Fourth Estate Staff
Philadelphia, PA, United States (4E) – A total of 18 fraternity members received charges including involuntary manslaughter for their inaction that allegedly contributed to the death of one of their pledges.
Nineteen-year-old Timothy Piazza, pledging to the Beta Theta Pi chapter of Pennsylvania State University, died last February 4 from traumatic brain injuries after he reportedly fell multiple times due to consuming too much alcohol.
The details about the investigation, released on Friday by the Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, revealed Piazza attended the celebration of the Beta Theta Pi chapter for the students who accepted bids to join the fraternity. These pledges had to go through a number of drinking stations and they drank beer, vodka and the like.
At one point, Piazza fell down the stairs reportedly due to drinking too much and some of the fraternity members said he looked dead. They waited for 12 hours before they called for help, it was reported. The investigators said the surveillance cameras from inside the fraternity house aided them with their conclusion. They said one video showed Piazza trying to make his way to the front door but ended up falling towards the basement.
Later, a fraternity member sent a group message saying Piazza fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs. In one of the videos, the members poured water on the pledge’s face but remained unresponsive. A new member told the others they should get help from the hospital but the other members shrugged the thought off as they believed the situation was under control.
Around two hours later from when he fell in the basement, he threw up and twitched. Another two hours passed and Piazza tried to stand but he fell and hit his head on the floor. He fell again at 4 and 5 a.m. and hit his head on an iron railing. He got up and tried to get to the front door but he hit his head on the door. At 7 a.m., Piazza fell down the basement stairs for the second time. The fraternity members found him later with blood on his face but they decided to call for medical help only 40 minutes after the discovery.
A forensic pathologist said the alcohol content of Piazza before he died was between .26 and .36. The pathologist regarded such amount as life-threatening.
The president of Pennsylvania State University, Eric Barron, released a statement regarding the charges and the details of the investigation. He said the details were both heart-wrenching and incomprehensible. He noted they imposed stricter rules such as banning alcohol, kegs, and day-long parties.
Aside from the manslaughter charges, the other charges included aggravated and simple assault, tampering with evidence, hazing and alcohol-related charges. The Beta Theta Pi Pennsylvania State University chapter received charges as well.
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