No parent should have to go through this, Jim Piazza says
Details have been revealed regarding the timeline and severity of injuries suffered by Beta Theta Pi pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, from the evening of Feb. 2 until his death on Feb. 4.
All information was determined after a monthslong investigation by the Centre County grand jury and presented in its findings of fact. State College police Detective David Scicchitano testified before the grand jury that a complex, multicamera surveillance system installed in the Beta Theta Pi house recorded several common areas simultaneously.
Pledges reportedly ran through a gauntlet in the basement of the house and were made to drink several different forms of alcohol in a short period of time. Scicchitano testified that the “ritual” began at about 9 p.m. Feb. 2 with all Beta members and pledges gathered in the great hall. The video showed Piazza being handed vodka and beer at about 9:21 p.m. before moving on to the next station.
No further stations were captured, but by about 10:31 p.m. the video reportedly showed the pledges returning from the basement showing visible signs of intoxication. Piazza was seen on video “staggering with great difficulty in walking” being led around by fraternity members Lars Kenyon and Nick Kubera.
At about 10:45 p.m., the video reportedly showed Piazza stand up alone and stagger around before reaching the basement steps. Beta member Luke Visser was seen pointing in the direction of the basement as Piazza passed.
Grand jurors were told that in an interview with police, one member reported hearing someone fall and observed Piazza lying “face down at the bottom of the steps.” He group-messaged fellow members at 11:53 p.m. saying Piazza “fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”
Piazza was reportedly carried upstairs by four members at about 10:47 p.m. and placed on a couch, the surveillance showed. Video showed an unconscious, limp Piazza with a visible bruise on the side of his stomach.
One member testified that he recalled Piazza looked “horrible,” with a bruise on his chest and closed eyes. When informed he had fallen down the stairs, he said Piazza should go to the hospital, but was told to leave and that “they had it under control.” The brother reported his concerns to fraternity Vice President Ed Gilmartin, but was again ignored.
Different members attempted to physically rouse Piazza, the surveillance showed, including Daniel Casey, who was seen slapping him in the face. By 1 a.m. Feb. 3, the members observed Piazza vomit and twitch on the couch.
At 1:50 a.m., brother Joseph Ems punched Piazza in the abdomen, a decision that forensic pathologist Dr. Harry Kamerow testified may have exacerbated the severity of a spenic injury.
After 3 a.m., Piazza was observed on surveillance rolling off the couch and attempting to stand but fell and hit his head on the hardwood floor. A second attempt to stand later again caused him to fall face first. He was observed by several members over the next few hours who let him remain on the floor.
At 7:18 a.m., the presentment said, Piazza stood and staggered toward the basement steps. He’s not seen on video again until the frat members discover him on the basement floor at about 10 a.m. They did not call 911 until 10:48 a.m.
Through the testimony provided, the grand jury concluded that the severity of Piazza’s condition was obvious and noticed by the fraternity members and pledges. According to a review of medical records by State College police Lt. Keith Robb, Piazza was taken to Hershey Medical Center from Mount Nittany Medical Center and almost immediately taken into surgery to address his abdominal injuries, which revealed a laceration on his spleen and hemorrhagic shock.
The operating surgeon discovered 80 percent of Piazza’s blood in his abdomen, the presentment said. His spleen was determined to be shattered and was removed. A preoperative diagnosis revealed a subdural hematoma causing brain compression.
Piazza was pronounced dead at 1:23 a.m. Feb. 4 in the surgical intensive care unit, the presentment said.
Testimony by Kamerow revealed that a blood draw at MNMC showed Piazza’s blood alcohol content to be between 0.086 and 0.102 percent. Kamerow calculated that at the time Piazza was seen stumbling to the top of the stairs, his BAC would have been between 0.28 and 0.36 percent — a life-threatening amount of alcohol.