Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller filed new charges against 17 individuals Monday morning based on evidence the Commonwealth found in recovered surveillance footage from the basement of Beta Theta Pi fraternity on bid acceptance night.
Former Beta Theta Pi brother Braxton Becker allegedly deleted the footage from the basement manually on the security footage system at that point, while the police were present at the fraternity house.
But was it a split-second decision? Maybe not. Court documents reveal text messages Braxton Becker sent and received leading up to Monday, February 6, when the video was deleted.
The first messages included were exchanged on Friday, February 3, after Tim Piazza was taken to the hospital but before he was pronounced dead. Adam Mengden was a financial officer for the fraternity, according to the criminal complaints.
And so begins the cover-up. Before Piazza’s tragic fate is even sealed, his supposed-to-be future “brothers” are discussing how to delete the evidence and cover up what happened without the police finding out. This message is probably the most damning of all those included.
The next messages are from that Friday as well, between Becker and Sima, who court documents identify as his girlfriend.
Becker was well aware that what happened to Piazza would be deemed hazing by the police, and he seemed to know of the dim outlook for those involved.
These messages between Becker and pledge master Daniel Casey were also sent on the Friday that Piazza was taken to the hospital.
The two were optimistic that the police only retrieved footage showing what happened from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Friday; they thought the obstacle course would be excluded from the investigation. Little did they know the extensive study of the footage that was to come with the grand jury investigation.
Becker texted Jeff Stillwell on Saturday, February 4, after it became known that Piazza had died from the injuries he sustained falling down the fraternity basement steps.
Stillwell isn’t identified by any other title in criminal complaints; he’s not one of the 26 individuals now charged in the case.
The final messages included are from Becker to Sima, sent on Sunday, February 5 — the day before the basement surveillance footage was deleted.
It’s unclear exactly what happened that night when Beta Theta Pi President Brendan Young asked Becker to see “something on the cameras.”
We know the basement surveillance footage wasn’t deleted until Monday morning. But we still don’t know when the decision was actually made.