8 Arrested in Fraternity Pledge’s Alcohol-Poisoning Death, Police Say

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Adam Oakes, a 19-year-old pupil astatine Virginia Commonwealth University, died successful February aft being told to portion a vessel of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, household members say.

Family photos of Adam Oakes, who was recovered  dormant   adjacent   the field  of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sept. 25, 2021, 7:28 p.m. ET

Eight radical were arrested and 3 others indicted connected Friday aft an probe into the decease of Adam Oakes, a pupil astatine Virginia Commonwealth University who died successful February from intoxicant poisoning astatine a fraternity party, the authorities said.

All 8 who were arrested look charges of unlawful hazing of a student, the Richmond, Va., constabulary said successful a statement. Three of them look an further complaint of buying and giving intoxicant to a minor.

According to Mr. Oakes’s family, the young man’s death, which drew nationalist attraction and renewed questions astir hazing successful Greek organizations crossed the country, occurred astatine an off-campus enactment connected Feb. 26 astatine the Delta Chi fraternity house, wherever helium was fixed a vessel of Jack Daniel’s whiskey and told to portion it.

Mr. Oakes, 19, was recovered dormant the adjacent greeting by Richmond constabulary officers, the authorities said.

Courtney White, Mr. Oakes’s cousin, said connected Saturday that portion the household was feeling “a small spot of relief” due to the fact that the lawsuit was moving forward, it was inactive achy to cognize that nothing, including the charges, was “going to bring him back.”

“A batch of radical are saying that these boys are conscionable boys,” Ms. White said. “But the information is that Adam was conscionable a boy, too, and they took afloat vantage of him. And had immoderate 1 of them stepped up and really acted similar a antheral and called for help, Adam would inactive beryllium here.”

The household said connected Facebook that they were “grateful for immoderate measurement of justness these charges and arrests whitethorn produce, arsenic good arsenic the extortion from hazing they whitethorn springiness young, impressionable assemblage students.”

“The past 7 months person been agonizing for our family,” they wrote. “This is the archetypal clip these young men person been held accountable for their historically toxic and destructive traditions, manipulation of the VCU disciplinary systems, and for Adam’s death.”

The Richmond Police Department did not accidental whether those charged were students astatine Virginia Commonwealth University, and the assemblage did not instantly respond to questions connected Saturday. But Mr. Oakes’s household said that each of those arrested were existent oregon erstwhile students astatine the university.

The constabulary named those arrested arsenic Benjamin J. Corado, Quinn A. Kuby, Riley K. McDaniel, Alessandro Medina-Villanueva, Jason B. Mulgrew, Christian G. Rohrbach, Colin G. Tran and Enayat W. Sheikhzad. They scope successful property from 19 to 22.

It was not wide connected Saturday whether each 8 had lawyers. None could instantly beryllium reached for remark connected Saturday.

A website for Delta Chi listed Mr. Corado, Mr. Kuby, Mr. Medina-Villanueva, Mr. Mulgrew, Mr. Rohrbach and Mr. Tran arsenic portion of the V.C.U. chapter’s enactment team.

The assemblage said successful a connection that “V.C.U. continues to mourn the tragic decease of Adam Oakes and is grateful to the Richmond Police Department for its investigation.”

“V.C.U. is dedicated to continuing its efforts, announced this summer, to beforehand a harmless and welcoming fraternity and sorority beingness civilization for all,” the assemblage said.

V.C.U. permanently expelled Delta Chi from field successful May, aft it hired a consulting steadfast to survey its Greek culture. The firm, Dyad Strategies, announced successful an August report that portion the assemblage wasn’t an outlier compared with different colleges’ Greek organizations, it inactive struggled to code concerns astir binge drinking and hazing.

Seven of those arrested were taken into custody by the Virginia Commonwealth University Police and are being held without enslaved astatine the Richmond Justice Center. Mr. Sheikhzad was arrested by the Virginia State Police and was released connected bond. The remaining 3 are expected to crook themselves successful soon, but their names person not been released, the Richmond constabulary said successful their statement.

Fraternity organizations person been nether aggravated scrutiny successful caller years, pursuing high-profile cases that person drawn the ire of anti-hazing activists and victims’ loved ones who accidental that the civilization of Greek beingness is unsafe and shrouded successful secrecy. In 2017, Timothy Piazza, a pupil astatine Penn State University, died aft helium became drunk, fell and was near overnight by fraternity members who knew helium needed assistance but failed to question it.

Chun Hsien Deng, an 18-year-old Baruch College freshman, died successful 2013 aft sustaining large encephalon trauma portion taking portion successful a fraternity hazing ritual.

“Bullying keeps you retired of a group; hazing is having to beryllium yourself to beryllium a portion of this group,” said Dennis Goodwin, a co-founder of Anti-Hazing Collaborative, an enactment devoted to preventing hazing among young people.

While galore fraternity members telephone 1 different “brothers,” Mr. Goodwin said helium didn’t deliberation students should beryllium portion of “families” that unit them to “do thing that could pb to death.”

Some anti-hazing activists said they are hopeful that prosecutions successful cases specified arsenic Mr. Oakes’s volition beryllium that these crimes are present taken seriously.

Rae Ann Gruver, the laminitis and president of the Max Gruver Foundation, has spent years trying to extremity hazing connected assemblage campuses. Her son, Max, died successful 2017 “as a nonstop effect of fraternity hazing,” the organization says online.

“The much and much these kids get prosecuted and indicted and really spot punishment, and that prosecutors are acceptable to prosecute them, that’s truly going to deter these kids,” Ms. Gruver said.

Many states’ hazing laws are classified arsenic misdemeanors, she said, which means little clip successful situation if convicted. If those laws alteration into felonies, nary young big “is going to privation that connected their record,” Ms. Gruver said.

In Virginia, wherever Mr. Oakes’s lawsuit is taking place, hazing is simply a misdemeanor.

“I bash deliberation fraternity office are getting much connected committee and truly having a no-tolerance argumentation and getting down to it, but it’s taking time,” Ms. Gruver said.

If idiosyncratic hazes, she said, “it is against the law, and you should beryllium prosecuted conscionable similar immoderate different crime.”

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