Promising Princeton Student Kills Self Over Rapes

Photo: Bill Zeller, Princeton Grad Student And Brilliant Programmer, Dies In Apparent Suicide
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A promising Princeton graduate student who had been haunted by childhood rapes killed himself this week, leaving a 4,000-word suicide note disclosing the "darkness" that stalked him.

Bill Zeller, 27 and a "brilliant programmer," died Wednesday after suffering brain damage due to oxygen deprivation from a suicide attempt, according to the Daily Princetonian newspaper.

He was found by the university's public safety officers on Sunday and was brought to Princeton Medical Center, where he remained in a coma for three days before he was removed from life support.

Zeller was pursuing a doctorate in computer science.

His suicide note shocked family and friends with an exhaustive description of repeated rapes as a young child. He did not name his abuser, but referred to a male.

That letter was published on the Princetonian website.

In his suicide note, Zeller described an "inconsolable rage," and said programming had been an appealing career because "I was able to keep the darkness at bay for a few hours at a time."

"My first memories as a child are of being raped, repeatedly," he wrote. "This has affected every aspect of my life."

He said the abuse had destroyed his career, his ability to function and even his relationships with women.

"This darkness, which is the only way I can describe it, has followed me like a fog, but at times intensified and overwhelmed me," he wrote.

The suicide note appeared on his personal website; he also e-mailed it to friend before attempting to take his life, according to the newspaper.

Zeller said in his suicide note that he had never revealed the childhood abuse to anyone until now. He wrote he had been kicked out of his home and financially cut off at age 19. But he also said that he called his family and knew that his mother loved him.

One friend, Amy Barackman, told her mother she had seen his depression and estrangement from family coming and tried to reach out to him Christmas week.

"Twice she invited him to join our family for holiday gatherings, which is how I met him," said her mother, Deborah Barackman of Newtown, Conn., in an e-mail to ABCNews.com. "But I know that at root, he probably felt like an outsider, since we weren't his birth family."

Bill Zeller Was Gentleman Who Struggled With Dark Secret

She described Zeller as a "gentleman," but someone who had a "core of sadness and confusion. Barackman said his family had "refused to accept him."

"That rejection, coupled with the shame and nightmare of his abuse, were an unbearably heavy burden," she said. "I now see. I wish I had realized more and could have offered him comfort then."

"The evil violence that ruined his childhood and warped his ability to trust and build lasting intimacy is heinous," said Barackman.

Zeller, who was from Middletown, Conn., and attended Trinity College as an undergraduate, was a talented programmer. He created such applications as Graph Your Inbox, which visualizes Gmail use over time, and myTunes, which enables users to download others' iTunes music.

One in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, according to the Rape, Assault, Incest National Network (RAINN). Survivors are four times more likely than others to consider suicide.

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