Suspected overdose in death of Jessica Fingers, former Columbia student and star athlete

jessica fingers
Jessica Fingers was on medical leave from Columbia University after having a major stroke. (Credit: Columbia University Athletics/Gene Boyars.)

Police identified the young woman found dead in a Columbia dorm room on Sunday morning as Jessica Fingers, a Columbia student and star athlete.

Fingers was on medical leave from school after having a major stroke, according to her father, Robert Bellamy. Her parents were told by a neurologist that the stroke was caused by birth control.

Her father said she was planning on returning to school in the Fall, though, and was recovering well.

“She was a vibrant, happy person,” Bellamy said. “She was the type of person that you’d want to be around.”

Bellamy said he spoke to his daughter on Saturday, and she was planning on coming home for Easter.

Jessica Fingers, 21, a student and runner at Columbia University was found dead inside a dorm room on Sunday. (Credit: Columbia University Athletics.)
Jessica Fingers, 21, a student and runner at Columbia University was found dead inside a dorm room on Sunday. (Credit: Columbia University Athletics.)

Cause of death may have been overdose

The Medical Examiner reported that Fingers had brain swelling consistent with a Methadone overdose and mixing alcohol and Xanax.

The ME did not find physical trauma or signs of foul play and authorities believe that pending a toxicology report, the death will be ruled an overdose.

Fingers’ father, Robert Bellamy, said that she was “the type of daughter every parent would love to have.”

“She just made a mistake and it killed her,” Bellamy said. “We all make poor choices in our lives, but most of the time we don’t die from them.”

Bellamy confirmed that she died from an overdose, but insisted that she did not use drugs regularly.

“I know that for a fact,” her father said. “This was experimental.”

 

‘Just an incredible daughter’

Fingers was from Monticello, NY, and received a full scholarship to attend Columbia University. She was apparently recruited by many schools because of her achievements as a runner. In her senior year in high school, she finished second among Section Nine Class A cross-country runners, and sixth statewide, according to area newspaper The River Reporter.

Fingers’ father pointed out that Columbia does not give athletic scholarships, so even though she was already accepting into their track athletics program, their offer was based on her academic merits. Fingers was in the top nine percent of her high school class.

Bellamy said his daughter moved down to the city in the last three months to work in a restaurant. He said the thing she wanted most was to be a chef.

“She was almost a professional,” Bellamy recounted. “The last four or five years all she wanted was professional cooking supplies; she was an amazing pastry chef.”

He said she had just picked up running again as well.

“She was doing some running on her own, going back to competitive running would’ve been a stretch at this point,” he explained. “But it was something she loved, and she was one of the best in the country at it.”

Her father also expressed pride in Fingers academically, saying she was “brilliant and focused.”

“She was the most focused young woman I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said. “She was hard-working, she made her own money.”

“She was just an incredible daughter,” he added.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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