His fraternity brothers knew he desperately needed help, yet instead of calling 911, they devised a plan to cover up the death of their pledge, who was found at the bottom of the stairs leading to the basement.
Tim Piazza, a Beta Theta Pi pledge, had been subjected to hazing, forced to guzzle vodka, beer and wine on Feb. 2, according to the New York Daily News. The 19-year-old sophomore died of a traumatic brain injury, and now 18 of the fraternity brothers, who waited some 12 hours before calling for help, were charged Friday with involuntary manslaughter.
Piazza’s blood-alcohol level was estimated at .40 at the time of his death, according to doctors.
“These young men deserve to be punished,” Thomas Kline, an attorney for the Piazza family, told CNN Saturday.
Officials discovered chilling text messages between some fraternity brothers that showed they were aware that Piazza “was going to need help.” One fraternity brother wrote in a group text at 11:53 p.m.: “Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first. Going to need help.”
However, no call to 911 was made until nearly 11 a.m. the next morning, authorities say. Piazza died on Feb. 4.
Additional charges were filed against the 18 fraternity brothers, including aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing. Six were charged with evidence tampering. The fraternity has also been banned for life on the Penn State campus.
The frat brothers seem to have discussed how to cover up their lack of action. One damning text from a frat brother that was deleted, but later recovered by investigators read: “If need be, just tell them what I told you guys, [we] found him behind [a bar] the next morning around 10 a.m. and he was freezing-cold, but we decided to call 911 instantly because the kid’s health was paramount.”
Prosecutors learned through texts and video surveillance that frat brothers tried to wake up Piazza by slapping him. When he didn’t respond, they placed a backpack with textbooks on his back so he wouldn’t roll over and choke on his own vomit.