Ten years later, remembering Lindsey Bonistall
BY NEWS EDITOR
AND , NEWS EDITOR
This article ‘I called her my Lindsey Lou’ was originally published May 17, 2005 This weekend marked the 10th anniversary of Bonistall’s murder. On May 1, 2005, Bonistall, a sophomore, was killed by James Cooke in her Towne Court apartment. She was a journalism student, and a scholarship was made by the university in her memory. After Lindsey’s death, her parents founded Peace Outside! a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safety for students living in off-campus housing. Cooke is currently on death row.
The pictures nearly covered the entire wall of the bedroom. A collage of family and friends from home and school documented 20 years’ worth of memories. The Vincent Van Gogh print of “Café: Terrace at Night” and a Bob Marley poster hung next to light-hearted doodles drawn during many hours spent in class.
In the main room, bright colored tapestries adorned the ceiling and walls. Posters of Sublime, the Dave Matthews Band and Pink Floyd decorated the walls amid numerous original works of art done by friends.
The independence that came with living off-campus in her Towne Court apartment gave sophomore Lindsey Bonistall the opportunity to create her own lifestyle.
Lindsey’s father, Mark, said she wanted to chart her own course.
”She liked the idea of having her own place and the idea of working and paying her utility bills,” he said. “She told me she was financially independent and I chuckled. I told her, ‘All you’re doing is paying your utility bill. ‘”
Lindsey, 20, of White Plains, N.Y., was found strangled in her bathtub May 1 during an investigation of an early morning fire that was set in her apartment.
The once artsy apartment has been reduced to ash marks and water damage. The smell of make pervades the building, which is still blocked off by police tape.
According to police, the killer is stiII at large.
To those who knew her, Lindsey will always be remembered for her sense of humor and energetic personality.
Lindsey’s sister, Kristen Bonistall, 22, said Lindsey had the ability to add humor to any situation.
“She would be the one that would be making it better for us all right now,” she said through her tears. “She would be the one who would make us laugh and make us be happy again— she was joy.”
Sophomore Jon Little, Lindsey’s former boyfriend from freshman year, said he and his friends agreed Lindsey would want them to be happy regardless of the tragic situation.
“If she were here, she’d be making jokes and laughing about it and saying, ‘Guys don’t worry about it,'” he said. “She just had that altitude where she was always happy.”
Laughing, her sister recalled Lindsey’s habit of making funny faces in pictures.
“She always felt if she wouldn’t be looking her 100 percent best in the picture, she might as well be licking someone’s face,” she said.
All who knew her said humor encapsulated Lindsey’s life.
Comedy Central was constantly on the TV in their apartment. It was common knowledge that Lindsey’s favorite movies were “Old School,” “Office Space,” “Super Troopers” and “13 Going on 30” because she would recite lines verbatim to the amusement of friends.
Sophomore Christine Bush, Lindsey’s roommate, sophomore Nicole Gengaro and Lindsey, who met after living in Dickinson B residence hall their freshman year. They were inseparable.
“We were just obsessed with each other from the moment we met,” Christine said.
Sophomore Maura Brosnan, a close friend who grew up with Lindsey, recalled her outgoing personality.
“She always had the most inappropriate joke at just the appropriate moment,” she said.
Junior Paul Wachter, who dated Lindsey during Fall Semester and worked with her at Cafe Gelato, said her laugh accompanied her charismatic personality.
“She had a very unique laugh,” he said. “She kind of tilted her head back. It was very honest.”
Lindsey’s sense of humor showed through her writing, Christine said, especially in the book she was planning to write about her large; close-knit lrish Catholic family.
“She was going to write about specific stories from family functions and kind of make fun of her family in a good way,” she said.
Lindsey had already started writing the first chapter and had read parts to Christine.
Kathleen Bonistall, Lindsey’s mother, said during her years at Good Counsel Academy High School, Lindsey occupied her time as senior class president, captain of the soccer and track teams, member of two cheerleading squads, Universal Cheerleading Association instructor, a competitive diver and volunteer, among other activities.
“Anything she decided she wanted to do, she did and she put her whole heart and soul in it and did it well,” she said. Lindsey made the cheerleading squad and the dive team her freshman year at the university, but decided against pursuing these activities.
Jon said Lindsey gained a new perspective between high school and college.
“She got a new approach on life,” he said.
Instead of busying herself with too many activities, Nicole said, Lindsey figured out her niche.
Despite having a guaranteed transfer to Cornell University for her sophomore year, Lindsey decided to stay in Newark because she grew accustomed to her friends and lifestyle.
Originally a biology major with aspirations to become a doctor, Lindsey realized her interest in writing and turned to English/journalism.
