The parents of 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, who died after participating in a hazing ritual at a Penn State fraternity, say the students who have been charged in the case “murdered” their son, and called the system governing fraternities at the university “criminal.”
“They killed him,” Jim Piazza said in an interview with CNN, referring to members of Beta Theta Pi who now face charges in the February 4 death of his son.
“They fed him lethal doses of alcohol and they killed him, and then they treated him like a rag doll, like road kill, they slapped him around, threw water on him, one kid punched him.”
His son died following his first night of pledging at Beta Theta Pi — a fraternity that was supposed to be alcohol-free at Penn State, a result of a suspension eight years ago. The university has now permanently banned the fraternity from operating on campus.
The death of Tim Piazza led to one of the largest criminal indictments against a fraternity and its members in recent history. More than 1,000 counts were levied against 18 members of Beta Theta Pi, including eight who were charged with involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Those charged are accused of putting Timothy Piazza and other pledges through something called “the gauntlet,” forcing the pledges to binge drink dangerous amounts of alcohol. Security cameras at the house show Piazza fell down a 15-foot flight of stairs shortly afterward — and then fell several more times into a railing, on the floor, and down the stairs again, according to the grand jury’s presentment, issued after its investigation into Piazza’s death.
But even after the falls, instead of calling 911, some of the fraternity members stepped over the frat’s newest member, turned to Google to research effects of acute intoxication and what to do for a head injury, and fought over what to do, according to the presentment. One person who wanted to take him to a hospital was criticized by other members of the fraternity as being “over-dramatic,” according to the grand jury findings.
“Our hearts go out to the family. This is heart-wrenching for the family, and our entire community,” Penn State said in a statement issued Monday.
The university did not respond to CNN’s detailed questions related to the allegations, but issued a statement Monday saying that even before Piazza’s death, it had taken measures to tackle binge drinking, which it called a national problem.
“Penn State initiated aggressive enforcement, education and monitoring measures to address these issues well before the tragic death of Timothy Piazza, and announced additional measures following, some of which were taken in consultation with the family, which is appropriate. Our actions will continue, and represent our ongoing commitment to drive change in tackling binge drinking at universities. This is a national problem that has been worsening,” the statement said.