OU student in Norman died of hanging

Wednesday, March 9th 2005, 5:27 am
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- An autopsy on the body of a University of Oklahoma student who was found dead in her campus apartment this week has determined she was hanged, an official with the state medical examiner's office said Monday.

The body of Sarah Dawn Tolin, 23, was found Monday at Parkview Apartments by OU Department of Public Safety officers.

"The cause of death is going to be hanging, the manner of death is pending," said Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the state medical examiner's office in Oklahoma City.

Rowland said neither suicide nor homicide had been ruled out and toxicology tests will be conducted to determine if Tolin had been using drugs or alcohol.

Catherine Bishop, vice president for Public Affairs, said she didn't know why police were initially called to the apartment.

University of Oklahoma police received a call of a reported hanging at about 12:30 a.m. Monday, according to police records. Officers attempted to resuscitate Tolin, but were unsuccessful.

Neighbors said they heard sirens and saw police cars arrive about 1 a.m. Monday.

"When we looked across, a police car went in, and then two more police cars went in with lights on," said Alex Chen, a mechanical engineering sophomore who lives in the apartment building across the street from the Tolin's apartment.

According to the university's Web site, Tolin was a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Tolin, who was from Wyoming, was a wrestler in high school, Bishop said.

"The entire University of Oklahoma family was saddened by the tragic death of Sarah Tolin," OU President David Boren said in a news release.

"She was widely loved in the OU and Norman community. She excelled both as a student and an athlete. She will be remembered most of all for her kindness and for her concern for others. The university extends our sincere sympathy to her parents, family and friends."

Tolin graduated from Kelly Walsh High School in 2000 and attended Casper College for a year before transferring to Neosho Community College in Kansas.

In 1998, Tolin successfully challenged a Wyoming High School Activities Association rule that prohibited mixed gender teams. It took a two-year fight with the WHSAA, but the decision opened the door to girls in grades 9 through 12 to participate in boys football and wrestling.

She explained in an interview with the Casper Star-Tribune in 1998 that she was wrestling because she enjoyed it, not to prove any point for women in Wyoming.

"She didn't wrestle to prove anything to anybody, other than to prove that she loved the sport," Tim Wilcox, who coached Tolin at Kelly Walsh, recalled Tuesday.

Wilcox said initially some of the boys on his wrestling team were reluctant to accept Tolin as a member of the squad, but she eventually won over her teammates.

Tolin was a two-time Wyoming Girl's Freestyle State Champion, a medalist at the Girls High School National Championships and a High School All-American.

She was recruited by Neosho Community College, one of only six in the country that offer women's wrestling. She placed second in the 121-pound division at the University National Championships in Evanston, Ill., in May 2002.

Funeral services are tentatively scheduled for Monday in Casper. Bustard's Funeral Home and Crematory is in charge of arrangements.