Penn State

Beta Theta Pi fraternity investigation continues

One month after the death of a Penn State fraternity pledge, questions remain about exactly what happened.

“The investigation continues to be very busy,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “The many issues at play are being fleshed out. Physical evidence is being analyzed, medical issues are being answered and every moment of that evening is being reconstructed.”

Parks Miller could not confirm or deny that information on the death of Timothy Piazza, 19, was being presented to an investigating grand jury. Parks Miller called for such a grand jury in 2015.

Investigating grand juries are conducted confidentially. According to Pennsylvania law, prosecutors and other participants are not permitted to reveal information, although witnesses can. “All such persons shall be sworn to secrecy, and shall be in contempt of court if they reveal any information which they are sworn to keep secret,” the code reads.

However, the Centre Daily Times has obtained emails purportedly sent by Nittany Lions head athletic trainer and assistant athletic director Tim Bream, a Beta Theta Pi alum and adviser, to 13 people directing them to participate in meetings with police.

“I am reaching out to each one of you. Detective (Keith) Robb...would like all of you to come to the police station tomorrow Tuesday 2/14, before 4:30 in the afternoon. You are not in trouble. This has to do with the investigation,” the email, sent at 6:11 p.m. on Feb. 13, reads.

A follow-up a minute later assured the recipients that “it will not take very long.”

Bream did not respond to requests for comment.

Court documents paint a limited picture of the evening of Feb. 2, the night Piazza, a Penn State sophomore, attended a party at Beta Theta Pi’s chapter house on Burrowes Street.

State College police said Piazza fell down basement stairs at about 11 p.m. Court documents indicate police and ambulance responded to the fraternity at 10:49 a.m. the next day, when he was “found unconscious in the basement.” Fraternity members said they found him lying on the basement floor and that he was brought upstairs and had a “strong odor of beverage alcohol,” police detailed in the affidavit of probable cause used to obtain search warrants.

Piazza died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center on Feb. 4. A Dauphin County coroner ruled his death accidental, but the circumstances have been under investigation by both police and the university.

The university responded by shuttering Beta Theta Pi and locking down all “social activities” — meaning activities where alcohol is served — and recruitment by Greek organizations on campus as it investigated both alcohol and hazing. Beta Theta Pi’s charter was subsequently revoked.

“It is safe to say that Timothy’s unnecessary death is a top priority. This will be a thorough and complete investigation,” said Parks Miller.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce