Tim Piazza fought for his life for 12 hours before his Beta Theta Pi brothers called 911. By then, it was too late.
At about 3 p.m. on Friday, February 3, Tim Piazza, a sophomore at Penn State University, arrived at Hershey Medical Center by helicopter. Eighteen hours earlier, he had been in the kind of raging good health that only teenagers enjoy. He was a handsome, redheaded kid with a shy smile, a hometown girlfriend, and a family who loved him very much. Now he had a lacerated spleen, an abdomen full of blood, and multiple traumatic brain injuries. He had fallen down a flight of stairs during a hazing event at his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, but the members had waited nearly 12 hours before calling 911, relenting only when their pledge “looked fucking dead.” Tim underwent surgery shortly after arriving at Hershey, but it was too late. He died early the next morning.
AS the heartbroken parents of Tim Piazza wept at the District Attorney’s announcement on their son’s death, the rich “frat brothers” accused of killing him were hiring expensive lawyers.
Eighteen young men have been charged over the death of Piazza, a Pennsylvania State University sophomore left fatally stricken after falling down stairs during a fraternity initiation ritual.
After shocking details of Piazza’s final hours were released, the US media described the young men’s behaviour as “sickening” and a “warped show of brotherhood”.
One Pennsylvania commentator said “countless” opportunities to keep Piazza alive had been lost, and after the death the “brothers” put self-preservation first.
Many of them the sons of privileged, wealthy families, eight of the Beta Theta Pi house brothers have been charged with the involuntary manslaughter of the 19-year-old.
Frat house president and JP Morgan summer intern, 21-year-old Brendan Young Jnr, once said in an interview the best thing about Beta Theta Pi was “the sense of brotherhood” among men who would be his “friends for life”.
On the night of February 2 this year, Tim Piazza repeatedly fell down stairs at the Beta Theta Pi house after binge drinking with 13 other “pledges” in a hazing ritual called “the gauntlet”.
A staggering Piazza continually fell with a blood-alcohol level of up to .4, and hit his head, but no-one called for help.
The drinking was illegal for the pledges all aged under 21 during initiation ceremonies known as “hell week” in the supposedly alcohol dry fraternity house.
Failure to participate in the hazing rituals affected a pledge’s ranking which determined whether or not they were accepted into the frat house.
Injured, vomiting and twitching after the falls, Piazza was allegedly ignored by senior frat house brothers who refused to call 911.
One even assaulted a junior who pleaded with them to do so.
Police say Piazza’s death was preventable and his injuries not intitally life-threatening.
But after multiple falls and lack of medical attention, he died two days later from a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen and multiple traumatic brain injuries.
In a deleted text one frat brother advised others: “If need be, just tell them what I told you guys, found him behind [a bar] the next morning at around 10am, and he was freezing-cold, but we decided to call 911 instantly, because the kid’s health was paramount”.
The eight Beta Theta Pi brothers facing manslaughter charges include the frat house president, Brendan Young Jnr and vice president and pledge master, Daniel Casey.
Charged with multiple offences including reckless endangerment and supplying alcohol to a minor, the 19 to 21-year-olds from affluent backgrounds are protesting their innocence.
Some of the men’s charges stem from other hazing ritual nights of young “pledges” dating back to 2016.
Top Scranton Pennsylvania trial lawyer Paul Walker described the case against his client, Gary DiBileo Jr, as “extremely weak”.
Gary DiBileo II is the son of wealthy businessman and local Lackawanna County Council Controller Gary DiBileo, who also sits on the Prison Board.
”We’re absolutely going to fight this,” said Walker, who operates from the courthouse across the street from Controller DiBileo’s office.
His pronouncement came after the arraignment last week of the 18 men at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
At the same time, a distraught Jim and Evelyn Piazza appeared with Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
Miller revealed the contents of a harrowing 65-page grand jury report on Tim Piazza’s death.
The US media has described the account as showing a sickening “lack of humanity” that allowed fraternity members “to justify doing little to help” Piazza.
After Miller revealed Tim Piazza’s final hours which had been pieced together from CCTV and witness accounts, Jim Piazza spoke tearfully about his son.
“We are devastated by the loss of our son, he was an incredible young man. We are going to miss him terribly,” Jim Piazza said.
“This was a senseless and very preventable tragedy.
“This is the result of a feeling of entitlement, flagrant disobedience of the law and disregard for moral values that was then exacerbated by egregious acts of self-preservation.
“This didn’t have to happen.”
DA Stacy Parks Miller embraced Evelyn Piazza as she wept.
