Some of the charges include involuntary manslaughter, hazing and drugs.
Photo: Tribune News Service
Photo: Tribune News Service

5 current fraternity death cases around the nation

Indictments this week in Ohio punctuate a sudden deadly trend for Greek student organizations 

Fraternities have long been criticized for boozing, wild parties and hazing rituals. But now a sudden string of death investigations around the nation is shining the spotlight once again on the disturbing trend as schools, parents and investigators search for answers.

OHIO UNIVERSITY 

9 charged in student's death after alleged hazing 

The death of an Ohio University student and a related investigation into alleged hazing by fraternity members has led to charges against nine people, including two former students indicted for involuntary manslaughter and another for reckless homicide. 

The Athens County prosecutor announced indictments Tuesday related to the death of 18-year-old freshman Collin Wiant last November and allegations about members of the fraternity he had sought to join. 

Collin Wiant died after collapsing at an unofficial party at the Sigma Pi fraternity's off-campus house in Athens, Ohio, in November 2018.
Photo: The Wiant family/The New York Times

An attorney for Wiant’s parents, Rex Elliott, said the charges mark an important step in their broader quest to eliminate hazing and help others understand the costs of such behavior. 

Most of the defendants face drug- or alcohol-related charges, such as permitting drug abuse or trafficking in cocaine, LSD or harmful intoxicants. Five are charged with misdemeanor hazing. 

Wiant’s family has sued the Sigma Pi fraternity, alleging the teen from the Columbus suburb of Dublin died of asphyxiation after ingesting nitrous oxide provided to and forced on him by fraternity members. 

SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY 

14 fraternities suspended amid death investigation 

San Diego State University suspended 14 fraternities amid allegations that “possible misconduct” at one of them may have been linked to the death of a 19-year-old student over the weekend, authorities said. 

The student, Dylan Hernandez, was found without a pulse by his dormitory roommate and was hospitalized Thursday after reportedly attending a fraternity event the night before, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

On Friday, the San Diego State University Police Department opened an investigation and the university president, Adela de la Torre, suspended the Interfraternity Council and its 14 affiliated fraternity chapters. 

The Phi Gamma Delta fraternity at San Diego State and 13 other fraternities were suspensed after a student was hospitalized.
Photo: Howard Lipin/Tribune News Service

The university declined Monday night to release further information about Hernandez’s death, the name of the fraternity or any details about the allegations implicating the fraternity. The police department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Ten fraternities affiliated with the council were already facing elevated scrutiny from the university before the suspensions. 

The university said it had imposed “interim sanctions” — penalties that may have affected some but not all fraternity functions — on six of them for “a range of reported incidents and alleged policy violations” this fall. Four others were under investigation. 

Hernandez’s death came roughly three weeks after Pennsylvania State University suspended a fraternity following the death of a teenager at an off-campus house where members of the fraternity were believed to be present. 

CORNELL UNIVERSITY 

Cornell anticipates Greek reforms after student’s death 

Cornell University is planning reforms to its Greek life system as it investigates the puzzling death of a first-year student following an unauthorized fraternity party last month, the Ivy League school’s president said Tuesday. 

The body of Antonio Tsialas was found in an Ithaca gorge Oct. 26. Authorities said he was last seen two days earlier, when he attended an unregistered and unsupervised party where there was alcohol. 

In a letter to the campus community Tuesday, President Martha Pollack said university police have since followed more than 170 leads and conducted numerous interviews but still do not know the circumstances surrounding the Miami, Florida, student’s death. 

Tsialas’ parents have come forward with a $10,000 reward for information about their son’s disappearance, which happened during “First-Year Family Weekend” while they were in town. 

University police have said no foul play is suspected. 

Cornell earlier this month suspended the fraternity that had the party, pending formal judicial proceedings. 

It was at least the sixth suspension of a Greek organization at Cornell in the last 18 months for conduct violations. Because of the pattern, Pollack said she would announce additional reforms before the semester ends.  

PENN STATE UNIVERSITY

Penn State fraternity suspended after teen’s death 

Pennsylvania State University has suspended a fraternity after a teenager died at an off-campus house over the weekend where members of the fraternity were believed to be present, university officials said Tuesday. 

The university said in a statement that it had temporarily suspended the Alpha Delta chapter of the Chi Phi fraternity while the State College Police Department and the university investigated the 17-year-old’s death. The death occurred Saturday night at a house that was not the fraternity’s official house. 

Few details were available Tuesday evening about the episode. The teenager’s name was not released, but the university said in the statement that he was not a Penn State student and was only visiting the area. 

The police department said there were “no signs of trauma.” It said Tuesday night that it was waiting for the results of an autopsy and declined to provide further information about the death. 

The authorities have not disclosed the specific connection between the teenager, the fraternity and the house. 

The fraternity is not allowed to attend or organize any activities or participate in university-wide events as an organization during the temporary suspension, the university said in its statement. 

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY 

Former LSU student gets 5 years in hazing death 

A former LSU student was sentenced Wednesday to five years in prison, but a judge suspended all but 2½ years of the term in the 2017 alcohol-related hazing death of 18-year-old fraternity pledge Max Gruver. 

»PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 4 indicted in alleged hazing death of Roswell LSU freshman

Matthew Naquin, an ex-Phi Delta Theta member, was also sentenced Wednesday to 1,000 hours of community service and must pay a $1,000 fine. 

Former LSU student Matthew Naquin was sentenced to five years in prison.
Photo: Associated Press

The Advocate reported the 21-year-old, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was convicted in July of negligent homicide, which carried up to five years behind bars. He didn’t testify, but several witnesses testified that Naquin disliked Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, wanted him cut from the fraternity and played a central role in the ill-fated hazing. 

— Compiled by ArLuther Lee / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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