In LSU Hazing Case, Questions Remain: Who Hurt and Who Helped a Hospitalized Freshman?

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This much is settled: an LSU freshman wound up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning after a night of partying with his fraternity brothers, and police opened a criminal hazing investigation.

But the case is far from clear cut, particularly because some of the freshman’s own frat brothers helped him seek medical attention.

As investigators interview Phi Kappa Psi fraternity members about that night, they’re sorting members into different groups: Those who potentially put the freshman’s life in danger, and those who tried to rescue him. It’s another wrinkle in a case that has left LSU steeped in tragedy this week.

The freshman visited another student’s apartment before being hospitalized. She died by suicide just hours later. Both are from the New Orleans area; the young man is a Jesuit graduate, and the student who took her own life is a Dominican grad.

After an evening of late-night revelry, the stories of two LSU underclassmen took a tragic turn on Monday.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Thursday that a few fraternity members have declined to be interviewed thus far, but said that most have cooperated. The freshman has also been released from the hospital.

It remains unclear whether any fraternity member’s actions will meet the definition of criminal hazing under state law. A complicating factor — in addition to the fact that some of his brothers may have helped save him — could be whether the freshman cooperates with investigators. It’s unclear whether he has cooperated thus far.

Few details have emerged about the investigation or the chain of events that took place that night since LSU officials on Tuesday announced their decision to temporarily suspend Phi Kappa Psi. The national fraternity’s executive director said members are awaiting the results of the criminal investigation, and that they are cooperating.

Louisiana State University’s fraternities have faced accusations for decades that they are hotbeds of hazing, binge drinking, and misconduct.

“We have proactively suspended the chapter until the investigation is complete,” said the director, Ronald Ransom. “Separately, we offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the young woman who died.”

The partying that night took place at an off-campus location, not Phi Kappa Psi’s frat house. The freshman who was later hospitalized planned to sleep off his bender at the young woman’s apartment, at Arlington Cottages and Townhomes. But some fraternity brothers — who may not have attended the gathering — noticed afterward that he was dangerously intoxicated, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation.

They decided he needed medical attention, but by that time, he had already gone inside the young woman’s apartment. The brothers banged on the door, to no avail. They then found an open downstairs window, climbed inside, collected their friend, and brought him to the hospital, the sources said.

Several hours passed, and investigators are still probing what happened in the meantime. Questions remain about who was in contact with the young woman, and what was said in those conversations.

Her roommates told police they had expressed concern about some of her recent choices, including her relationship with the freshman who was eventually hospitalized. They then left for about 45 minutes, according to police, and returned to find that she had taken her own life in their apartment.

Her family held a funeral Mass on Thursday at St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Metairie, where the Rev. Timothy Hedrick discussed the shock of losing her. He explained the difficulty of questioning what led to her suicide.

“The church does not judge and the church does not condemn [her],” the priest assured her family and several hundred online viewers. “Because we don’t know what led her to make that decision, and if she had the freedom to know what she was doing and the freedom to choose it … It’s important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and nothing is impossible for God.”

It was the second funeral the church held in recent weeks for an LSU student from the New Orleans area. Earlier this month, family and friends laid to rest André Navarre, 21, after he died in a car crash. He was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

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