News | Upper West Side

Missing Dental student Jiwon Lee found dead in Hudson, medical examiner rules suicide

  • IN MEMORIAM | Jiwon Lee, a student at the College of Dental Medicine, was first reported missing on April 2.

Updated May 6, 5:46 p.m.

Police announced Sunday that a body found in the Hudson River was identified as Jiwon Lee, the Columbia Dental student first reported missing on April 2.

A New York Police Department spokesperson confirmed early Monday morning that Lee had been found on Sunday afternoon. The cause of death was blunt injuries to the head and the manner of death was suicide, Julie Bolcer, Director of Public Affairs at the NYC Medical Examiner's Office, confirmed Tuesday.

According to the New York Daily News, she was wearing a sweater, underwear, and boots and was floating in the river off of West 86th Street. The Daily News also said that Lee had suffered from depression and attempted suicide before she disappeared.

On a GoFundMe page originally set up by her brother Matt to raise money for a private investigator to look into Lee’s case, Matt posted, “Thank you for your continued prayers, donations, and support. Unfortunately, Jiwon, beloved daughter, sister, and friend has gone on to a better place. Our family thanks you at this time for respecting our privacy. We are currently planning a memorial service to honor Jiwon and will post further details as soon as possible.”

The GoFundMe page raised over $87,000 as of Sunday, and in a post in early April, Matt Lee said that he had been in touch with Irma Rivera, a former NYPD homicide detective, to look into his sister’s disappearance.

An email sent by College of Dental Medicine Associate Dean of Admissions Laureen Zubiaurre Bitzer, Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Letty Moss Salentijn, and Dean Christian Stohler on Monday morning said that school officials had been in contact with Lee's family to provide support and assistence.

“We wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the Lee family for their terrible loss and ask that you keep them in your thoughts in the days ahead,” part of the email said. “Jiwon was a talented student, committed to the care of her patients, and one who enjoyed helping out her classmates. Her passion and energy were infectious.”

Lee had last been seen near her residence at 220 West 98th St. at 8:30 p.m. on April 1. The police report on her disappearance described Lee as a 29-year-old female, 5-foot-2, 120 pounds, with black hair and black eyes.

Lee served as president of the American Student Dental Association last year and served as a student representative on the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations from 2011 to 2014.

Lee was also a comedian who performed on Comedy Central’s 2007 Open Mic Fight and in various New York City comedy clubs like Stand Up NY, Comix, and the Laugh Lounge. After news of her disappearance went public in April, many prominent New York City comedians, including Max Silvestri and Giulia Rozzi, tweeted to ask followers to look out for Lee.

Walk-in hours at the Columbia University Medical Center's Center for Student Wellness are extended until 8 p.m. on Monday. Mental Health Services at CUMC also have walk-in hours available from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesday.

Maia Bix contributed reporting.

christian.zhang@columbiaspectator.com  |  @ChristiZhang

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kay brown posted on

We are so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful young woman and amazingly accomplished. I hope it helps in some way to know that many others share your grief and pain. I will make a donation to Smile Train in Jiwon's honor. Her beautiful smile will go on in a child who was born without one.. But now will. Sincerely, Kay Brown

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H Vo posted on

my heart goes out to the family and friends of Jiwon. It must be a very difficult time for the family and everyone who know her. Please rest in peace Jiwon.

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Julie Kim posted on

I am a close friend of her parents, but I have met Jiwon only once. From the one opportunity I had to meet her, I realized that she was so beautiful and was a bright young woman with a great personality . Her parents raised her and her brother with all of their love and were so proud of both children. We respect them so highly. I will always remember Jiwon's bright smile and my sympathy goes to Jiwon's family. It is so sad to know that she is so far away and that her parents must go through such a tragedy that will be so painful (I lost my only sister last April and went through similar sadness myself ). May she rest in peace, and may her family remain strong.

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Julie Kim posted on

I am a close friend of her parents, but I have met Jiwon only once. From the one opportunity I had to meet her, I realized that she was so beautiful and was a bright young woman with a great personality . Her parents raised her and her brother with all of their love and were so proud of both children. We respect them so highly. I will always remember Jiwon's bright smile and my sympathy goes to Jiwon's family. It is so sad to know that she is so far away and that her parents must go through such a tragedy that will be so painful (I lost my only sister last April and went through similar sadness myself ). May she rest in peace, and may her family remain strong.

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Carolyn Castiglia posted on

Thank you so much for including Jiwon's life as a comedian in your coverage. If any of her dental school friends would like to see some of her stand-up clips and hear stories and memories of Jiwon's life in the New York comedy community, please attend the Chicks and Giggles 10th anniversary show at Littlefield. More info here: http://blogs.villagevoice.com/music/2014/05/jiwon_lee_remembrance.php and here: http://www.littlefieldnyc.com/event/547647

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Anonymous posted on

Another tragedy. Condolences to Jiwon's family and friends.

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Anthony Nguyen posted on

RIP

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