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A Former Penn State Frat Member’s Texts Reveal Disturbing Details About the Death of a 19-Year-Old Pledge

On Monday, 16 Penn State University students and former fraternity brothers of the now-shut-down Beta Theta Pi returned to court to give more details about the death of 19-year-old student Timothy Piazza, who died Feb. 4 after falling down a flight of stairs during a pledge ceremony.

According to ABC News, one of the students charged in connection with the death of Piazza reportedly texted his girlfriend “drink hazing can send me to jail,” and “I don’t want to go to jail for this.”

No videos exist of Piazza’s fall down the stairs, but one video shows Piazza’s body, with a large bruise, being carried by four fraternity brothers. Prosecutors say the bruise appears to be a spleen injury. ABC News reports that the frat brothers did not call 911 until about 12 hours after he fell in an attempt to cover up the situation.

Tom Kline, the Piazza family’s attorney, has seen the video and described it to ABC News as “horrific” and “gruesome,” saying, “The young man (was) force-fed alcohol, had his own shoes thrown at him, beer thrown on him, punched, sat on, and then left literally to die.”

Pieces of evidence, such as texts and Google searches, are helping prosecutors gain insight as to what happened to Piazza that February night. One of the fraternity members searched “How will nine drinks in an hour affect a 200-pound guy?”, which shows that Piazza was possibly dangerously drunk.

The members at Beta Theta Pi left Piazza without help or medical attention for 12 hours, ABC News reports. The frat members were afraid of facing the consequences and tried to hide any evidence of what happened that night, sending messages like: “Make sure the pledges keep quiet about last night and this situation,” “Make sure the pledges clean the basement and get rid of any evidence of alcohol” and “I think we are fucked. Like beyond fucked.”

According to USA Today, the grand jury found that Piazza’s death was a “direct result of the extremely reckless conduct of members of the Beta fraternity”—and that the Interfraternity Council, the organization that oversees fraternities such as Beta Theta Pi, is also at fault for not doing enough to discourage the kind of behavior that led to his death.

USA Today reports that 18 Penn State students face charges for involuntary manslaughter, hazing, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, but two of those students waived their right to the preliminary hearing on Monday.

The Beta Theta Pi chapter has been permanently shut down by Penn State University. The university also plans to cut back on Greek life and increase control on fraternities and sororities. 

Zaynah Javed is a Her Campus Feature Writer, freshman at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Chicago native. Her interests include all things science and politics. She has a strong passion for astronomy and outer space, leading her to pursue it as a minor. She is an advocate and volunteer for organizations such as The Planetary Society, which encourages space exploration. She plans on majoring in Public Health, as she believes healthcare is a fundamental right and loves the mix of politics, government, and biology that it offers.