A scathing grand jury report on a pattern of disturbing hazing incidents at Penn State was released Friday, more than 10 months after the death of fraternity pledge Timothy Piazza.
In that time, at least three other fraternity pledges have died at campuses across the country. Hazing or alcohol is suspected to have played a factor in each of them.
In February, 19-year-old Piazza died as a result of hazing and an alcohol-related initiation ritual as he was pledging Beta Theta Pi at Penn State. The event took place in the fraternity's house on campus, which was supposed to be alcohol-free after Beta Theta Pi was suspended from Penn State eight years ago.
Piazza's death sparked a firestorm and criminal investigation that was still evolving last month. Surveillance footage recorded from inside the house showed Piazza stumbling through the house and falling down a flight of stairs after he was given at least 18 drinks in 82 minutes. Beta Theta Pi members didn't call 911 until the next morning, when it was too late.
As a result of the ongoing investigation, a total of 26 fraternity members are facing various charges in connection to the death, including involuntary manslaughter, assault, hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.
Piazza died as a result of a traumatic brain injury. Beta Theta Pi was permanently banned from the campus.
Louisiana State University freshman Maxwell Gruver died in October in an alleged hazing incident that also involved alcohol. At the time of his death, the 18-year-old's blood alcohol level was 0.495%, according to the coroner, which is nearly 25 times the legal limit in Louisiana for those under the age of 21.
After several interviews, police learned that Gruver had been called to the Phi Delta Theta house to participate in "Bible Study," where pledges answer questions about the fraternity. If too many are answered incorrectly, pledges are required to take a drink. Interviews conducted by LSU police "indicated that the pledges were forced to drink in excess," according to arrest warrants.
Gruver, who was highly intoxicated by midnight, was taken to a couch in the fraternity house and checked on throughout the night. But the next morning, his pulse was weak and fraternity members couldn't tell if he was breathing. They took him to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, the warrants said.
In October, 10 arrest warrants were issued for members of Phi Delta Theta at Louisiana State University as a result of the investigation into Gruver's death. The LSU chapter of Phi Delta Theta was suspended by the school and the fraternity's national office, which has opened its own investigation.
Florida State University indefinitely suspended all Greek life after the death of 20-year-old Pi Kappa Phi pledge Andrew Coffey in early November.
According to an FSU news release, Coffey was found unresponsive one morning after he had attended a party the night before.
"I want to send a message that we've got a serious problem and we need to deal with it, and (fraternities and sororities) are part of the solution," FSU President John Thrasher said of the suspension. "And the sooner they can come to the table and we can all talk and find those solutions, the sooner this will be lifted."
At the time, Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo suggested that alcohol may have been involved in Coffey's death, though he was waiting on the results of an autopsy.
Texas State University followed suit days later and suspended fraternity and sorority activities after Matthew Ellis, a pledge for the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, was found unresponsive and later died, according to San Marcos police.
The 20-year-old had attended an off-campus social event and was found unresponsive by friends just after 11 a.m., police said. A preliminary investigation indicated that alcohol may have been a factor in his death.
The Texas State University chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was suspended the week before for "unrelated matters" by the national fraternity, according to a statement from executive director Mark Guidi, and will remain so for the remainder of the investigation.
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