Prosecutors to update investigation into Penn State student's death

Lauren Perry
May 7, 2017

The cause of death was traumatic brain injury that resulted from several falls, including a fall down a set of basement stairs, according to a 65-page statement issued by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller after a county grand jury investigation.

"Beta Theta Pi International Fraternity has clearly and consistently expressed its position that it does not tolerate hazing or alcohol abuse in any form by its members", said Jim Ewbank, counsel for the international fraternity. "There are no winners here". Detectives said the brothers used a group chat discussion to come up with a plan to cover up what happened. "No parents should have to deal with this". The website My Central New Jersey has published the full grand jury report and list of charges.

"The grand jury finds that..."

The university present ended his letter with a prediction of what would happen if the open disregard for rules regarding excessive drinking and hazing continued.

Nobody called 911 until 10:48 a.m.

The pledges were pressured to run a "gauntlet" of drinking stations that required them to drink vodka, beer and wine.

In preparation for the event one Beta brother bought almost $1,180 worth of alcohol, including Four Loko, an infamous alcoholic energy drink banned in at least five states and known as "a blackout in a can", and bottles of Crown Russe vodka, prosecutors said. All were arraigned in Centre County Court on Friday. Bail for them was set at $50,000 and they also were released on their own recognizance, with the same conditions.

Beta Theta Pi was supposed to be a dry fraterrnity, but the grand jury found evidence that the brothers had what they called a "slush fund" for alcohol purchases.

Police had said hazing and excessive drinking at the private chapter house February 2 contributed to the death of Piazza, who was an engineering student. His blood alcohol level had reached a life-threatening.37 when he took the first fall that evening, Parks Miller said.

The district attorney said today that Piazza had two serious falls during the night and by the time he went to the hospital on February 3 it was essentially too late, according to The Patriot-News.

His chest was bare, he was breathing heavy and he had blood on his face, according to the presentment. The fraternity didn't seek help for over 12 hours.

Different brothers attempted to physically rouse Piazza, the surveillance showed, including Daniel Casey, who was seen slapping him in the face. Piazza passed away two days later at the Hershey Medical Center.

"It's unusual to have a crime captured from beginning to end", she said.

Video shows fraternity brothers carrying a limp Piazza up the stairs with a bruise that had bloomed and was visible on video.

Security camera video in the frat house helped prosecutors describe what happened to Piazza.

Piazza was found unconscious on a couch on the main floor when paramedics arrived after a call for help.

Young later directed that one of the messaging systems be deleted.

Barron declined to comment on Penn State's legal responsibility. That will occur for the other defendants next week, Miller said. Beta Theta Pi is permanently banned from campus. Penn State President Eric Barron called the incident "sickening and hard to understand".

Eighteen Pennsylvania State University students and their fraternity were charged Friday in one of the largest hazing prosecutions in the nation's history, sending a chill through the campus in nearby State College as it was about to begin commencement festivities.

Penn State President Eric Barron read a prepared statement Friday indicating how seriously he took the hazing incident.

"The best way to shift culture is for students, alumni and the university to work together", Vice President of Communications Michael Cavallaro said in an email.

Horras said he is meeting with the Penn State president next month. Bream was employed by the fraternity as an adviser.

Beta Theta Pi, the fraternity that Piazza was pledging when he died, is also being criminally charged, with a total of 147 charges.

Ten other members were charged with hazing, aggravated and simple assault, alcohol-related violations, and tampering with evidence. The fraternity in question has been shut down by the university.

Five years ago, a fraternity pledge ritual involving alcohol resulted in the death of a student at Northern Illinois University. Joseph Ems is charged with recklessly endangering another person.

Police have said hazing and excessive drinking at the Beta Theta Pi chapter house may have contributed to the death of the 19-year-old sophomore engineering student.

Other reports by VgToday

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