UPDATE: Kent State Student Killed by Train Identified

Christian O'Keeffe remembered as poet, song writer who loved walking

Editor's note: this story was udpated at 1:30pm June 5 with comments from O'Keeffe's family.

A week after his death, the Kent State University student and 2009 Theodore Roosevelt High School graduate May 27 has been identified.

were able to identify 20-year-old Christian O'Keeffe, of Kent, when his family called the department this week after having not spoken to him for several weeks, Kent Police Lt. Bob Treharn said.

O'Keeffe was struck on the CSX Transportation Co. railroad tracks about 1 mile north of Middlebury Road, just after 12:30 a.m. May 27, near The Portage Hike and Bike Trail bridge that crosses over the Cuyahoga River.

Kent Police believe O'Keeffe committed suicide based on the circumstances of his death, Treharn said. The official cause of death is pending at the Portage County Coroner's Office.

A spokesperson for the coroner's office said it may take a few weeks to determine if O'Keeffe did indeed commit suicide by stepping in front of the train.

Ciaran O'Keeffe, Christian's brother, said the family believes his death was an accident.

Ciaran O'Keeffe said his brother was not suicidal but loved to walk by the river and railroad tracks often.

"There’s nothing more that Christian loved than living life," Ciaran said. "I really believe that what happened was the result of some sort of accident."

If O'Keeffe's death is ruled a suicide, he will be the fourth Kent State student whose cause of death was ruled as such within the past seven months. In April, university staff , of Cambridge, OH, dead in her residence hall room. Her death was ruled a suicide. Also in April, Leticia K. Nakibuka, 22, of Lake Street, after firing several rounds into the house at 1017 Vine St.

In November, Martin Alvord, 22, a Visual Communication Design student, committed suicide by lying down near Towner's Woods park.

News of O'Keeffe's death was reported widely in local media and included a detailed description as police sought to identify him in the days after his death. It wasn't until a week after his death when family members contacted police concerned.

According to his friends, it was not unusual for O'Keeffe to be out of contact with family and friends for extended periods of time.

O'Keeffe was a prolific writer. His portfolio included poetry, songs on acoustic guitar and even a sports column he wrote for The Colonel, the high school newspaper at Theodore Roosevelt. He also was an oustanding high school volleyball player. 

At Kent State, he in the fall 2011. In September 2011 O'Keeffe was among the outstanding undergraduate poets featured by the Wick Poetry Center. In April 2011 he won second place in the Wick Poetry Center undergraduate scholarship competition.

In his own biographies, O'Keeffe described himself as someone who loved walking and listed local poet Maj Ragain among his inspirations, which included famed Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.

Though clearly talented, O'Keeffe harbored dark thoughts that sometimes translated into his art, as they did in a piece he wrote for Luna Negra, a student magazine at Kent State.

"In that moment when my skin becomes one with the graffitied train I listen by rivers," he wrote. "That place where I belong. My eyes sail like driftwood to become one with the color blue, and give up my body to that sweetness which is neither pleasure nor pain. Which is nameless. Which is me."

Funeral arrangements are being handled by . You can read O'Keeffe's obituary here. A gathering of friends and family is planned for 3 p.m. Friday at .

Elaine Hullihen June 06, 2012 at 10:49 AM
What a beautiful man. Reading that poem gave me chills. My condolences for this loss.
Troy McClure June 06, 2012 at 03:11 PM
If you were aiming for the dumbest comment, congratulations. You succeeded.
Roger Boggs June 06, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I have lived similar losses and know that although the pain does not end, it at least becomes a tolerable companion in life.
cedar farris June 06, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Maybe because of the internet & Patch we are able to hear about things that happen with Kent citizens & students that we wouldn't have heard about in the past.
Scott White June 07, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I met Christian on what was a turning point in my life. We talked for hours. He impressed the hell out of me. He was an incredible poet & an understanding soul. He will be missed deeply.


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