Sunday, August 26, 2007

Investigation of Death of UT SAE Continues

Hazing linked to Cross death
County Attorney's Office seeks online documents after witness' testimony
By M.T. Elliott

A search warrant filed by the Travis County Attorney's Office reveals the county is investigating hazing in connection with the 2006 falling death of a UT fraternity member.

The county attorney's office filed the warrant to retrieve documents from Google Inc. for details of a user group created for Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges.

The Internet company turned over a CD containing more than 500 pages of content from the pledge group's site.

Tyler Cross, an 18-year-old Georgia native, died on Nov. 17, 2006, after falling from the fifth-story balcony of his West 24th Street apartment. Cross was part of the fall 2006 pledge class of the fraternity his freshman year.

According to the warrant, one pledge informed investigators that pledges for Sigma Alpha Epsilon were told the two most important rules were "don't talk about pledgeship" and "don't die."

The warrant cites details provided by eight pledge class members, alleging that they and Cross were not only physically hazed, but given alcohol at a fraternity function the night Cross died.

The county medical examiner reported Cross had a blood alcohol level of .19 when he died. The warrant also cited findings in the autopsy report regarding "bruising on [Cross'] buttocks that were inconsistent with falling from a balcony.

"The SAE house is roughly one block north of Cross' apartment. Multiple pledges said Cross and other pledges were struck with bamboo and supplied with large amounts of alcohol by active members of the fraternity.

Bamboo is prominently featured in the "jungle" themed parties held by SAE chapters at the end of their pledge period. Previous interviews indicated Cross had assisted in building structures for that party the night he died. After Cross' death, the fraternity subsequently canceled that weekend's events.

Members of the pledge class and the current SAE president did not answer phone calls or declined to comment Thursday.

The investigation is ongoing. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is also investigating the role alcohol had in the events that night.

The Office of the Dean of Students refers all comments regarding Sigma Alpha Epsilon to Don Hale, vice president for public affairs. Hale did not return a phone call before press time.

Earlier this month, UT President William Powers said that the University was conducting a "very active investigation," but could not comment further.

Tim Samp, risk management director for the fraternity's national chapter, said they would await the University's investigation before taking any action of their own. In previous interviews Stamp said they viewed the incident as an accident but unrelated to the chapter.
© Copyright 2007 The Daily Texan

Hazing linked to Cross death