Heiress and designer Gloria Vanderbilt was trying to talk her despondent son out of killing himself when he jumped from a ledge at her 14th-floor apartment and fell to his death, police said today.
Carter Cooper, 23, had been under treatment for depression for the last six months. Friends speculated that his depression was the result of a breakup with a girlfriend.
Police said Cooper, a 1987 Princeton graduate and a writer and editor at the Public Interest in Washington and American Heritage in New York, had gone to his mother’s home on the Upper East Side for lunch Friday.
Vanderbilt told police that her son arrived depressed and went upstairs after lunch to lie down.
“A few hours later she went to check on him and she found him sitting on a ledge,” Officer Hugh Barry said.
Barry said Vanderbilt was pleading with her son not to jump when he suddenly pushed himself off.
Toxicological tests were performed to determine whether drugs or alcohol were in his system when he died. The results will take several days.
In Washington, Nancy Reagan’s press secretary announced that the First Lady will travel to New York Tuesday to attend Cooper’s funeral. Mrs. Reagan is going to New York “to give comfort to a dear and old friend,” Elaine Crispen said.
Vanderbilt, dubbed the “poor little rich girl” in headlines around the nation when she became the focus of a heated custody battle in the 1930s, was in seclusion and under a doctor’s care today, police said. She has three remaining sons. Vanderbilt, 64, is a great-great-granddaughter of railroad and shipping magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Cooper’s father was Vanderbilt’s fourth husband, writer Wyatt Cooper, who died in 1978.