Fraternity Members Face Charges In Alcohol-Related Death of Penn State Student

By Britni de la Cretaz 05/17/17

Security camera footage captured the alcohol-fueled events that led to the death of Penn State student Tim Piazza.

Timothy Piazza
Timothy Piazza - victim of an alleged hazing ritual gone wrong. Photo via YouTube

A Penn State University fraternity and 18 of its members have been charged in the death of one of their pledges, 19-year-old engineering student Timothy Piazza. Piazza died after a hazing ritual in which he was forced to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Piazza twice fell down the basement steps of the fraternity house and the brothers neglected to get him help. He died two days later as a result of his injuries, including severe head injuries and internal bleeding from a shattered spleen.

"They held him captive and tortured him. They treated him like roadkill," Jim Piazza, Timothy’s father, told the Associated Press. "Knowing that your son suffered the way he did over such a long period of time, and died a very slow and very painful death, frankly, it's haunting."

Eight members of the fraternity have been charged with aggravated assault, which carries a sentence of 10-20 years in prison. Security camera footage from the night of the pledge ceremony shows Piazza and other pledges being forced to drink large amounts of alcohol, which resulted in Piazza having an estimated blood alcohol level of 0.40%. The Piazzas told the AP that no one associated with either the fraternity or the university attended Timothy’s funeral or wake, and Jim called their absence “shameful.”

This death is just the latest alcohol-related tragedy associated with a fraternity. Last fall, Texas State University student Jordin Taylor was found dead near the site of a party hosted by four of the school’s fraternities, which resulted in the frats being suspended between two and five years each.

Washington State University canceled fraternity and sorority events in response to an increase in alcohol and drug use, sexual assaults, and hospitalizations. Earlier this year at Miami University, the local fire department responded to 21 alcohol-related incidents in a single weekend. These incidents came just three weeks after the death of 18-year-old student Erica Buschick, which authorities suspect was alcohol-related.

In the wake of such incidents, many campuses are trying to limit or ban alcohol on campus. One non-profit, Party.0, is bringing sober parties to college campuses. “We’re not trying to wage a war on alcohol,” Party.0 founder Jake White told The Fix. “But we do believe that every student should have options, and a sober option. That’s what’s going to make a difference in the college drinking culture.”

"They planned this night out," Jim Piazza told the AP about his son’s fraternity brothers. "They had all the intent to feed these young men lethal doses of alcohol—to bring them to alcohol poisoning levels. This was premeditated. They killed our son."

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.