Disturbing new details about the Penn State hazing death of a pledge have been revealed. Surveillance cameras at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house showed that pledge Timothy Piazza’s skin color changed from normal on the night of the hazing to gray when police were finally called the next morning.
The Beta Theta Pi fraternity house had eight or nine cameras, one in nearly every room. The cameras at the frat house recorded in full color and full broadcast quality. The cameras are so state-of-the-art that they showed Piazza change colors over the course of 12 hours as a result from his injuries suffered from his drunken fall down a flight of stairs. Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Piazza’s skin had turned gray and was especially noticeable in the final 40 minutes before the 911 call.
On the morning of February 4, the 19-year-old Beta Theta Pi pledge was pronounced dead at the hospital. According to the forensic pathologist, Piazza’s death “was the direct result of traumatic brain injuries.”
Piazza, a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, was participating in hazing on the night of February 2.
Text messages between two Beta Theta Pi members suggest that part of the hazing included the elephant walk, which is a hazing ritual where pledges line up, hold the penis of the person in front of or behind them, and walk around.
A text message from Beta Theta Pi president Brendan Young to Maddie Miller was revealed two months before the death of Piazza.
Miller told Young that he should “take it out on the pledges,” to which he replied, “Whip the dick out?”
Miller responded, “If ever there was a time for an elephant walk it would be rn.”
Young replied that it was his “least favorite part of pledging.”
The next day, Young texted Miller, “I’m burnt out from hazing.”
Another hazing ritual that the Beta Theta Pi fraternity also conducted on pledges was a paddling ceremony. Pledges walked into a room with a pillow case over their heads and were asked if they were willing to walk over glass for the fraternity. They then walked over potato chips. They were asked if they were willing to drink the blood of their brothers and then given tomato juice with Tabasco sauce. They were asked if they were willing to drink their brother’s urine and then made to drink Gatorade. Finally, the pledges were asked if they were willing to take a hit for their brothers and then they were smacked with a paddle. One of the pledges, Greggory Rizzo, said the paddling “hurt significantly but did not require medical attention.”
During the pledge ceremony on February 2, Piazza ran through an obstacle course of various drinking stations where he drank vodka, beer, and wine. He became so intoxicated that he fell head-first down a flight of stairs. Instead of calling for help, the frat brothers attempted to hide the hazing ritual and even came up with a fake story.
From the Daily Mail:
Piazza was carried upstairs after the fall, appearing unconscious. During the night Piazza was slapped in the face, slammed onto a couch and hit in the abdomen by fraternity members. After 3 a.m., Piazza tried to stand but he fell, hitting his head on the floor. A fraternity brother attempted to shake him but then left the room. Shortly before 4 a.m., Piazza again tried to stand but fell face down on the floor.
At about 5 a.m., Piazza stood and then fell head first into an iron railing, landing on a stone floor. “He gets up again and attempts to go to the front door, but before he reaches it he falls head first into the door,” the grand jury report says.
There are 18 Penn State students facing charges for Piazza’s death including 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 Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which has since been banned from Penn State, is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing.
Eight members of the fraternity, Michael Schiavone, Lars Kenyon, Ed Gilmartin, Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker, Ryan Foster, and Joseph Ems, all appeared in court on Tuesday. They were ordered to surrender their passports and released on $50,000 bail.
The attorney representing the Piazza family said that the frat’s “grotesque actions” were “beyond human decency.”
The Centre County District Attorney said that Piazza’s death was “completely preventable” and caused by recklessness.
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