Eighteen Pennsylvania State University students and a fraternity at the school are facing charges in connection with the death of Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza, who died after falling down stairs at the frat house during a pledge ceremony, prosecutors said this morning.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller announced the results of the grand jury investigation this morning, three months after the Feb. 4 death of Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore, according to The Patriot-News.
On the morning of Feb. 3, police were called to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, where Piazza was found unconscious. Fraternity members said Piazza fell down the basement stairs while intoxicated the night before, the State College police said at the time.
The district attorney said today that Piazza had two serious falls during the night and by the time he went to the hospital on Feb. 3 it was essentially too late, according to The Patriot-News. Piazza died on Feb. 4.
Eighteen Penn State students are facing charges: eight for involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and hazing, among other charges; four for reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; and six for evidence tampering. The fraternity itself is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing.
Parks Miller alleged there were efforts to cover up what had happened at the fraternity house to conceal the hazing rituals, The Patriot-News reported.
Piazza’s father, Jim Piazza, this morning called his son’s death a “senseless and very preventable tragedy. … This did not have to happen,” The Patriot-News reported.
Penn State said in February that its governing body for all fraternities as well as the fraternity’s national organization had placed Beta Theta Pi on temporary cease and desist until all investigations were complete.
“Our deepest sympathy goes out to Tim’s family and friends during this mournful time,” the school said in a statement at the time. “Currently, the University is offering counseling services for those individuals in our community who are in need.”
In a statement on its Penn State Alpha Upsilon chapter website, the fraternity said in February: “Our chapter is mourning the loss of Tim Piazza, a student who recently accepted an invitation to join our fraternity. It is believed that Tim’s death stemmed from an accidental injury sustained from a fall in the chapter house. We are working closely with our General Fraternity to determine how this happened, and are fully cooperating with police and Penn State administrators in their own investigations. While additional statements and information will be released once confirmed, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time.”
Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, was an engineering student who worked with Penn State’s Dance Marathon (THON), according to his obituary.
“Tim loved spending his summers at the beach with his family and friends, jet skiing, playing golf and taking it to the hoop in friendly pickup basketball games. He was smart, funny, friendly and kind,” the obituary reads. “His time here has been all too brief but his memory will remain forever in the hearts of all who knew and loved him.”