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Friends, family mourn teen killed at SUNY school

BUFFALO -- Friends of a college freshman who police say was beaten to death in her dorm room by her boyfriend rallied others Monday to wear purple to raise domestic violence awareness, and her family mourned the loss of a "bright, beautiful young woman" one month after sending her off to school.

Alexandra Kogut's body was found shortly before 3 a.m. Saturday at SUNY Brockport, 15 miles west of Rochester. Campus police discovered Kogut's body after her mother called them, concerned that she couldn't reach her, Monroe County Sheriff's spokesman John Helfer said. No one reported hearing the attack, he said.

Her boyfriend, 21-year-old Clayton Whittemore, was arrested at a Thruway rest stop near Syracuse about an hour later.

Whittemore told state troopers that he intentionally killed the 18-year-old Kogut, according to a criminal complaint. No motive was given.

The cause of death was by blunt force trauma, Helfer said, but he would not say whether a weapon was used.

Whittemore pleaded not guilty over the weekend to second-degree murder and is being held without bail in Monroe County Jail. Telephone messages left at his family's New Hartford home and at his public defender's office weren't immediately returned Monday.

Kogut's family released a photo of the brown-eyed blonde along with a statement asking for privacy.

"Alexandra Kogut was a bright, beautiful young woman who was thrilled to be beginning her college education," the family said. "Her lovely and sweet demeanor was truly infectious and she will forever be missed." Kogut and Whittemore both lived in New Hartford, just south of Utica in central New York, and had attended the same high school.

Kogut's childhood friend, Mary Kate Heaton, said the two appeared happy and "perfectly content" in the relationship that began last year.

Kogut was a communications major, university president John Halstead said. A campus memorial service was scheduled for Monday night.

"These are trying times for our campus but I know we will pull together and support each other as we move through the coming days," Halstead said in a statement.

A day before the Brockport slaying, the union representing SUNY college police issued a "student safety alert" after what they said were months of escalating security concerns at several campuses, which they said were ignored by SUNY officials.

For more than six months, the union has pressed for better training, weapons, equipment and a higher state of alert before and during three violent attacks on and around campuses in Buffalo and Albany.

SUNY spokesman David Doyle said a meeting with union members is in the works, but has been delayed after the system's top administrator left the job.

SUNY Brockport dormitories are always locked and residents swipe identification cards to enter, spokesman John Follaco said. Guests must be signed in, he said, adding that all procedures had been followed in Whittemore's case.

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