Erie police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old Gannon University student from Zelienople who was found unresponsive in an alley Saturday afternoon.
The cause of death of Abrielle Marie "Abbie" Brynda had not been determined Sunday night, though police are investigating it as "suspicious," said Erie police Sgt. Keith Kaschalk.
Police said Ms. Brynda was found about 4 p.m. Saturday in a walkway between an old city firehouse and a commercial building near West 12th and Sassafras streets and she later died at UPMC Hamot in Erie.
Gannon president Keith Taylor said the Catholic university of about 4,200 undergraduate and graduate students in downtown Erie was reeling with the news.
"We don't have details or the full story or the full picture ourselves. There are a whole variety of stories out there, but we are not releasing information. We prefer to wait to comment until we have the full truth. The police investigation is still ongoing and the coroner's office hasn't completed their work," Mr. Taylor said. "This is a very challenging time for the Gannon community."
Ms. Brynda, a 2011 graduate of Seneca Valley High School who lived off campus, was a junior nursing major and a member of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.
"She was an active member of the Tri-Sigs, and the Tri-Sigs are very active on our campus in service and fundraising activities," Mr. Taylor said.
Sigma Sigma Sigma's chapter president, Alexis Tamok, said that the sorority's "adviser is not allowing me to give any information out at this time."
However, she said Ms. Brynda had "an amazing support system from her sisters at Tri-Sigma."
Campus ministries, the university counseling center and residence life staff will be available to help students. "Certainly, as a university, we've suffered losses in the past but not very frequently," Mr. Taylor said.
Linda Andreassi, a spokeswoman for the Seneca Valley School District, said the school system was "profoundly and deeply saddened" by Ms. Brynda's death.
"We will remember her as a young and vibrant young woman who was selfless in her actions," Ms. Andreassi wrote.
Ms. Brynda's senior graduation project, "The Walk for Natalie," raised nearly $7,000 to help purchase a service dog for a family friend with a rare genetic disorder, according to Ms. Andreassi.
"She called it 'a true journey.' We join the Gannon University community in mourning and extend our deepest sympathies to her family and friends," she said.
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180. Robert Zullo: email@example.com or 412-263-3909. First Published February 2, 2014 11:09 AM