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Shady Side Academy graduate found dead in Chicago dorm room

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By Rick Wills

Published: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 4:29 p.m.

Chicago authorities are investigating the mysterious death of a Shady Side Academy graduate whose decomposing body was found in his dormitory room at the University of Chicago.

Nicholas Barnes, 20, a third-year student majoring in Germanic studies, was discovered on Saturday by officers called to investigate a foul odor. His body had been there for at least several days, said Officer Mike Sullivan, a Chicago police spokesman.

“It is being treated as a death investigation,” said Sullivan, who said police do not suspect foul play. His autopsy results are pending toxicology studies, which take four to six weeks, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

The university had little to say about why Barnes' body remained undetected for so long.

“University staff are making every effort to gather information on all the circumstances surrounding his passing. Until we have something more definitive from those inquiries, I can't comment on the time line,” said Steve Kloehn, associate vice president for news and public affairs at the university.

Barnes was a 2011 graduate of Shady Side and grew up in the Fox Chapel area, said Jennifer Roupe, a spokeswoman for the school.

Barnes' family is planning a funeral in Pittsburgh, the university said. Relatives could not be reached.

University officials and those who knew Barnes in high school said they were saddened by his death.

“Nick will be painfully missed. He was an excellent student, admired by faculty and peers alike,” said Susan Art, the university's dean of students.

At Shady Side, Barnes ran cross country and was a member of the speech and debate team, Roupe said.

He was inducted into Cum Laude, an academic honor society.

He was an Advanced Placement scholar and a National Merit commended student.

“He was passionate about English, history and math, science, language, everything. His English teachers raved about the way he could read and analyze anything, particularly Shakespeare,” said Tom Colt, Barnes' college counselor and cross country coach.

Although not a top runner, Barnes worked hard. “He went all out in every race,” Colt said.

Barnes was the son of William and Linda Barnes and the brother of Clara Barnes, Colt said.

In Chicago, Barnes studied at the university's Vienna program in the fall quarter of 2012, Art said. He was involved with the school's literary publication, Sliced Bread.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or



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