UConn Sophomore’s Death Believed Related To Pre-Existing Medical Condition

STORRS — When he got the news Sunday that one of his best high school friends, Jesse Richeeds, a University of Connecticut sophomore, had died earlier that morning, Randy Greene had to pull over.

“I pulled over to the side of the road and I just started to shake,” said Greene, who was co-captain of the Killingly High School football team with Richeeds in the 2011-12 school year. “It definitely stops you.

“He was an incredible guy, an incredible friend. He was like family,” Greene said. “You could come and talk to him about anything. He’d be there.”

The UConn Fire Department responded to a call from students Sunday at 3:10 a.m. reporting that a male in Shippee Hall Dormitory was having trouble breathing. Richeeds, of Danielson, was taken to Windham County Memorial Hospital where he died shortly after arrival, according to UConn Deputy Police Chief Hans D. Rhynhart.

“It’s a terrible thing for the people who were around him, who made the 911 call,” Rhynhart said. UConn’s mental health services has been providing counseling since Sunday.

UConn said the police are investigating the circumstances of Richeeds’ death, but the preliminary information “does not indicate that there were any contributing factors” that led to his death other than a “pre-existing medical condition,” according to a statement from UConn.

Richeeds, who was known as Jay-R, was remembered by staff and his former classmates at Killingly High School as an outstanding student and athlete and a talented singer with an ebullient personality.

His football coach, Chad Neal, said Richeeds was “a tremendous football player and track athlete for us … More importantly he was a great student and a young man just full of promise that everybody gravitated to.”

Richeeds was captain of the high school track and football teams, won recognition during his senior year as Killingly’s top student athlete, was the homecoming king his senior year, and was treasurer of the senior class. He was an All Conferencefootball player for three years and was a state champion in the long jump his junior year, Neal said.

Neal remembered Richeeds as “a very charismatic young man” who arrived at football practice every day carrying a football attached to a stick and singing “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King.”

Richeeds was particularly interested in science and went to UConn to become a pharmacist, Neal said. “He had options to go play football after high school, but he wanted to focus on the school of pharmacy,” Neal said. “He was career-driven.”

Neal said he knew Richeeds had asthma. Occasionally, he had to come out of a game “to get his asthma under control,” Neal said, but no one thought Richeeds’ asthma was that serious.

Michael Kurland, director of UConn student health services, said he did not know details of Richeeds’ death and could not comment on them. But, he said, over the past 10 or 15 years more and more students at UConn have pre-existing medical conditions.

“Anyone who thinks that all the kids off to college are healthy invincibles [is] completely inaccurate,” Kurland said. “We have students coming with heart transplants, brain tumors. There are cancer survivors. A lot of diabetics and asthmatics.”

UConn students are asked to register with the university’s center for students with disabilities or at least to send a diagnostic summary from home. Kurland this helps his staff know how to care for them and who to refer them to if a problem comes up.

Kevin Ravenelle, who was vice president of Richeeds’ senior class at Killingly, worked closely with him as his sound engineer when he recorded his rap music.

Ravenelle said that Richeeds was thrilled when he got to open for a well-known hip-hop artist, Wale, at a concert at UConn last spring.

Ravenelle was backstage with Richeeds before the concert. “It was one of those things where you dream about doing something like that. … He had the time of his life.”

Ravenelle and the other officers of Killingly’s senior class of 2012 gathered at the high school Monday to talk about how to commemorate Richeeds. Ravenelle said they hope to set up a scholarship in his honor and to commemorate him in some way at the football field.

Neal said that the school’s football players, who gathered Sunday, have decided to wear Richeeds’ Number 4 on the back of their helmets in his honor.

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