Stowell Death Ruled a Suicide; Memorial Service to Be Held Today

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: Due to an egregious editing error, the March 16 piece written about Ronald H. Stowell’s death mistakenly reported that he was charged with sexual assault and battery. He was actually charged with assault and battery.

The cause of death for Ronald H. Stowell, who passed away on March 4, was suicide by hanging, said a representative of the Executive Office of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was found dead at his residence by the Somerville Fire Department shortly after 3:30 a.m. on March 4.

Stowell was a postdoctoral research associate at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center and a teaching assistant for the undergraduate math course Differential Equations (18.03) this term.

A memorial service for Stowell will be held at the MIT Chapel today at 3 p.m.

The Somerville Journal reported last month that Stowell was arrested and charged with sexual assault and battery for allegedly attacking his wife on Feb. 12. According to the Somerville Journal article, Stowell’s wife told police that Stowell became angry with her when she did not say “thank you” at the dinner table. He then allegedly “ripped off her shirt, punched her in the stomach and dumped sauce on her,” the article states. Stowell’s wife also said that Stowell had become increasingly angry with her mother who was also at the apartment, the article continues. Stowell allegedly told the police that “he had enough of his mother-in-law always coming first and just lost control.”

It is not known whether Stowell’s arrest and charges were related to the suicide.

Stowell came to MIT with a 2005 PhD from Princeton University’s Program in Plasma Physics. Professor Arthur P. Mattuck, instructor for 18.03 this term, said in a March 4 e-mail to students that Stowell was “highly knowledgeable about the subject and deeply concerned with how best to teach it.” Stowell’s wife, Xiaoran F. Stowell, a postdoctoral associate in the Biology Department, said in a subsequent e-mail to 18.03 students that Stowell “was always concerned about how well his students do in the class.”

—Joyce Kwan