Crime

Preliminary hearing begins for Beta Theta Pi fraternity members

A preliminary hearing for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity members charged for their alleged roles in the death of pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, began Monday morning at the Centre County Courthouse.
A preliminary hearing for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity members charged for their alleged roles in the death of pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, began Monday morning at the Centre County Courthouse. Centre Daily Times, file

A preliminary hearing for the Beta Theta Pi fraternity members charged for their alleged roles in the death of pledge Timothy Piazza, 19, began Monday morning at the Centre County Courthouse.

Braxton Becker, Michael Bonatucci, Daniel Casey, Gary Dibileo, Joseph Ems Jr., Ryan Foster, Edward Gilmartin III, Craig Heimer, Lars Kenyon, Nicholas Kubera, Ryan McCann, Jonah Neuman, Lucas Rockwell, Joseph Sala, Michael Schiavone, Luke Visser, Parker Yochim, Brendan Young and the Alpha Upsilon chapter of Beta Theta face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to tampering with evidence following a lengthy investigation into Piazza’s death and recommendations by the Centre County grand jury.

The members and their respective attorneys appeared in a full courtroom scene Monday. Foster and Gilmartin were granted early waivers, according to court documents, and were not in attendance.

An early attempt by the attorneys to have the preliminary hearings severed was denied by District Judge Allen Sinclair, who presided over the hearing.

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller called State College police Detective David Scicchitano to the stand, who testified for part of the morning on his findings during his investigation. Testimony included his observations of Piazza, who Scicchitano said he briefly observed before Piazza was flown from Mount Nittany Medical Center to Hershey Medical Center.

The court was shown photos of Piazza in the hospital, with obvious markings on his head, face and legs.

Scicchitano also testified about his observations of Piazza captured on the fraternity camera system, describing the drinking done by the pledges and Piazza’s subsequent falls.

“He looked dead,” Scicchitano said of the second time Piazza was carried up from the basement the morning of Feb. 4. “He looked like a corpse.”

The hearing broke for a brief recess at about 10:15 a.m.

Check back to www.centredaily.com for updates on this story.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews

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