Memorial service in US for murdered Irish scientist


AN IRISH woman who was killed in upstate New York was remembered at a memorial service in Cornell University at the weekend.

Caroline Coffey died on June 2nd from a laceration to her neck, and her husband, Blazej Kot (24), who was a graduate student at Cornell, has since been charged with her murder. Her body was found on a walking trail in a park outside Ithica, in upstate New York, and police arrested Kot after a brief car chase.

Ithaca is a leafy and calm city.

The murder rate there is low, so the killing of a young Irish-American woman shocked local residents.

Coffey (28) was born in Dublin but her parents, Michael and Patricia Coffey, moved to the US when she was two, and she grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

On Saturday, friends, former teachers, colleagues and family attended a memorial ceremony for Coffey at the Sage Chapel in Cornell. A harpist played, and photos of Coffey were on display, showing a bright young woman with striking red hair on holidays in Guatemala, and with arms around friends and family. Numerous speakers recalled Coffey fondly.

“I don’t think I’ve met anyone who didn’t gravitate towards her,” said Robin Yates, an Australian who had pursued postgraduate studies alongside Coffey.

Coffey attained her PhD at Cornell and then taught at St Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, before returning to Cornell to take up a research position, working on stem cell research and a cure for brain cancer. She had “phenomenal energy,” and was a ringleader when it came to social events, said Dr David Russell, chair of the microbiology and immunology department at Cornell.

It was at Cornell that Coffey met her husband-to-be, Blazej Kot, a New Zealander with Polish parents, according to local news site They married in a civil ceremony in October, and held a party in Costa Rica to celebrate on May 2nd – exactly one month before her death.

Siobhan Dolan knew Coffey from high school, and attended the celebration in May. “The wedding was the happiest day. It was a blast,” she said. Of the couple’s relationship she added, “It was true love.”

Friends of Coffey described her husband, Kot, as a quiet person. “He was reserved and controlled,” said Dolan, who did not know him well. Yates, Coffey’s former colleague, had met him once. “He was quiet. That’s all I can say.”

After the memorial service people who had worked with Coffey spoke eloquently about her potential. “She was very very strong in science, but smarts aren’t enough to succeed,” Russell said. “It was her commitment and work ethic that got her where she was. It was clear she was doing exactly what she wanted.”