Unfortunately, she was unable to keep up academically when she arrived at Harvard, and was told that her below-average grades would keep her from attending top-ranked medical schools in the U.S. She made no friends, remaining distant even from relatives she had in the area. Tadesse sent a form letter to dozens of strangers that she picked from the phone book, describing her unhappiness and pleading with them to be her friend. One woman responded to the letter but became alarmed by the bizarre writings and recordings Sinedu sent her in return; she had no further contact with Sinedu. Another woman found the letter obnoxious and sent it to a friend who worked at Harvard to review.
After her freshman year, her roommate told her she was going to room with someone else. For her second and third years, Tadesse roomed with Trang Ho, a Vietnamese student who was well liked and doing well at Harvard, and Tadesse was obsessively fond of her. Tadesse was very needy in her demands for attention and became angry when Trang began to distance herself in their junior year. Tadesse apparently reacted with despair when Ho announced her decision to room with another group of girls their senior year, and the two women stopped speaking with each other after that.
On 28 May 1995, Sinedu Tadesse stabbed her roommate 45 times with a hunting knife, killing her. Tadesse also attacked one of Ho's visiting friends, a 26-year-old named Thao Nguyen, severely injuring her as well. Tadesse then hanged herself in the bathroom.
In the days after the murder, it was speculated on campus and in the press that Tadesse had resorted to violence because Ho had asked not to room with her again in the fall. Members of Tadesse's family countered that she was the one who opted out of rooming with Ho, as she was often alone in the dormitory because Ho often stayed with her family in nearby Medford, Massachusetts.
Trang Ho's family thought Harvard could have prevented her death. In 1998, they filed suit against the school, alleging "wrongful death, conscious pain and suffering and emotional distress," and charging the university, as well as various people in charge at Dunster House with negligence. They felt that the university had plenty of evidence that Tadesse was losing her mind, becoming fixated on violent vengeance and that the university could have prevented the deaths.
After the murder, a debate erupted at Harvard over whether the school should establish a scholarship in the names of both girls or only in Ho's. They decided on the latter, and students can now apply for the Trang Ho Public Service Fellowship to pay for charitable good work during the summer after junior year.
Thernstom travelled to Tadesse's home in Ethiopia and gained access to her diaries, which revealed her deteriorating mental health, her obsessive fantasizing about an ideal friend, and her troubles obtaining psychiatric care.
Unsolved mystery. (murder of Vietnamese immigrant and student Trang Phuong Ho by Ethiopian student Sinedu Tadesse at Harvard University)
Feb 01, 1998; You remember the news stories. On May 28, 1995, Sinedu Tadesse, a junior at Harvard from Ethiopia, murdered her college roommate,...
Authorities investigate why Harvard honor student stabbed her roommate to death and later hanged herself.(Sinedu Tadesse)
Jun 19, 1995; Authorities in Cambridge, MA, are trying to establish a motive for the gruesome killing of a 20-year-old Harvard pre-med student,...