Friends mourn death of freshman, 19

Emma Munson, a freshman, passed away last weekend after falling down a flight of stairs at a house party.
Photo courtesy of Ava Shenkle Donald.

Liz Butterfield
Online News Editor

Family and friends are mourning the loss of VCU freshman Emma Elizabeth Munson, who died last week after falling and injuring her head at a Fan house party.

Munson, an art foundation student planning to major in art education, was going to read a poem at a house show at 11 S. Morris St. on Saturday Oct. 5. Around 11:40 p.m., Munson fell backwards down a flight of stairs, hit her head and was knocked unconscious. Her head was bleeding and she was breathing inconsistently, said Matt Simpson, a Richmond resident who saw Munson fall.

“I asked what her name was, and she said ‘Emma,’ and then she dropped,” Simpson said.

Her boyfriend, Griffin Caruso, came to her aid after he heard the fall and called 911.

“I was not immediately aware of what it was but within 15 seconds I was right by her side,” Caruso said. “I just had an inclination.”

Caruso was visiting over the weekend from Temple University. He and Munson dated for eighteen months and had not seen each other in two months before last weekend.

“It is my belief … that the combination of the high temperatures in the house, perhaps the limited amount that we had eaten throughout the day … and the combination of the sets of stairs is what led to the blood loss in her head,” Caruso said.

Although Munson had drunk the night of her death, Caruso said she did not drink during the party. Munson had fainted twice in the time Caruso knew her, but she had never seen a doctor about it, Caruso said.

Paramedics arrived within minutes to take Munson to the hospital. She was pronounced dead early Sunday morning. Richmond Police spokesperson James Mercante confirmed police do not suspect foul play was involved in Munson’s death.

Munson, 19, was from Pittsburgh, Penn. suburb Allison Park. She attended North Allegheny High School and decided to attend VCU for the arts program.

“My final two days with Emma were the best two days of our entire relationship … she was the most amazing person I have ever gotten to know,” Caruso said. “I’m very grateful that I got the chance for her to affect my life and that’s all I could have ever asked for.”

Munson enjoyed art and music, played the African drum the djembe, was a singer and was an actress in plays and musicals throughout her life. As a high school junior, she earned a national gold medal for her acrylic painting “The Room” in the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She enjoyed nature and hiking in the woods.

Munson leaves behind her two parents, Michael and Denise, two younger brothers, Alec and Noah, and her younger sister, Olivia Katherine.

Munson’s friends celebrated her life on Friday, Oct. 11 with a house concert and painted a commemorative picture for her.

“She was such a beautiful soul,” said Ava Shankle Donald, a freshman psychology student and friend of Munson’s. “Remember her for how she was and her lifestyle to heart and try to live that way.”

VCU declined to comment on procedures involving specific student deaths, but dean of students Reuban Rodriguez said cases are evaluated individually to determine the appropriate level of response.

“We want to be very respectful of the deceased students and the family and friends,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t want anyone to go through the trauma of being approximate to that tragedy.”

University counseling services and a variety of on campus groups are available to students and staff who are seeking support, Rodriguez said.

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