Student Helen Hastings Killed in Gun Accident


Courtesy of Mads Olsen

Helen Hastings, who was killed in Texas in January, was a first-year student and prospective neuroscience major.

Editor’s note: This article contains mention of gun violence and death.

In January, the Oberlin community learned of College first-year Helen Hastings’ sudden death. Now, after gaining traction on social media, a number of TikTok users have recently uncovered that Hastings was killed in a gun accident by her friend Mary Anne Oliver-Snow. According to Harris County District Court records, Oliver- Snow was charged with manslaughter on Jan. 18. Amid a significant amount of online discourse, Hastings’ friends hope that she is remembered for her kindness, warmth, and the depth of her personality.

College second-year Ros Kish-Levine, a close friend of Hastings, described her as warm-hearted and welcoming.

“Helen was just an incredibly warm person,” Kish-Levine said. “Just incredibly friendly, kind, open to people, forgiving, willing to meet people where they’re at and be very welcoming. We didn’t really have an orientation or anything, so making friends was a little difficult. … I think the first thing she said to me was complimenting my jacket or something. And from then on … we became close friends really quickly because she was just such a bright, warm person.”

In particular, Kish-Levine remembers Hastings’ creativity, love of Ohio winters, and passion for neuroscience.

“She was from Texas,” Kish-Levine said. “[She] was always super excited about how cold it was in Oberlin — whenever it snowed, she was delighted, which was really sweet to see. … I think she was gonna study neuroscience [to cure] misophonia. … She also drew; she cosplayed a lot — she was just really creative. [She] loved the color pink. She had her hair dyed pink. She helped me dye my hair. She gave me my first quarantine friend-haircut.”

When court records were released last week, the internet was shocked to learn that Oliver- Snow is an influencer in the TikTok cosplay community under the name @yandere.freak with over 1.6 million followers. The night Hastings was killed, her group of friends were watching Gotham and cosplaying as characters from the show.

At the time of the event, 19-year-old Hastings, who had known 23-year-old Oliver-Snow since high school, was living at Oliver-Snow’s house in Houston. According to police reports, Hastings was shot on Jan. 17 and died the next day after her parents removed her from life support. The incident occurred when Oliver-Snow, Hastings, and five other friends gathered for a party. During the event, Oliver-Snow consumed several drinks as well as cannabis and brought the gun out as a joke, allegedly unaware that it was loaded.

“The Defendant stated they were all drinking and [they] got pretty drunk,” the police report read. “The Defendant stated [their] ex-boyfriend left his gun at [their] residence when he moved out, stating he took all the bullets. The Defendant stated [they] did not know there was a bullet in it, stating [they] had played with it before as a joke. The Defendant stated [their] ex- boyfriend has shown [them] how to take out the bottom part, referring to the magazine, so it would not shoot.”

Oliver-Snow recalled taking the magazine out of the gun before they began to play with it, but no one recalls how the magazine got placed back into the weapon.

Oliver-Snow stated in their report to the police that they were unaware that the gun was loaded and that they were prompted by a joke that Hastings made about shooting the gun.

“The Defendant stated they had been passing the gun around for hours and had been playing with it,” the police report read. “The Defendant said the Complainant came up to [them], and was joking around telling the Defendant, ‘Ooooh shoot me.’”

Witnesses at the scene saw Oliver-Snow playing with the gun prior to the event after retrieving the weapon from the garage. Multiple witnesses also confirmed hearing Hastings jokingly ask for Oliver-Snow to shoot her.

“Affiant asked [a witness] why the Defendant would put the gun up to the Complainant’s head, [witness] stated because their friend group is wild, dumb, and does jokes [like that] all the time,” the report states.

Kish-Levine had initially heard a rumor about the circumstances of Hastings’ death on Instagram, but said that they and another friend only learned the truth from a reporter from Rolling Stone magazine who contacted them for comment.

“The way I found out was that someone from Rolling Stone contacted [our friend Mads Olsen], asking to talk to them because they were credited on the Review story, and that was the only thing that was out there before all of this,” Kish- Levine said. “That was how we found out.”

Kish-Levine hopes that Hastings is remembered for who she was, rather than the circumstances of her death.

“I want her to be remembered,” they said. “I don’t want things to be covered up. I don’t want her to not be talked about. I don’t want the College to pretend that their students don’t die sometimes. I [want her to be remembered] as a real person who is more than just a story or an event — as who she was: a wonderful friend; a bright person; a full, deep, complex person; a good person; a great person. And more than that, because people are more than what they can do for each other and what they can do for the world, just who she was as herself — entirely original … someone who meets you and instantly strikes you as like, ‘Wow, you are yourself. And that’s an amazing thing to be.’”

Oliver-Snow faces a hearing on Oct. 21 in Houston.