This story was corrected on Nov. 16, 2012. An explanation follows.
Rumors of Odessa Jones’ death were dead wrong.
Jones, 33, told The Gazette on Friday that a family member “concocted” a story that she had died earlier in the week, which in turn led to a memorial service scheduled in Silver Spring.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Jones said. “I may press charges against the family member, but I have not decided.”
Jones is a student at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, enrolled in classes offered by the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Rumors that Jones died spread among students and faculty at the school, said Elyse Ashburn, director of communications for UMBC. Ashburn said either faculty or students at Shady Grove contacted the UMBC police department to alert them of the rumors and on Monday morning a member of Jones’ family emailed UMBC to report her death and funeral service information, Ashburn said.
She said UMBC called Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring, which confirmed the services were scheduled for Friday. That’s when Nancy Young, the Baltimore County campus’ vice president for student affairs, sent out an email to the university community on Wednesday about her death.
“I write with regret to inform our community that the family of Odessa Jones, an undergraduate studying psychology at our Universities at Shady Grove campus, shared the sad news that Odessa passed away earlier this week,” the Nov. 14 email read.
Calls to the church have not been returned.
Jones, a senior psychology major, said one of her family members “concocted this whole thing.” The story was, Jones said, that she had “shot myself in the head” and “tried to commit suicide.”
Attempts to reach Jones’ family were unsuccessful.
Jones said she was never contacted by the university and did not hear from the police until Thursday when they arrived at her Germantown doorstep to check on the claims of her death. That’s when Ashburn said the police spoke with Jones confirming to the school she was in fact alive.
Jones said she is “sorry that all of this transpired.”
Once receiving confirmation, Ashburn said the university wanted to reach out to the campus community so they would have “time to process the information they were receiving” and attend the funeral services.
Young sent a second email Thursday recanting the death announcement.
“I am pleased to report that, this morning, the UMBC Police learned from the Montgomery County Police Department that Odessa Jones, the student who reportedly passed away earlier this week, is alive,” the Nov. 15 email read.
Ashburn said the university takes these announcements very seriously and that it is not something they do “lightly.”
“It’s something we are still trying to look into to figure out how this occurred,” she said.
A previous version of this story stated that the university contacted UMBC police, and that a family member called UMBC to report Jones’ death.