“She just flip-flopped her major and was full-steam ahead with journalism,” her father said. “It really lit up her lamp when she got published [in The Review].”
Mckay Jenkins, journalism professor, said he enjoyed teaching Lindsey because of her curiosity.
“She struck me as somebody who was not afraid to say she didn’t know something,” he said. “There wa no pretension about her. She wasn’t pretending to be a super-reporter, she just wanted to leam what she could learn ”
Her mother recalled Lindsey’s many accomplishments and noted her last as covering the Philadelphia Flower Show, which was published on the front page of The Review’s Mosaic section.
“She was so proud of that,” she said.
Friends noted Lindsey’s close relationship with her father. Megan said Lindsey spoke of her father all of the time, which she found rare for a college student. “They were like best friends,” she said. “She loved her family, she had so many pictures or them on her wall.”
The last time her father saw Lindsey was April 11, when Lindsey made him stop on his way back to New York to show him her published clips that she was saving.
“Unfortunately, all of that was lost in the fire,” he said. Lindsey’s father said the only belongings of hers he could salvage from her apartment were a few articles of smoke-damaged clothing.
“I was hoping to find something that might have been concealed from the damage that would have some connection to her,” he said.
He also recovered pieces of Lindsey’s jewelry, along with some of her class notebooks found in her car.
“We’d trade in everything to have Lindsey,” he said, “but just having little pieces of her is important to us.”
Friends noticed as Lindsey’s naturally blonde hair darkened as the year progressed. Despite some protests from her parents, Lindsey dyed her long curly blonde hair and sweeping bangs to a deep brown that contrasted with her bright blue eyes.
Christine said Lindsey’s dark hair had to do with her finally coming into her own.
“She was more into doing things she wanted to do in college,” she said. “That’s why she was doing journalism. She figured out the kind out person she wanted to be.”
Lindsey delved into her interest in music as well this past year. Jon recalled her learning to play guitar and showing off new songs she could play when she visIted.
“Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd was one song she had mastered and she was learning “Blackbird” by the Beatles. The Mars Volta, Red Hot Chili Peppers and lncubus were among her favorite bands.
Lindsey’s funky style was indicative of her eclectic personality.
An olive green Polka dot jacket, sequined shoes, numerous bracelets and dangly earrings were accessories Lindsey would often be seen in.
“She was gorgeous,” Megan said. “She could wear sweatpants and a white T-shirt with a trucker hat and still look adorable.”
Nicole said Lindsey was constantly around her friends and was especially fascinated with her and Christine’s art projects.
“One time Lindsey did a backflip about 100 times so that I could get the picture right,” Nicole said of one of her photography assignments.
Close friends of Lindsey’s traveled to White Plains to pay respects at her wake and funeral.
Thousand gathered at three sessions of the wake and the funeral to honor Lindsey’s life.
The Bonistalls have received countless flowers, letters and support from people who were touched by Lindsey. At the wake, a slideshow made by one of her cousins featured an array of pictures and home, videos taken of Lindsey. Songs by some of her favorite bands, such as Keane, Pink Floyd, John Lennon and Enya played in the background.
Nicole said the prayer, which was given to everyone in attendance, expressed her feelings perfectly: “Grieve not…nor speak of me with tears…but laugh and talk of me as though l were beside you. l loved you so…’’Twas heaven here with you.”
Christine said the funeral gave the situation a sense of reality, and was the first step in the difficult path to closure.
“Sometimes it still feels like she’s coming back,” she said, “like she’s just on vacation.”
The anger that comes with the grief is still inevitably persistent, but Megan said it is something that will hopefully subside.
“I hope that with time I can stop thinking about how or why it happened,” she said.
Christine said being with friends and remembering Lindsey has helped.
“But you can’t think about what happened, or how it happened,” she said. “You can’t think about that because Linds was about living.”
Closure may come with time but will be difficult.
“I’d like to see whoever did this to Lindsey be brought to justice. l don’t know if the wounds will ever close unless that’s done.”
“We hope at some point to be abIe to accept everything the way it is.”
President David P. Roselle stated in an open letter to the community the university has established a $50,000 fund in Lindsey’s memory toward scholarship for journalism students.
Her father said he is honored by the university’ scholarship and hopes to work on other projects, such as a foundation to help victims of violent crimes.
“It’’s a great honor and a valuable tribute to Lindsey in her memory,” he said. “We’re going to make sure her legacy continues.”
Nicole said to her family and friends that Lindsey’s memory will not be lost because her personality was unforgettable.
“lf you didn’t know her then you didn’t know what you were missing,” she said. “She was definitely not someone you could forget.”
Her mother said Lindsey’s energy was motivational. “ln her short little lifetime she accomplished so much,” she said. “She was my strength, my inspiration. I called her my Lindsey Lou.”