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Exclusive: Family of young fashion designer taunted on Facebook speaks after bridge suicide on birthday

Posted: 7:35 PM, Feb 08, 2013
Updated: 2013-02-08 19:46:33-05

PARAMUS, NJ (PIX11) — The grieving family of a young fashion designer who jumped from the George Washington Bridge on her 22nd birthday told PIX 11 it will address the circumstances of her suicide, once Ashley Riggitano is buried.

“Ashley was not only beautiful on the outside, she was beautiful on the inside,” her older sister, Jennifer, told PIX 11 Friday at the family home in Paramus.  “She’s going to be missed by everybody, but most of all, by me,” said Jennifer, as she burst into tears.  “She was a great girl.”

Ashley Riggitano

Ashley Riggitano’s older sister, Jennifer, said: “She’s going to be missed by everybody, but most of all, by me,” she said as she burst into tears. “She was a great girl.” Jennifer is comforted by her grieving mother.

But Ashley Riggitano was apparently struggling, and part of that struggle involved posts from girlfriends on Facebook.  The New York Post reported Friday that one of the posts was particularly harsh, from a woman Ashley was feuding with on the social media site.

According to the Post, the woman wrote, “Go try to kill yourself on Xanax again, you unstable loser.”  And the newspaper printed another post from Riggitano’s friend and business partner in a bracelet design company called Missfits.  The post, attributed to Victoria Van Thulen, appeared on Van Thulen’s Facebook wall on Ashley’s birthday.  It said, “Those who incessantly blame others as the cause of their issues should perhaps take a step back and re-evaluate these situations.”

Capture

Not long after this post appeared Wednesday, Ashley Riggitano left her Louis Vuitton handbag on the walkway of the George Washington Bridge—upper roadway—and then jumped.  She had been speaking to her mother, Debbie Riggitano, just an hour before and the two were planning on going to a birthday dinner.  “I spoke to her throughout the day,” her mother told PIX 11.  “It was as special for me as it was for her.”

Ashley Riggitano was disappointed that plans for a birthday celebration the night before with a friend had not worked out.  She left a multi-page suicide note in her handbag, specifically requesting that five,  young women not be invited to her funeral.  One of those friends was Van Thulen.

Police found prescription drugs like Adderall, which is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, in her bag.  Cops also found Klonopin, an anti-anxiety medication.

The woman who wrote to Ashley Riggitano about overdosing on Xanax talked to the New York Post.  “I feel really bad for her family,” Alison Tinari told the Post.  “It’s crazy.  I feel really bad for her.  I never went after her, she went after me….She harassed me on Facebook,” Tinari insisted.  “The only thing I’m ashamed of is what I said about her overdosing on Xanax.  I shouldn’t have said that.”

Ashley Riggitano’s sister and mother weren’t ready to comment on the Facebook postings just yet.  “We’d like everybody to respect our privacy, at this time, while we finish grieving—and in the near future, we will continue to be a voice for Ashley,” Jennifer Riggitano told PIX 11.

The suicide is getting compared to the Tyler Clemente case from several years ago.  Clemente, a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, also jumped from the George Washington Bridge after cyber-bullying.  A couple of days before Clemente’s suicide, his college roommate had streamed webcam video of Clemente having sex with another man.

Riggitano’s family told PIX 11 she was supposed to graduate from midtown’s Laboratory Institute of Merchandising this year.  They described Ashley as very driven and loved by many.  Ashley’s mother and sister are both schoolteachers, but Ashley was choosing a different path. “She knew that we loved her very much,” her sister said. “And we know she loved us.”  Her mother added, “She’s safe now, and she’s at peace.”