In February, two days after Tim Piazza’s death, his older brother Mike wrote a tribute on his Facebook page.
“On Saturday morning, I lost my other half. Tim, I will miss you eternally.
“I am utterly devastated. My brother was my best friend.
“If I ever needed to talk or just wanted someone to joke around with, he was there.
“When the world was too much, I had one person who I could turn to for anything.
“He was the most vibrant person I knew, and his sole mission in life was to make other people smile.
“There are things I wish I said and things I wish I did, but I know he knew how I felt and that I was so very proud of him.
“My job for the past 19 years has been to protect my younger brother. Now, I know he will protect me. I love you Timmy. Rest In peace.”
Later Mike Piazza wrote on Facebook, “What happened to my brother was inhumane and cruel.
“He did suffer. If you are ever in a position where you can prevent something even fractionally horrible from happening, remember this and be the one who helps.”
So who are the frat house 18, and what are they charged with?
Brendan Young Jr, 21
Fraternity chapter president of the now disbanded Beta Theta Pi house.
Avid golfer, his now-deleted Linked In profile he would be interning with JPMorgan Chase in their Operations Analyst Development Program.
Degree: Studying Enterprise Risk Management, Finance and Business Law.
Charges: 200 counts, including one each of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, tampering with evidence, 50 each of recklessly endanger another person and hazing and 48 each of furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.
Attitude to life: On deleted Twitter profile said “it pays to be a winner”.
Told hercampus.com he follows the “24 hour rule … if you get disappointed, grieve for 24 hours and move on. If you have success, celebrate for 24 hours and get back to work.
Career ambition: Has a five-year US Navy commitment, then wants to be a forensic accountant or work for the FBI.
Daniel Casey, 19
Fraternity pledge master, who responsible for bringing new ‘brothers’ into the frat house.
Also helped plan “The Gauntlet” drinking initiation which saw young “pledges” down four drinks in two minutes.
Background: from a Long Island family, son of a schoolteacher.
Charges: Same 200 charges as Brendan Young including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence plus one extra charge of consumption of alcohol by a minor.
Jonah Neuman, 21
Fraternity brother who participated in the gauntlet and was also singled out in the grand jury presentment as forcefully overruling another brother’s suggestion that Piazza be taken to the hospital.
Background: College wrestling star from Nashville, Tennessee who claimed as a student athlete “my mental toughness makes me stronger then most other athletes”.
Charges: 57 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Nick Kubera, 19
Participant in the alcohol-fuelled gauntlet where the pledges were forced to drink beer, wine and vodka excessively and at a very fast rate.
Background: Son of business management consultant from Downington, Pennsylvania.
Charges: 56 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person
Michael Bonatucci, 19
Beta brother who served pledges with alcohol during the gauntlet.
Background: Son of a business manager from Woodstock, Georgia.
Charges: 56 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Luke Visser, 19
Has admitted to running a beer pong station during the pledge night activities, where he said all 14 pledges were required to drink.
Visser, later in the grand jury report, was also identified as likely the first person to have noticed Piazza’s fall down steps leading into the frat house basement party rooms.
Background: Student athlete from California and son of a real estate executive.
Charges: Has pleaded not guilty to 56 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person
Joe Sala, 19
An assistant pledge master who also participated in the gauntlet.
Background: Son of a Pennsylvania doctor.
Charges: 55 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Gary DiBileo II, 21
Beta brother who allegedly ran the wine bag drinking station during the gauntlet.
Background: Son of a prominent Pennsylvania insurance company businessman, Gary DiBileo Sr, who is Lackawanna County Council Controller.
Charges: 56 charges including involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and recklessly endangering another person.
The ten other men charged, but not with the two most serious counts, of aggravated assault graded as a first-degree felony, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 to 20 years.
The involuntary manslaughter charge, a first-degree misdemeanour, carries a maximum punishment of 2.5 to 5 years.
Beta chapter member Craig Heimer, 21, testified to purchasing most of the alcohol for the bid acceptance night, worth $1,179.30, including several cases of vodka.
Heimer, Michael Angelo Schiavone, Lars Kenyon and Parker Jax Yochim each face 52 counts relating to charges of reckless endangerment, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.
Charged with a single count of tampering with evidence are Ryan McCann, Lucas Rockwell, Braxton Becker, Ryan Foster and Ed Gilmartin III, son of a Pennsylvania businessman.
Joseph Ems faces just one charged of recklessly endangering another person.
Ems was due to work as a residential leasing intern at real estate giant, the Durst Organisation.
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