Kim Tibbetts isn’t bothered by the photo that riled Radford University administrators after it appeared on the front page of the school’s student newspaper.
That’s because she provided the paper with the image of her late husband and their daughter.
Published Sept. 18 on the cover of The Tartan, the picture has prompted questions about why most of that day’s edition disappeared from campus news racks.
A university investigation has raised as many questions as it has answered. Campus police say a “classified employee” acted alone in taking the free papers from four racks. Police say they do not know who removed papers from an additional 22 racks.
The photo showed Steve Tibbetts — who had been appointed chairman of the school’s Criminal Justice Department — and his daughter in front of a street sign bearing their last name. The street is marked on the sign as a “dead end.” That upset some people, including university President Brian Hemphill and the interim dean of the college for which Steve Tibbetts worked.
The edition hit newsstands hours before a high-profile university event that the school paid journalist Katie Couric $195,000 to moderate.
School officials have said the administration had nothing to do with the newspapers’ disappearance.
Kim Tibbetts said her daughter picked out photos to send to The Tartan as they were driving back to their California home after attending a university memorial for her husband. Steve Tibbetts, 49, died Sept. 10. He began bleeding in his upper gastrointestinal tract and died instantly, Kim Tibbetts told The Tartan.
She said she didn’t notice the words “dead end” appearing on the sign before she sent the image to The Tartan.
“It was so benign. It’s probably my fault for not checking the photo,” she said.
Tibbetts said her daughter loved the picture, and her family — including her husband’s parents — were not offended by it. She said she emailed Jeremy Moser, The Tartan reporter who wrote the news obituary on her husband, to tell him she liked the piece.
“If you knew my husband’s personality ... he would’ve found that funny,” she said, referring to the picture.
Tibbetts said she’s been kept up to date on the matter by a colleague of her husband’s. She said she doesn’t believe the papers were taken because of the photo. She said no university official called her about the photo or the commotion that ensued.
However, she said, university officials “were more than gracious” following her husband’s death.
“I donated Steve’s grandfather clock to the department where they put a dedication to him on it,” she wrote via text Friday.
Tibbetts said the matter of the missing papers is bizarre and noted that a story about the death of freshman Aris Eduardo Lobo-Perez after he was jailed on intoxication and alcohol charges also appeared in that edition.
“I think there’s layers of issues and it’s unfortunate,” she said.
Police have closed their investigation into the missing papers. While there was no criminal charge, the worker was disciplined by the university, according to school spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs.
The university chose not to keep surveillance video from some buildings where papers went missing without an explanation for who took them.
That video, Scaggs said, “was mainly focused on entry and exit points and other main thoroughfares” rather than on newspaper racks.
“Therefore,” Scaggs wrote, “the footage was not retained in the RUPD files in accordance with standard operating procedure.”