By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun
6:33 PM EST, November 16, 2012
Reports of Odessa Jones' death were, in the end, an exaggeration.
This week, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County sent an email to students and faculty saying that Jones, a student who attends classes at the Shady Grove campus, had died. The funeral was to be held Friday in Silver Spring.
A few days later, the university sent another email with the subject line, "Comforting News for the UMBC Community." Jones was in fact alive, it said.
"I am pleased to report that, this morning, the UMBC Police learned from the Montgomery County Police Department that Odessa Jones, the student who reportedly passed away earlier this week, is alive," the email said.
The cause of the mix-up is rather murky. Elyse Ashburn, a university spokeswoman, said that a family member had informed the university that Jones had died.
University officials called the Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring, where the relative had said Jones' funeral would be held Friday. The church confirmed that a funeral was planned for Friday, Ashburn said.
But soon after, university officials received an email that caused them to doubt the report of Jones' death. Ashburn wouldn't describe the specifics, but said the email prompted university officials to ask Montgomery County police to check on Jones.
When police arrived at Jones' home, she greeted them at the door, a police spokesman confirmed.
"We called the church back," Ashburn said. "At that point, they were still planning to have the services."
Jones did not respond to a request for comment Friday. But she told the Maryland Gazette that a family member had invented a story that she had committed suicide.
"I may press charges against the family member, but I have not yet decided," Jones told the Gazette.
A receptionist at the church said she did not know more about the incident but did say that the services had been canceled.
Ashburn, the university spokeswoman, said the university attempts to independently verify all reports of student deaths but said it can be difficult.
"We have to be sensitive to the fact that we're dealing with grieving families," she said. "Obviously, we take this kind of thing very seriously. We're looking into how this happened."
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