A full year has passed since Mercyhurst College students grieved the death of dance student Jenni-Lyn Watson.
The tragedy deeply affected many Mercyhurst students, but it has also garnered national attention, including a 4-page feature story in this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan.
On Nov. 19, 2010, the 20-year-old junior was murdered after returning home for Thanksgiving break. In February of this year, Watson’ ex-boyfriend, Steven Pieper, pleaded guilty to committing the crime.
The Cosmopolitan article, titled, “If He Couldn’t Have Her, No One Could” is a sensationalized detailing of the tragic case. The article has a focus on advising women how to break up with overly possessive boyfriends. It includes warning signs for determining how a boyfriend might react to a break up.
Graduate student Connie Morrison, who is Watson’s former roommate, thought that although the article was printed against the family’s wishes it was still tastefully done for the most part.
“It seemed to be very fact-based rather than a biased piece, which I can respect, however it would have been nice for them to share with readers what a wonderful person Jenni was and the life that she lived before it was taken from her,” said Morrison.
“Jenni was more than just some girl that broke up with her boyfriend and it went wrong. I felt she deserved more of a legacy than that.”
Morrison was appalled by some of the choices the editors of the magazine made.
“I was extremely disturbed by the picture of two police officers carrying her in a body bag out of the woods. This is something I’ve probably seen dozens of times in a women’s magazine about a tragic story, but when it’s your friend, someone you loved and want to remember full of love, happiness and life, it’s just not right,” she said.
“The first time I saw it, was like a punch in the stomach, the tears returned and with them, all of the horrible memories of that day and those awful weeks that followed that you wish you could forget.”
As a close friend of Watson’s, Morrison hopes that the article will be able to help other girls who might find themselves in a situation similar to Watson’s.
“I only hope that from this story being published, other girls out there who find themselves in a similar position can get themselves the help that they need to avoid this and take precaution with their situation. If it saves just one girl from having it happen to her, I think the story will have done its job,” she said.
The topic of Watson’s murder is still an extremely sensitive topic on campus. Several people, including Tauna Hunter, chair of the Mercyhurst College Dance Department, did not wish to comment regarding their reaction to the article.
Other students, however, were willing to share their thoughts.
“I’m surprised … I didn’t realize that the horrific incident got as much national publicity that it did,” junior Chelsea Schermerhorn said. “It makes me wonder why our culture is so heavily vested in negative news.”
Shermerhorn did not read the Cosmopolitan article, but she thinks the magazine is not an entirely appropriate publication to handle an issue as sensitive as Watson’s murder.
Junior Kristy Mattson was surprised to see the story get such wide national attention as well, especially in a magazine like Cosmopolitan.
“I’ve heard people are mad about the article,” she said. “I think it’s kind of random that it’s in that magazine … it doesn’t seem like it belongs there.”
The article, “If He Couldn’t Have Her, No One Could” is on page 168 of this month’s issue of Cosmopolitan.