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Coming out preceded his suicide

Tyler Clementi told his parents he was gay about 3 weeks before jumping to his death.

TRENTON - The parents of the Rutgers University student who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after learning that his roommate had allegedly used a webcam to spy on his intimate encounter with a man say their son told them he was gay about three weeks before his suicide.

Joe and Jane Clementi told People magazine they were surprised when their son Tyler, 18, came out in 2010, a few days before he moved into his Rutgers dorm room.

He'd been living a lie, he told them, and had known since middle school that he was gay.

"You have dreams for your children," Jane Clementi told the magazine. "When someone tells you this, your dreams are kind of shattered for that moment."

She said she was still "processing" the revelation from the young violinist, who also had taught himself to ride a unicycle. But, she said, she still loved him, and had no inkling that he was depressed or suicidal.

Their interview appears in Friday's issue of People magazine. The Clementis are launching a foundation in their son's name to address acceptance of gay youth and promote suicide prevention and online civility.

The foundation held its first activity last month, when it cosponsored with Rutgers University an academic symposium on how young people use - and misuse - social media.

Clementi's suicide in September 2010 sparked a national discussion on the bullying young homosexuals can face.

His roommate, Dharun Ravi, is charged with 15 criminal counts, including invasion of privacy and bias intimidation, a hate crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Ravi, now 19, has pleaded not guilty and rejected a plea deal that came with a recommended prison sentence of three to five years and the possibility of avoiding jail entirely.

He is due at a court hearing on Friday. A trial is scheduled to begin in February.