Thursday, September 29, 2011

Radford TKE's Charged in Alcohol-Hazing Death

7 indicted in connection with death of Radford University student

The misdemeanor charges against the men, all members of a fraternity, included hazing.

By Shawna Morrison

Seven men have been charged with hazing and supplying alcohol to an underage person in connection with the death last year of a Radford University student.

Samuel Harris Mason, 20, of Chesterfield County was found dead at a home on Fairfax Street the morning of Oct. 15.

A medical examiner found that he died of acute ethanol poisoning.

According to Mason's autopsy report, filed in Radford Circuit Court, his blood-alcohol content was 0.48 percent - six times the amount at which is it illegal to drive. The amount is described in the report as being "well above the lethal level."
A special grand jury heard testimony over three days earlier this month and handed up indictments against seven members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at Radford, Lt. Andy Wilburn said Monday.

The men named in the indictments are Dustin Lee Moore, Ryan N. Lawson, Chadwick Evancho, Christopher Michael Pizzi, William Taylor Burke, Christopher Scott Cothren and Louis Hoskins Trible.

Evancho was president of the Radford TKE chapter last year.

Radford University spokeswoman Christy Jackson said the only student whose enrollment for this semester could be confirmed is Cothren.

It was not clear Monday if the other men are still Radford students, and their ages and hometowns were unavailable Monday.

The charges are misdemeanors. Trial dates have not been set.

Police and Radford Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Rehak declined to specify Monday what the men are accused of doing that led to the hazing charge.

Mason had been seen drinking a bottle of liquor at a TKE party on Calhoun Street, according to affidavits filed by police last year in Radford Circuit Court.

Friends had escorted him to the Fairfax Street apartment and put him to bed "to sleep off the intoxication."

He was found later to have vomited in the bed, according to one affidavit.

Mason's mother told police that he was pledging the fraternity and that the party may have been part of the pledging process, the affidavit stated.

According to the medical examiner's autopsy report, with a person who is not a chronic alcoholic, vomiting and blackouts can occur when a person's blood-alcohol content reaches 0.20 percent, with coma and stupor developing at levels above 0.30 percent.

The report states that Mason also had developed acute alcoholic hepatitis, a liver condition that usually occurs after excessive prolonged drinking but can result from binge drinking.

Radford University placed the fraternity on probation shortly after Mason's death and it remains on suspension, Jackson said.

The international Tau Kappa Epsilon organization, based in Indiana, suspended the Radford chapter pending an investigation. The suspension continues because "the case is still open and ongoing," said Tom McAninch, director of communication for TKE.

"Our thoughts and hearts are going out to the Mason family," he said.

He said the organization does not condone hazing and has developed several programs to combat it.

He said TKE's membership is based on "personal worth and character" and that hazing "goes against everything that's in our fabric and our makeup."

The Radford chapter had been disciplined by the university in early 2010 for serving alcohol to underage students at a rush party. It was banned from recruiting new members, hosting social events or participating in intramural sports.

The sanctions were lifted when the organization showed compliance, and it was allowed to recruit new members when school began that fall.
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