Home / National News / Penn State frat pledge 'looked like a corpse' before 911 was called: Detective

 

(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — Penn State pledge Timothy Piazza “looked like a corpse” after he was fatally injured at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, a detective testified Monday.

Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore and pledge at Beta Theta Pi fraternity, died on Feb. 4 after he fell down the stairs during a pledge ceremony at the house on the night of Feb. 2. Fraternity members did not call 911 until the morning of Feb. 3, about 12 hours after Piazza’s fall, according to a report on the grand jury’s investigation. Piazza’s death “was the direct result of traumatic brain injuries,” according to the forensic pathologist.

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 Beta Theta Pi fraternity — which has since been barred from Penn State — is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing.

The students have not yet entered pleas and are set to appear at preliminary hearings Monday.

Surveillance video recorded inside the fraternity house the night Piazza was fatally injured is expected to be played in open court Monday.

Here are some details from what happened the night of Feb. 2 and early morning hours of Feb. 3 at Beta Theta Pi, according to a grand jury report, which cited evidence including video from surveillance cameras, testimony and phone records:

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.

In the early morning hours, brothers saw Piazza in distress but didn’t help. At about 10 a.m., fraternity members found the 19-year-old in the basement lying on his back, breathing heavily and with blood on his face. One brother said Piazza’s eyes were half open and he felt cold. Three men carried Piazza’s unconscious body upstairs and placed him back on the couch. Surveillance footage showed brothers shaking him and trying to prop him up. At 10:48 a.m., a fraternity member called 911. Piazza was hospitalized and died the next day.

Prosecutors claim the fraternity brothers waited to get Piazza help in an attempt to cover up their drinking and “coordinate a story.”

One of the defense attorneys in the case told ABC News last month, “Of course, it’s a tragedy. But that doesn’t mean there’s any intent involved in any of this.”

A judge will decide if there is enough evidence to go to trial and the surveillance video expected to be played in court on Monday is a key part of that evidence.

Piazza family attorney Tom Kline said, “We expect that videotape to be horrible and that it will be the kind of evidence which will make a significant impact.”

A detective testified Monday that after Piazza fell down the stairs the night of Feb. 2 and was then carried back up, he was limp with an obvious bruise on his abdomen.

Hours after the fall, Piazza “looked like a corpse” and had “lost all color,” a detective testified Monday.

The detective said, according to the video, no one gave CPR, and there was a lot of talking and worried looks before someone finally called 911.

Fraternity members tried to dress Piazza but couldn’t because his body was too rigid, the detective said.

The Piazza family is planning on filing a lawsuit against the fraternity members and the university.

Earlier this month, Penn State announced proposals for new safety reforms, including university staff members monitoring social events; the university taking control of the fraternity and sorority misconduct and adjudication process; and permanent revocation of university recognition for any chapter involved in “hazing that involves alcohol, physical abuse, or any behavior that puts a student’s mental or physical health at risk.”

Penn State President Eric Barron said, “There are other measures being discussed and will be instituted over time — all with a focus on prevention, monitoring and enforcement. These measures augment a series of actions taken earlier this year, which are being made permanent.”

Barron added, “I am resolved to turn the pain and anguish radiating through our entire community into decisive action and reform, concentrating on the safety and well-being of students at Penn State.”

Penn State’s Interfraternity Council said, “We agree that added social restrictions, education, transparency and professional staff support are critical. We have tried to remain committed to being an active part of the solution within our community. We stand firm on our belief that when students are involved in collaborating with the university in monitoring and accountability, a greater impact is made. For that reason, we will continue to push for a partnership between student leaders and the university.”

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