Rochester, N.Y. - The man charged in the beating death of a College at Brockport freshman pleaded not guilty Thursday to second-degree murder charges.
Police said Clayton Whittemore, 21, killed his girlfriend, 18-year-old Alex Kogut, in her dorm room last month.
Throughout the roughly ten-minute long court appearance Whittemore remained silent whole facing the judge. Behind him sitting in different rows of the small courtroom were members of both Kogut and Whittemore's family. Some could be seen quietly crying as they watched.
According to police statements, Whittemore said he “just snapped” after the two had been arguing--and beat her to death with his fists and a curling iron.
After court, journalists from SUNY Brockport's student newspaper shared the impact this case still has on the campus community.
"I think things take a more, just a more serious tone," Cassie Negley the paper's editor said. "I mean us being here today, it's just a lot of things people in a really tiny community aren't used to. We're from the Victorian Village on the Erie Canal and we woke up one morning to a murder so it's definitely a very different experience for a tiny public school.”
Negley said the campus has rallied around the cause of domestic violence since this crime. Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley acknowledged the emotional nature of this case.
"This is a case where clearly it sets an example or it shows everyone that no matter where you are this can happen to you, you can be a victim of domestic violence," D.A. Doorley said. "She went away for college, she was excited about her boyfriend visiting her for the weekend and it ends in a tragedy. It's something that can affect anyone in any walk of like in any part of this county or community."
Whittemore's lawyer distributed a brief written statement to the community that was best summarized by his brief on-camera interview.
"We understand that both families are going through a lot of pain and suffering at this point and we'd rather try our case through the court system rather than through the media at this point," John Leonard, Whittemore's lawyer said.
The trial is scheduled for March 18th and Whittemore is due back in court for motions arguments in December. D.A. Doorley indicated that a plea bargain is not to be expected.
"I have not yet spoke to the family personally about any plea negotiations in this case," Doorley said. "I believe this is a case that needs to go to trial and if he's convicted I need to be in a position where I can ask the judge for 25-to-Life upon conviction.”
Whittemore remains in jail without bail.