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A Penn State University fraternity pledge had toxic levels of alcohol in his body and was badly injured in a series of falls, authorities said in announcing criminal charges against 18 members of the organization and the fraternity itself. (May 5)
AP

The father of a Penn State pledge who died following a night of alleged hazing and drinking says members of Beta Theta Pi fraternity treated his son like “roadkill,” adding that the family plans to sue the school, the fraternity and its members.

Jim and Evelyn Piazza appeared on multiple morning shows Monday in their drive to hold accountable those responsible for the loss of their son, Timothy, who died Feb. 4.

“It was horrific,” Jim Piazza, speaking on NBC’s Today show, said of his son’s death. “This wasn’t boys being boys. This was men who intended to force-feed lethal amounts of alcohol into other young men. And what happened throughout the night was just careless disregard for human life.

“They basically treated our son as roadkill and a rag doll.”

Evelyn Piazza told ABC’s Good Morning America the family is pressing their case with the national media in the hope that other lives will be saved. She said she remains shocked at how her son’s ended.

“I don’t know where their conscience was, where the voice in the back of their head was saying, ‘He’s hurt. I gotta do the right thing,'” she said. “I don’t understand how they could be so heartless and inhumane.”

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Eighteen members of the fraternity face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault to recklessly endangering a life. All pleaded not guilty and were freed on bail pending trial. The school placed a “hold” on graduations for students facing charges who had been scheduled to graduate this spring.

A grand jury report released May 5 details the last hours of Timothy Piazza’s life, from when he arrived at the fraternity for a night of pledge-related activities until his death in a hospital two days later.

Surveillance video from inside the fraternity show Piazza, dressed in the pledge uniform of khakis, a sport shirt and sport jacket, preparing for a ritual known as the “gauntlet.” The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer shortly thereafter, and soon he was seen stumbling near the basement stairs.

He was subsequently found at the bottom of the basement steps after apparently falling face-first. Later, after Piazza rolled off a couch, three fraternity brothers picked him up and “slammed him” back on it, putting a backpack containing textbooks on him so he would not suffocate on his own vomit, the grand jury wrote.

The security cameras show Piazza falling multiple times in the ensuing hours. Fraternity brothers called 911 the next morning, about 12 hours after the odyssey began. Less than 24 hour later, he died.

“This is torture,” Evelyn Piazza told CNN on Monday. “This was callous and cold and inhumane.”

Jim Piazza said no fraternity members nor Penn State representatives attended his son’s funeral. The fraternity chapter was shut down. Piazza said Penn State must do more and make “significant changes,” adding that his family has received encouragement from across the nation.

“They need to put in a lot of policies and procedures that will eliminate alcohol in the fraternities,” he told Good Morning America. “They should not be hazing at all. It’s a crime.”

The university issued a statement Monday saying the university official assigned to represent the school at student funeral services was unable to attend due to a family emergency. The school has been in frequent communication with the family, the statement said. It said it initiated aggressive enforcement, education and monitoring measures well before Piazza’s death, adding that binge drinking at universities “is a national problem that has been worsening.”

“Our hearts go out to the family,” the statement says. “This is heart-wrenching for the family, and our entire community.”