didn’t matter. You would argue about something and then two seconds later you’d be laughing about how stupid it was.”


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Laura Lofgren, junior newspaper journalism major, was a fellow member of College Libertarians with White last semester. She still has a hard time figuring out why anyone would assault someone like White.

“John was one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met,” Lofgren said. “For something like this to happen to someone who did not deserve it whatsoever, to me it’s just bullshit.”

Before coming to Kent State, White received a bachelor’s degree in religion from Ohio Wesleyan University before serving in the military. He completed a master’s degree in Library Science at Kent State and was attempting to earn a second master’s in Instructional Technologies.

Last summer, White volunteered at the Kent Historical Society on a weekly basis. He served the society primarily as a researcher, writing a paper about John Brown for the 150th anniversary of his death.

Sandy Halem, president of the historical society’s board of trustees, said she remembers White for his “intense” personality.

“He had a distinctly wicked sense of humor,” Halem said. “He tried to say things in a way that people would react to them. He definitely liked to stir the pot a bit. He really had a very clever wit.”

Koch said the only way to describe White is with one word: “unique.”

“There’s no one I know that’s like him,” he said. “I think it’s this kind of ironic tragedy that he can survive the Iraq war and then come back to Kent and this is what happens to him here.”

Contact public affairs reporter Cody Francis at [email protected].



Autopsy may bring further charges

Kelly Byer

Daily Kent Stater

County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci said he is awaiting the autopsy report in the case of John T. White, who was assaulted Jan. 23 and died from his injuries Sunday at Akron City Hospital’s intensive care unit at 2:25 p.m.

Vigluicci said the report is needed before taking further steps in the case against John H. Ragin Jr. and Hallie E. Nuspl, both 21-year-old Akron natives.

“Based on what we find, we can then re-present the case to the grand jury for additional charges,” he said. An autopsy was performed yesterday to determine White’s cause of death, but results are pending, said Gary Guenther, supervisor of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Guenther said hospital records and police reports still need to be reviewed and more testing needs to be done. He said it could take days or weeks to reach a result, depending on the records.

“Everything’s pending right now,” Guenther said.

Kent City Police said they had no further information to add on the incident and are deferring all inquiries to the prosecutor’s office. White, a 28-year-old Iraq War veteran and graduate student at Kent State, was assaulted in downtown Kent near the intersection of South Water Street and West Main Street at 2:30 a.m. Jan. 23. He received head injuries from the physical altercation and was transported to Akron City Hospital.

“The whole Kent State community is keeping his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers,” President Lester Lefton said in a statement. “We grieve the loss of this young man who served his country and was a graduate student here.”

It was reported that the altercation occurred outside the bars in Kent after Ragin involved himself in a verbal argument between White and a female.

Akron police, who were assisted by the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Task Force, arrested Ragin without incident at his residence for felonious assault, a second-degree felony, on Jan. 26. He was then transported to the Kent Police Department.

Ragin’s defense attorney, Danny James Weisenburger, said Ragin had made arrangements with Kent Police Lt. Robert Treharn to turn himself in. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment before Judge John A. Enlow at the Portage County Common Pleas Court and is being held at the Portage County Jail on a $250,000 bond. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 25.

Hallie E. Nuspl was arrested on Feb. 8 for one count each of obstructing official business, a fifth-degree felony, and assault, a first-degree misdemeanor. She was booked at the Portage County Sheriff’s Office and released on the same day after posting a $20,000 personal recognizance bond. Nuspl pleaded not guilty at her arraignment on Feb. 16 and has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 9.

This is the second student death following a physical assault in downtown Kent within the last three months. Christopher M. Kernich, 23, died Nov. 21 from injuries sustained in an assault on East Main Street. Adrian A. Barker and Ronald G. Kelly will face trial this spring for Kernich’s murder.

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Byer at [email protected].

Location of the alleged assault