Autopsy report details Denton’s last days — (The Santa Cruz Sentinal)

Original article no longer available

The Santa Cruz Sentinal

By Roger Sideman, Sentinel staff writer

UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton was suffering from depression and had spent six days in psychiatric care just before jumping to her death from her partner’s San Francisco apartment building, according to a report released Friday from the San Francisco medical examiner’s office.
Denton’s mother, Carolyn Mabee, told investigators that her daughter had been released from UC San Francisco’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital the day before her death, the report stated. Denton, 46, had been suffering from depression and “was under severe stress related directly to her job and her personal relationship with her partner,” the report stated.
Medical examiners ruled the June 24 death a suicide. The death was caused by multiple blunt trauma injuries as a result of the 33-story fall onto a parking garage, according to the report.
Denton had been prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant, and Ambien, a sleep aid, according to the report. A second antidepressant, Effexor, also was found in her system.
The medical examiner’s report laid out Mabee’s account of the events leading to Denton’s death. It came on the same day that UCSC campus leaders hosted a memorial service for the former chancellor.

In the report, Mabee said her daughter had been acting “completely irrationally,” saying she was being chased by police, after leaving Porter Langley. From there, Denton drove Mabee “all over San Francisco.”

At 2 a.m., Denton pulled into her partner Gretchen Kalonji’s high-rise apartment building to retrieve her purse.
Kalonji had been out of town on business, according to previous reports, and a guest at her 41st floor apartment answered the door. In the elevator, Mabee pushed for the lobby and Denton held onto the up button. Denton told her mother that she did not want to go home. They continued to talk until Denton took off running down the hallway for the stairwell. Mabee ran after her but was unable to keep up and lost track of Denton, who investigators believe climbed up two stories to the rooftop.
In her 16-month tenure at UCSC, Denton drew fire from students and employees, and was caught up in an investigation into unreported pay and perks in the UC system. She was criticized after $600,000 in renovations were made to her university home  though many of the improvement were not at her request  and for obtaining a high-paying job for Kalonji, a move that prompted protests from UC unions.
Some campus leaders said Friday they had been approached by several of Denton’s friends and colleagues who expressed concern about her state of mind and that she showed signs of depression.
But they saw no indication Denton was contemplating taking her life.
“She was an unconventional person and her lack of convention made it hard to read her,” said Faye Crosby, a psychology professor and chair of the UCSC Faculty Senate.
“Truly, if people had any idea of the gravity of the issue, we would’ve intervened,” said Lisa Sloan, dean of UCSC’s graduate programs. For Sloan, the days and weeks following the suicide evoked a mixture of sadness, guilt, anger and confusion.
Denton took at least two extended leaves of absence during her tenure. Campus spokeswoman Liz Irwin had said Denton’s medical problems were not publicly announced at the time because “we consider medical issues as a private matter.”
In one of the instances, Crosby was told that Denton would miss a scheduled meeting due to a physical illness. In the other instance, Denton was said to be “unavoidably detained,” although the cause was not made clear.
Denton began a third leave nine days before her death. Her mother had flown out from Texas.
Friday also marked the one-year anniversary of Denton’s investiture as chancellor. Crosby organized a 30-minute “moment of remembrance,” which was attended by about 20 people seated quietly facing a photo of Denton to the sound of live flute music.
Many have remembered Denton as a woman who tackled a life-threatening illness, overcame sexual and gender discrimination and smashed through the glass ceiling. Denton also was remembered for being a champion of diversity and served as a role model for women and minorities pursuing careers in the sciences.
Denton’s predecessor, former Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood, called Denton’s death a tragedy Friday and said no one will ever know why the chancellor killed herself.
“To say that depression was the cause would be an oversimplification,” said Greenwood, who is a health scientist.
In 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported that a small number of users of Effexor were prone to suicidal thoughts or behavior. The drug’s manufacturer noticed that compared to other popular antidepressants, severely depressed patients who are prescribed with Effexor have a higher pre-existing risk of suicide. The medical examiner’s report made no link between the medications and cause of death.
“If we can learn anything, it’s about trying to understand depression,” said Sloan. “Depression is very elusive. I still turn it over in my mind.”
Contact Roger Sideman at rsideman@santacruzsentinel.com.
Original article no longer available

Report: Ex-UCSC official left psychiatric hospital the day before suicide — (Mercury News)

By Mary Anne Ostrom

Karen T. Borchers / Mercury News archives

Denice Dee Denton was named chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz in December 2004 and began work in February 2005

Karen T. Borchers / Mercury News archives

Denice Dee Denton was named chancellor of the University of California-Santa Cruz in December 2004 and began work in February 2005.
Former University of California-Santa Cruz Chancellor Denice Denton was suffering from severe depression and was in the care of a psychiatrist last June when she plunged 33 stories to her death from a San Francisco high-rise, according to the San Francisco medical examiner’s report released today.
Her June 24th death was ruled a suicide. The cause of death was multiple blunt trauma injuries as a result of the fall.
Denton had been discharged the day before her death from UC-San Francisco’s Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, where she had spent six days, according to the report. She had been prescribed the antidepressant Zoloft and sleeping aid Ambien. An autopsy found antidepressants in her system.
The report said Denton’s mother, Carolyn Mabee, told investigators that ever since she picked her daughter up from the institute, Denton had been “acting completely irrationally and told her mother that the police had been chasing her.”
Denton, 46, was suffering from depression, Mabee told medical examiner investigators, as a result of  “severe stress related directly from her job and her personal relationship with her partner.”
Denton was in a long-term relationship with Gretchen Kalonji, then Director of International Program Development in UC’s office of the president.
After Mabee picked her daughter up from the psychiatric facility, Denton drove her around San Francisco, finally arriving back at Kalonji’s Mission Street apartment about 2 a.m on June 24. But Denton ran off, according to the report, and Mabee spent several hours looking for her.
An Argent Hotel guest called police to report a body a top of a parking garage across the street shortly after 8 a.m.
M.R.C. Greenwood, who knew Denton and was former provost of the University of California and former chancellor of UC-Santa Cruz, said today after learning of the autopsy report details, “We never really are going to know what happened.”
Liz Irwin, a UC-Santa Cruz spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the campus is still trying to “understand this terrible loss” and is “intent on moving past the tragic circumstances of her death.”
Friends had said that in the weeks before her death, Denton had been under extreme stress and had taken a medical leave on the advice of her doctor.
When she arrived at UC-Santa Cruz in 2005, she was a rising star in the academic world — a forceful personality who had been dean of engineering at the University of Washington, with engineering degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But controversy erupted even before she was formally sworn in.
At a time when the UC system was under attack for overspending on top officials’ salaries, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Denton’s hiring package included a newly created $192,000 job for her partner, Kalonji, who had developed international strategies at the University of Washington. University officials defended the move as common in the academic world, where job offers are often extended to qualified spouses.
The university spent more than $600,000 to renovate Denton’s official campus residence, angering faculty who had been fighting for affordable housing.
Weeks later, Denton drew fire for authorizing the arrest of student protesters who had put up a “Tent University” to protest fee increases and workers’ low pay.
Someone threw a parking barricade through a window of her home. Denton asked campus police to guard her house and had an elaborate security system installed.
Then it was reported that a $30,000 dog run had been built at the chancellor’s home for her two border collies. The news caused an uproar.
Denton became the target of sarcastic columns and cartoons, targeting everything from her sexual orientation to the clothes she wore and her social skills.
And just before she requested a medical leave, more than 100 students barricaded her car when she tried to leave the university parking lot, insisting that she watch a skit.