Saturday, December 16, 2000

A.J. Cohen remembered: Happy, helpful, intelligent

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON, Ohio — A.J. Cohen, a Cincinnati-area native who died in a suspicious fire at the University of Dayton, may have been tough as a UD football player, but friends and family are remembering his big smile and his generous heart.

        Mr. Cohen, 21, was “a real jovial, happy kid,” said head football coach Mike Kelly in a UD news release. “He always had a smile on his face.”

        Barbara John, an adjunct professor in Mr. Cohen's major, economics, said Mr. Cohen was a quick study who was always willing to help others — on and off campus.

        Mr. Cohen helped at least 30 other UD students with economics studies.

        He also used his knowledge of sign language to tutor a hearing-impaired Wright State University student in economics every Saturday for an entire quarter — unpaid, Ms. John said in the UD statement.

        UD officials said the close-knit UD community of 6,000 undergraduate students, most of whom live in university housing, has been hit hard by Mr. Cohen's death.

        The campus also has felt the impact of charges being filed against one of Mr. Cohen's seven housemates, Paul Vincent Morgan, 20, of suburban Rochester, N.Y.

        Accused of arson and in voluntary manslaughter, Mr. Morgan was released from the Montgomery County Jail on Wednesday evening after his mother, Rosemary Custer, posted 10 percent of a $250,000 bond.

        Authorities haven't specified what Mr. Morgan allegedly did to start the fire that killed Mr. Cohen.

        A grand jury is expected to meet next week to consider the case against Mr. Morgan and possibly other suspects, said Jim Knight, spokesman for the Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office.

        The death struck at an especially stressful time, as UD students were preparing for this week's final exams and holiday break.

        UD is making special arrangements so Mr. Cohen's classmates can attend his funeral today.

        Normally, students in university housing must vacate the Saturday after their exams conclude.

        But the students will be allowed to remain on campus until Sunday, and university officials said they are providing transportation for students who wish to attend Mr. Cohen's memorial Mass at 10 a.m. today at Good Shepherd Church, 8815 E. Kemper Road, Montgomery.

        Mr. Cohen was asleep in a second-floor bedroom when the fire began early Sunday.

        Investigators have said some of the housemates were tossing ignited rolls of paper towels, which may have started the fire.

        Authorities, however, haven't said specifically what Mr. Morgan allegedly did to start the fire.

        A 1997 graduate of Summit Country Day School in Hyde Park, Mr. Cohenleaves his parents, Kim and Donna Cohen of Symmes Township; brothers Barrett, Dustin and Matthew; sister Miya; and grandparents, Wilbur and Mildred Cohen and Helen Buchholz.

        Friends may call from 5 to 9 p.m. today at the Mihovk-Rosenacker Funeral Home, 5527 Cheviot Road.


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