What Happened The Night Of Beta Theta Pi’s Bid Acceptance Night
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller revealed the extent of the Grand Jury investigation into the death of Timothy Piazza at Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The Grand Jury’s Presentment, in addition to the charges against former brothers, includes a timeline of events that reveal that Piazza fell multiple times throughout the course of the night.
The night of Piazza’s fall was bid acceptance night at Beta Theta Pi, which included various hazing rituals, many of which are extreme and the details of which also included in the Grand Jury Presentment.
During these hazing rituals, Beta Theta Pi did not assign any designated sober brothers to care for the 14 pledges who ran the gauntlet, despite fraternity brother Ryan Foster saying bid acceptance night “always reaches a point where people need to take care of each other.”
The grand jury presentment also outlines Beta Theta Pi’s history of hazing rituals not just limited to bid acceptance night, including activities pledges were required to participate in during “hell week” — the week before they would be officially initiated into the fraternity.
One bid acceptance hazing activity featured a bottle of vodka passed down the line of pledges. If the bottle wasn’t emptied by the time it reached the last pledge in line, the last pledge would be required to finish all the remaining vodka. On the night Piazza fell down the steps, the bottle still contained so much vodka when it reached the last pledge that the pledge master (Daniel Casey) told the pledges to continue passing it up and down the line until they finished it.
The main event for Beta Theta Pi’s bid acceptance was a ritual referred to as “running the gauntlet” between various “drinking stations” the pledges were required to drink at. Fraternity brothers told the pledges to start the first stations one at a time and follow through the line.
Pledges were forced to take 10-second “pulls” from a bottle of Crowne Rouse vodka, shotgun beers, play a version of beer pong, and play a version of dizzy bat, which involves spinning around “a certain number of times” before drinking alcohol from the bat itself. Pledges were also required to drink from a wine bag and brothers poured beer on them as they moved through the stations.
After the gauntlet, the fraternity held a social with Trilogy, which is widely believed to be the underground re-convention of Delta Delta Delta sorority. Tri-Delt’s national chapter disbanded the organization at Penn State in 2009 for hazing violations.
Multiple Trilogy members told the grand jury alcohol was available at this social and the fraternity did not check IDs to verify if those attending were of legal drinking age. A pledge testified to the grand jury that brothers “walked around the house with wine bags encouraging pledges to drink” and had beer, vodka, and more wine available at the bar.
The presentment reviews surveillance footage in detail, explaining how each pledge went through the gauntlet and they all came back visibly intoxicated. At 10:40 p.m., footage shows fraternity brother Lars Kenyon helping Piazza walk from the area near the basement steps to a couch on the main floor of the fraternity house.
“Jurors saw Piazza staggering, while hunched over, evidently in the ‘care’ at that moment of Beta Brother Kenyon,” the presentment reads.
Less than five minutes later, another brother appeared to encouraged Piazza to stand up. He helped Kenyon walk Piazza through the dining room to the kitchen and then back to the living room, where they physically put him back on the couch.
At 10:45 p.m., Piazza is shown staggering toward the front door of the house without assistance. He could not open the front door, so he turned around and staggered back toward the basement steps, passing fraternity brothers Jerry Coyne and Luke Visser in the process.
Piazza’s falls down the basement steps were outside the frame of surveillance videos, but Detective Scicchitano told the grand jury about the evidence he collected throughout the investigation. Multiple brothers testified that they saw Piazza lying face down at the bottom of the staircase.
Footage later shows four fraternity brothers carrying Piazza’s seemingly-unconscious body back to the couch on the main floor of the fraternity house. They sat near him despite a visible bruise on his abdomen, according to the presentment.
Fraternity brother Greg Rizzo took off Piazza’s shirt and attempted to “administer what appears to be a sternum rub.” He also dumped liquid on Piazza’s face, but he did not appear to respond to any of these actions. Brothers took various measures to prevent Piazza from rolling over.
Brother Kordel Davis entered the video at 11:14 p.m., when he testified he was concerned for Piazza’s life and told the other fraternity brothers that they needed to wake Piazza up and call 911 immediately. Davis also tried to convince Vice President Ed Gilmartin to call 911 at this time, but Gilmartin told Davis he was crazy.
“He screamed at them to get help,” the presentment reads. “In response, at [11:15 p.m.], Jonah Neuman rose from the couch and shoved Davis into the opposite wall.”
Pledge Master Daniel Casey enters the frame at 11:25 p.m. and slaps Piazza in the face three times.
Fraternity brother Greg Rizzo put in a group message at 11:53 p.m., “Also Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair-first, going to need help.”
By 1 a.m. Friday, brothers in the room watched Piazza “vomit and twitch on the couch.” Fraternity brothers Ryan Foster, Jerry Coyne, and Joseph Ems placed a full backpack on Piazza so he couldn’t roll onto his back if he passed out.
Piazza rolled off the couch and onto the floor at 1:48 a.m., at which time the brothers picked him up and “slammed him onto the couch.” Ems hit Piazza on the abdomen.
Piazza rolled onto the floor again at 2:35 a.m., rolling around for the next 45 minutes or so until he attempted to stand up at 3:22 a.m., while Jerry Coyne can be seen standing nearby.
“The backpack comes off, but Timothy [Piazza] falls backwards and strikes his head off the hardwood floor,” the presentment reads. “Coyne attempts to shake him for a moment, but leaves the room.”
At 3:46 a.m., Piazza is shown on the floor in a fetal position with his knees to his chest. He attempts to stand again but falls face down onto the hardwood floor.
Piazza stands up at 4:59 a.m. and staggers toward the lobby of the Beta Theta Pi house, ultimately falling head-first into an iron railing leading to the second floor and landing on a stone floor. He attempts to reach the front door but falls again before he reaches it.
Fraternity brothers Jonathan Martines and Frederick Steimling came downstairs to get water at 5:15 a.m. and 5:26 a.m., respectively, and both ultimately left Piazza on the floor and stepped over him.
Fellow pledge Qobi Quainoo entered at 6:44 a.m. and apparently took a Snapchat video of Piazza on the floor. Quainoo charged his phone briefly and left the house at 7:12 a.m.
Piazza stands up once again at 7:18 a.m. and staggers toward the entrance to the basement steps. He then disappears from the video frame until approximately 10 a.m., when Daniel Erickson found him unconscious in the basement and he and another fraternity brother carried Piazza back upstairs.
Over the course of the next 42 minutes, footage shows fraternity brothers shaking Piazza, attempting to prop his body up on the couch, covering him with a blanket, wiping his face, and attempting to dress him. No one called 911 during this period.
Between 10:35 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., fraternity brother Ryan McCann used his phone to search the phrases “falling asleep after head injury,” “true or false, a person with a serious head injury or concussion should be kept awake,” cold extremities in drunk person,” and “binge drinking, alcohol, bruising or discoloration, cold feet and cold hands.”
McCann finally called 911 at 10:48 a.m. He did not tell the dispatcher that Piazza fell down the stairs or that the incident occurred the previous night.
Brothers attempted to dress Piazza before paramedics arrived “because they claimed Timothy might look better if he was dressed before medical treatment was rendered.”
“Eventually, Daniel Casey and Brendan Young arrived in the great hall,” the presentment reads. “Brendan Young immediately put his head in his hands and sat down on the adjacent couch.”