Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Report Out on U Texas Student Death

UT pledge who died in 2005 had anti-gay comments written on his body
Autopsy report shows freshman had blood-alcohol level of 0.41.

By Tony Plohetski

Members of a suspended University of Texas fraternity scrawled anti-gay comments and other derogatory phrases on a pledge who later died of alcohol poisoning, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday. The student, Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath, was found dead Dec. 10, 2005.

The body of Phoummarath also had a diagram of two people having sex, comments about his fitness and the names of at least two women when it arrived at the Travis County medical examiner's office, the five-page report said.

Former Travis County Medical Examiner Roberto Bayardo ruled that Phoummarath, an 18-year-old freshman from Houston, died of accidental alcohol poisoning. The report said he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.41.

Houston attorney Randy Sorrels, who is representing Phoummarath's family in a civil suit against the Lambda Phi Epsilon fraternity, said the markings are "unfortunately something that kids do now days that is degrading to those people who obviously have lost control of their mental and physical faculties."

According to the autopsy report, Phoummarath had "I'm gay" written on his right cheek, "FAG" on the right side of his head and the drawing of a female figure in a provocative pose. He also had black and green polish on his toenails and fingernails.

Sorrels said Phoummarath was not gay.

Officials with the Travis County attorney's office made the report public after acting on a request by the Austin American-Statesman.

The release comes a month after a Travis County grand jury indicted three leaders of the fraternity on multiple counts of hazing and serving alcohol to minors following a yearlong investigation into Phoummarath's death.

Authorities said they found that he had been subjected to months of physical and mental torture and that he and other pledges were expected to drink water and alcohol until becoming sick.

Court documents said that on the night Phoummarath consumed a fatal amount of alcohol, an unidentified pledge expressed concern about how much they were expected to drink but was told that fraternity brothers would take care of the pledges by "helping them vomit and giving them water."

Prosecutors also charged the fraternity with five counts of hazing and will seek to fine the organization up to $10,000.

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