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The Parents Of A Teen Who Died After A Hazing Ritual Blame His Fraternity Brothers For "Murder"

Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore, died from his injuries after falling down a flight of stairs during a pledging ceremony by the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

Posted on May 15, 2017, at 9:55 a.m. ET

The parents of Timothy Piazza, a 19-year-old Penn State sophomore who died from his injuries after a hazing ritual at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, said Monday that his fraternity brothers "killed him."

The family spoke to both CNN and NBC morning shows.

The Beta Theta Pi fraternity and 18 of its brothers face more than 850 charges — including involuntary manslaughter — for Piazza's death during a pledging ceremony in February.

Piazza died from his injuries two days after he was forced to consume "a life-threatening amount of alcohol" and fell down repeatedly during the fraternity's hazing ritual, according to grand jury findings.

None of the brothers called for medical help for 12 hours after Piazza first fell — and attempted to cover up their role in his death by deleting their online exchanges, prosecutors said.

Piazza's father, Jim Piazza, said Monday that the fraternity brothers "killed" his son.

"They killed him," Jim Piazza told CNN. "They fed him lethal doses of alcohol and they killed him. And then they treated him like roadkill, like a rag doll. In my mind it was murder...they let him die a very slow death."

After Piazza fell down several times and drifted in and out of consciousness through the night, the brothers allegedly dumped water on his face, slapped his face multiple times, struck him on his bruised abdomen, and attached a backpack to him presumably to prevent him from rolling over.

"Nobody should consume that much alcohol,'' his mother, Evelyn Piazza, told NBC News' Today. "That's torture."

Jim Piazza said that the fraternity brothers knew his son was dying and even when they knew death was "imminent" the next morning they waited 42 minutes to call for help, according to surveillance footage cited in the grand jury findings.

"They told people to clean up, cover up the evidence, get rid of it," Jim Piazza said. "This wasn't boys being boys. This was criminal activity."

A fraternity member told police that they were concerned about calling 911 after Piazza's fall because they were "fearful the police would discover indications of hazing as well as minors under the influence of alcohol in their house."

Jim Piazza toldNBC News' Today that he asked the doctor if the outcome would have been different had Tim been brought to the hospital earlier. "The doctor said, 'Yeah."

"When I walked into the [hospital] room, he looked like he got hit by a car," Mike Piazza, Tim's brother, told CNN.


Piazza's family said that even after one of the brothers called 911, none of the brothers or Penn State officials accompanied him to the hospital, or informed them of Piazza's condition.

The family only found out that Piazza was in the hospital after one of his roommates told them that he hadn't come home in the morning. His brother, Mike, called the hospital to check and was told that Tim was in the emergency room.

Piazza suffered from respiratory failure due to severe head trauma and compromised brain function, a medical expert testified. He had multiple traumatic brain injuries and a fracture at the base of his skull.

"I held his hand," Jim Piazza said, describing the moments he spent with his son at the hospital. "We were telling him we love him, but he was certainly not visibly with us. But we did see a tear come to his eye and roll down his cheek. I'm not sure if I want to know if he heard us or not, because if he heard us, he knew he was dying and he would think he had let us down," he said.

Tim Piazza's family said that no one from the fraternity or from Penn State came to their son's wake or funeral. Jim Piazza said the the university has been "fairly silent" about the incident. "I feel like they're covering their butt," he said.

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After the incident, Penn State banned Beta Theta Pi from ever returning to the university.

Lisa Powers, a Penn State spokeswoman, told BuzzFeed News that the university official who was assigned to represent the school at Tim Piazza's funeral was "unable to attend the service for Tim due to a personal emergency" and contacted the family in advance to let them know.

"Even so, we deeply regret that no one was asked to attend Tim's funeral in his place," Powers said.

Responding to the Piazza family's concerns about the university being "silent," Powers said that Penn State has "communicated frequently with the Piazzas since Tim's tragic death, and have given careful consideration to the family's needs and wishes throughout this deeply troubling time, as the search for answers to this national problem continues."

The school has placed a "graduation hold" on the fraternity brothers named in the grand jury presentment who were set to graduate in the spring, and will initiate disciplinary proceedings against individual students involved in the incident, according to Powers.

An investigative review by the school's Office of Student Conduct will determine if any students violated the code of conduct and whether they are subject to disciplinary sanctions, Powers said.

After Piazza's death, the university had announced a series of "aggressive measures" on Greek organizations, including "strongly enforced prohibition against underage possession or consumption of alcohol in chapter houses" and the loss of recognition for an organization for "hazing that involves alcohol or serious physical abuse."

Penn State President Eric Barron described the details revealed in the grand jury findings as "heart-wrenching and incomprehensible."

However, Piazza's parents said that Penn State made the changes only after "we told them they had to."

Powers told BuzzFeed News that Penn State had been active in its efforts to combat binge drinking "for many years" and had introduced many measures before Piazza's death. The school "announced additional measures following [Piazza's death], some of which were taken in consultation with the family," Powers said.

Jim Piazza said that the Barron has defended the university by saying that fraternities are on private property.

"This was supposed to be a dry fraternity. This was an alcohol-free, hazing-free fraternity," Jim Piazza said. "But there are years of parties documented on the tapes. Nobody paid attention to anything. I blame all of them."

He said that the adult chapter adviser who lived in the fraternity house "allowed a young man to die on his watch."

The adviser, Tim Bream, a fraternity alumnus, was not among those charged in Piazza's death.

Powers said that Bream was serving as the chapter adviser on his own time and was not a representative of the university which had "no knowledge that he was living at the Beta chapter house, which is privately owned and on private property."

"He had to have known there were illegal parties going on for years that he lived there," Jim Piazza said. "He has a responsibility as an adult, as an adviser, to speak up."

BuzzFeed News reached out to Beta Theta Pi for comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.