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Santa Monica High student leaps to his death

The 14-year-old boy jumped from a hotel near the school after bolting from baseball practice. Family, friends and authorities seek answers.

January 18, 2011|By Martha Groves and Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
  • Matthew Mezza died Friday of his injuries. He was 14.
Matthew Mezza died Friday of his injuries. He was 14.

Police and school officials questioned Monday why a seemingly upbeat and well-liked freshman at Santa Monica High School bolted from baseball practice, climbed to the 10th floor of a hotel and leaped to his death.

Matthew Mezza, 14, was reportedly practicing with teammates about 5 p.m. Friday when he abruptly ran from the group, crossed the street to the Sheraton-Delfina Hotel and jumped from the upper floor as his horrified teammates looked on, said Santa Monica Police Sgt. Jay Trisler.

Trisler said he did not have other details. It appears to be a suicide, but an autopsy must be completed before an official determination is made, he said.

Officials with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which is conducting its own investigation, were unavailable for comment Monday because the district was closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Neil Comess-Daniels, rabbi at Beth Shir Shalom, the synagogue Matthew had attended, said everyone who knew the boy was shocked. He was bright, upbeat and dependable and gave no indication he was seriously troubled, Comess-Daniels said.

"He was certainly not the kind of person you would expect to have these feelings," Comess-Daniels said. "Something went horribly, horribly wrong."

The rabbi was summoned to the hospital Friday evening, but Matthew had died by the time he arrived.

"The family was inconsolable," Comess-Daniels said.

On Monday, a sidewalk tribute just across the street from Santa Monica High's Pico Boulevard entrance was decorated with daisies, spring tulips and roses. Poster boards were filled with loving comments from the teen's classmates and friends.

Rita and Gerald Schneir, Matthew's grandparents, were there trying to make sense of their grandson's impulsive act. Matthew, "the perfect child," had a good relationship with his mother and could tell her anything, his grandmother said.

He was an excellent student, good in sports and had lots of friends who were athletes and top students, she said. There was no indication of trouble or bullying, she said.

"All four of his baseball coaches came to the hospital,'' she said. "They were totally mystified."

On Facebook, Santa Monica High students created several tribute pages to their classmate.

"He will always be in our hearts,' " wrote Veronica Garcia. "Just wish he knew how much of an effect he had on us."

martha.groves@latimes.com

catherine.saillant@latimes.com

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