One of the most horrifying racially-motivated incidents in recent years unfolded last month at a small college in Connecticut. A white freshman there wanted to get rid of her roommate, apparently because she didn’t want to room with a black woman. But she decided to do it in a despicable way–by deliberately poisoning her. Now the bottom-feeder has not only been expelled from school, but is facing hate-crime charges.
On Monday, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe, a freshman at the University of Hartford, took to Facebook with a horrifying tale. She claimed that her now-former roommate, Brianna Brochu, had tampered with her belongings in a deliberate effort to drive her out of her room. Rowe said that she’d been horribly sick on a number of occasions earlier in the year, suffering from throat pain so severe that she found it hard to sleep or talk. She’d had to miss several days of class in order to go back to her home in Queens for doctor’s appointments, and was diagnosed with a bacterial infection.
However, neither she, her family, or her doctors could figure out why she was getting so sick. That changed on October 17, when she was in the midst of moving out of her dorm room on UHart’s campus in West Hartford. She happened to run into Brochu, who asked if she was moving out. Rowe said she was, and Brochu immediately started banging away on her phone.
Minutes later, Rowe’s resident assistant and several others in her dorm collared her and told her that they’d seen some alarming posts on Brochu’s Instagram feed. They appeared to show Brochu bragging about spitting in Rowe’s coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in Rowe’s facial lotion, contaminating with her toothbrush, and rubbing bloody tampons on her backpack, among other things. On one post, Brochu triumphantly declared that she’d finally gotten rid of “Jamaican Barbie.”
A horrified Rowe immediately alerted campus police, who called in West Hartford police. According to the police report, one of Rowe’s neighbors showed Rowe pictures of her bookbag stained with blood from a used tampon and a Rubbermaid container with the moldy clam dip supposedly put in her facial lotion. Confronted with this, Brochu admitted smearing tampon blood on Rowe’s backpack, and mixed her lotions. However, she said that anything else she claimed to have done was just an effort to “appear funny.”
Rowe and Brochu both agreed to no-contact orders. However, Rowe claimed that school officials had told her to keep quiet about it, and even threatened to have her booted from university housing if she spoke up. They also told her that she may or may not hear anything again. Rowe took to Facebook out of frustration with how this was handled, and suggested that “if the race roles were reversed,” matters would have moved more quickly.
What Rowe didn’t know was that West Hartford police didn’t think that Brochu’s behavior was at all “funny.” They sought and obtained a warrant for Brochu’s arrest on charges of breach of the peace and criminal mischief. Brochu turned herself in on October 28 and was released on $1,000 bond.
Rowe’s Facebook video went severely viral; it has been viewed over 860,000 times. The hashtag “#justiceforjazzy” also took off on social media. By Tuesday night, school president Greg Woodward issued a burning statement condemning Brochu’s behavior as “reprehensible” and inconsistent with UHart values. It also claimed that any accusations that school officials didn’t take the matter seriously were based on “misinformation.”
The following day, Brochu faced a disciplinary hearing and was expelled from school. Watch more details from WTNH in New Haven here.
Soon after being expelled, Brochu had her first court appearance, at which she was ordered to stay away from campus and have no contact with Rowe. Her next appearance will be November 15.
Apparently someone at the West Hartford police department finally figured out that this was a truly horrible crime, because they now want her charged with second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias. This significantly increases the legal hurt Brochu faces. While breach of the peace and mischief are misdemeanors carrying only six months in prison each, intimidation based on bigotry or bias is a felony that carries between one and five years in prison.
Woodward subsequently issued a statement contending that school officials were alerted about Brochu’s behavior on the night of October 17, and the police were called in early the next morning. He also said that he had met with Rowe on Tuesday and personally assured her that she would have “all available personal and academic resources” that UHart could provide. Spokeswoman Mary Polk later said that Rowe had been asked not to act on her own, but no one intended to “try to keep her quiet.”
Nonetheless, it’s hard to blame Rowe for being upset. For one thing, apparently no one told Rowe that Brochu had been arrested. Moreover, whoever told her that she could be booted out of her dorm for speaking out owes her an apology.
Brochu’s next court date is November 15. Under the circumstances, if she has anything at all left in her, she will plead guilty and apologize to Rowe. Under the circumstances, anything less than two years in prison will be a joke.
(featured image courtesy West Hartford Police Department via The Root)