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Death of Jessica Fingers at Columbia University investigated

Authorities are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman found unresponsive in a Columbia University dormitory room Sunday, police and school officials said.

The Associated Press reported that police identified the victim as Jessica Fingers, of Monticello, and said investigators were looking at the cause of death as a possible overdose.

Officials said Fingers had been a student, but took a leave of absence after the spring 2012 semester. She apparently was visiting a friend in the down on Morningside Drive, according to authorities.

"When we lose a member of our community, we are all affected by the loss," Kevin G. Shollenberger, dean of student affairs, wrote to students and parents in an emailed note Sunday. Shollenberger encouraged students and families to seek counseling through campus services or chaplains, and to discuss among themselves any emotional issues. "We extend our deepest condolences to the family of this student," he wrote. "While this is a difficult time for our community, we are united in our grief and committed to ensuring the health and well being of every member of the Columbia family."

The death at Columbia's East Campus dorm comes a little more than six months after a student jumped to her death from a window of John Jay Hall at 114th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. First-year student Martha Corey-Ochoa plunged from her 14th-floor window Aug. 27. The high school valedictorian had not attended a single class.

Police responded to the 911 call reporting the incident with Fingers at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday. That call reported an unconscious woman in the dorm at 70 Morningside Dr.

Emergency workers pronounced Fingers dead a short time later. The medical examiner's office is still trying to determine the cause of death, but police said the focus is on a possible drug overdose -- though authorities would not say what led them to suspect that.

With John Valenti

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