Penn State death followed others blamed on hazing in US fraternities

Penn State student Timothy Piazza, 19, died after a pledge ceremony.

May 9, 2017, 12:09 PM

— -- The recent charges filed against fraternity members in the death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza during a fraternity pledge ceremony have stoked interest in the detailed allegations of inaction among group members in coming to his aid, but fatalities of this nature are not uncommon on U.S. college campuses.

Here are some similar deaths that occurred in recent years:

April 20, 2013: Virginia State University

Four men who belonged to Men of Honor, an unsanctioned fraternity on campus at VSU, were convicted for manslaughter after hazing two students by making them walk into the Appomattox River, resulting in their drowning deaths.

The students -- Marvell Edmondson of Portsmouth, and Jauwan Holmes of Newport News, both 19 -- were "submerged nearly as soon as they entered the river" and were immediately swept downstream, according to a report in The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Cory D. Baytop, Eriq Benson, Charles E. Zollicoffer III and James A. Mackey Sr. all agreed to plea agreements in the two deaths, the paper reported.

Virginia State University did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Men of Honor or whether the unsanctioned fraternity still had a presence on campus.

Dec. 8, 2013: Baruch College

Chun “Michael” Deng, 19, sustained fatal head trauma during a fraternity hazing ritual at a weekend retreat for his predominantly Asian-American Pi Delta Psi fraternity in Tunkhannock Township, Pennsylvania, according to authorities.

A native of the borough of Queens in New York City, he was allegedly blindfolded and forced to carry a 20-pound bag of sand while being tackled by other members of the frat as part of a hazing ritual called the glass ceiling.

At one point he was shoved and fell over, hitting his head, police said at the time.

Thirty-seven defendants were charged in connection with Deng's death, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Ka-Wing Yuen, 25, the first of the 37 suspects charged, was placed on five years of probation in January of this year, according to a report in The Associated Press.

He was ordered to perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $100 fine, the AP reported.

He pleaded guilty Jan. 10 to conspiracy to hinder apprehension and conspiracy to haze for helping cover up the death of Deng, the AP reported.

Baruch College issued a lifetime ban of the fraternity after the incident.

Nov. 14, 2014: West Virginia University

Nolan Burch, 18, of Williamsville, New York, died after suffering a "catastrophic medical emergency" during a pledging ceremony at Kappa Sigma fraternity at WVU, according to police.

As ABC News previously reported, Burch and 19 other fraternity pledges were taking part in an initiation function known as Big-Little, Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston said in a statement.

After he drank a large quantity of alcohol, Burch was so intoxicated, he was placed on a table, the police chief said.

Later that night, a fraternity member noticed that Burch's face was blue and tried to wake him, but it was found that he had no pulse, Preston said.

Richard W. Schwartz, who oversaw the drinking ritual, faced misdemeanor hazing charges that were later dismissed, according to a report in The Buffalo News.

He was "required to perform 100 hours of community service, avoid any illegal drugs and take an alcohol-awareness course as part of an arrangement to avoid trial on charges related to the death of Nolan M. Burch, also of Amherst," the paper reported last year.

The misdemeanor hazing charges filed against him will be dismissed if he stays out of criminal trouble for two years, the paper reported.

A spokesperson for WVU told ABC News that the national chapter for Kappa Sigma "pulled its charter days before the incident occurred" and that it is no longer an officially recognized fraternity on campus.

Nov. 17, 2014: University at Albany, State University of New York

University at Albany student Trevor Duffy died at the Albany Medical Center Hospital of alcohol poisoning.

"After a night of being forced to consume ... a bottle with about 60 ounces of Belvedere vodka, the 19-year-old sophomore from the Bronx was found unconscious and ashen in a bathroom at the clandestine fraternity's house at 461 Hamilton St. in Pine Hills," The Times Union reported at the time.

Seven members of Zeta Beta Tau, an unsanctioned fraternity at the University at Albany, were charged with misdemeanor hazing as a result of Duffy's death in November of 2015, just short of year after Duffy's death, according to a report in The New York Daily News.

A spokesman for the University at Albany, SUNY, told ABC News by phone today that the fraternity was an "unrecognized group," and that multiple students were dismissed from the school as a result of the incident.

Feb. 4, 2017: Pennsylvania State University

Timothy Piazza, 19, a pledge at a Penn State fraternity, died two days after falling head first down a flight of stairs while in a state of intoxication during a pledge ceremony, according to the Centre County district attorney.

The fall damaged Piazza's brain, spleen and lung, but the pledge did not receive immediate medical attention.

Eighteen members of Piazza's frat have been charged in connection with his death.

As ABC News reported Friday, all defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter were arraigned Friday afternoon in a preliminary hearing.

No pleas were entered, bail was set at $100,000, and they were released on their own recognizance, the Centre County district attorney said. They are prohibited from having alcohol and nonprescription drugs, may not leave their home state without express permission from the judge and must surrender their passports, according to the district attorney.

Penn State student Kordel Davis, who was present when Piazza fell down the stairs, told ABC News on Monday, "I didn't know what to do" when he suspected that Piazza was in trouble.

He said that he voiced concerns to his frat brothers but failed to call 911 because senior members of the group convinced him that he was overreacting.

"I was kind of, like, manipulated into thinking, 'Oh, everything is going to be fine,'" Davis said.

Davis, who has not been charged, called the incident a "preventable tragedy."

Penn State President Eric Barron said Beta Theta Pi has been barred from ever returning to the school.

"The details alleged in these findings are heart-wrenching and incomprehensible," Barron said in a statement Friday. "The university community continues to mourn his tragic death, but no pain we feel can begin to compare to the devastating heartbreak that Timothy’s family and friends are experiencing."

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