Filling In The Gaps: What Happened In The Basement The Night Of Beta Theta Pi’s Bid Acceptance
Those following the Beta Theta Pi case surrounding Tim Piazza’s untimely death in February are likely already familiar with what happened [upstairs] the night of Beta Theta Pi’s bid acceptance. Thanks to the FBI and its recovery of previously deleted footage of the basement of the fraternity house, we now know more details of what happened on that level of the house on the night in question.
Before diagramming Piazza’s evening, it’s important to note the times listed on the video screen — and thus in the criminal complaints for those now charged — did not transfer over during the video recovery, thus the sequence of events prevails over the more specific timeline. The documents also distinguish rooms in the basement of the house as the “dance room,” the “home bar room,” and the “away bar room.”
When pledges first arrived at the house, they lined up in the home bar room and were led out of the room and presumably off-camera for 13 minutes before they returned and were led to the dance room by pledge master Daniel Casey.
Video then shows the pledges lining up and drinking from a handle of vodka in turn, followed by the “obstacle course” or “gauntlet,” which was described in detail in the grand jury presentment based on footage from the first floor and interviews of former brothers and pledges. The recovered footage specifically shows the version of beer pong pledges were required to play and all of the pledges lined up along one wall to shotgun a beer together.
Many of the new details center on the social the fraternity held after the obstacle course, which members of Trilogy, a THON organization widely believed to be the underground reconvention of Delta Delta Delta sorority, attended. According to criminal complaints, at least seven former fraternity members furnished alcohol to Piazza during this period — none of which he asked for or retrieved himself.
It’s during this social Detective David Scicchitano, who’s the lead investigator in the case, said he first saw on the recovered video that Piazza was visibly intoxicated. Though the timing isn’t precise, Scicchitano noted this at 9:54 video time, which would’ve been about 10:25 p.m. real time that night. Piazza staggered in the Home Bar room, was swaying, and drank more wine and beer.
For the next few minutes, Piazza staggered in the dance room through the crowded dance floor to the home bar room and into the hallway. He continued to the away bar room, but staggered back out and through the home bar room to the dance room. Near the stage, he walked behind Beta Theta Pi President Brendan Young and right into Casey. He then went to the back of the room and put his arm around two girls.
After chugging even more vodka straight from the bottle, Piazza staggers down the hall and back to the away bar room, past Lars Kenyon, who at first grabbed him but then let him continue down the hall. He then went back through the home bar room to the dance room and again put his arms around two girls. One of the girls got brother Donald Prior, who talked to Piazza. Joseph Ems then pushed him to the side of the stage.
The basement video shows Piazza staggering out of the dance room to the home bar room and back again. Kenyon then walks him down the hallway towards the steps. First floor 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.
Piazza fell down the basement stairs around 11:32 p.m. real time and was carried back upstairs to the first floor afterwards. Footage from the first floor described in the grand jury presentment details what happened over the next eight hours or so.
Piazza is next shown on basement footage “in the morning hours,” according to criminal complaints. He had no shirt on and no shoes on at that point, and staggered on his feet down the hallway and into the away bar room. A minute later, he’s seen on video on his hands and knees in the away bar room, burying his head in his hands on the floor. He sat up, got to his feet, and staggered behind the away bar, where he went out of view.
Almost twenty minutes later, Piazza is seen on his feet behind the away bar. He put his head down onto the bar and now has a black coat on. He then “went down” behind the bar and was no longer visible on the recovered footage.
Fellow Pledge Daniel Erickson walked past the away bar and looked toward the room about half an hour after Piazza went out of view, but he kept walking toward the stairs to the first floor of the fraternity house. 10 minutes later, the video shows Erickson walking down the hall and into the away bar room, looking behind the bar where Piazza was.
Brothers Kyle Pecci and Ryan Foster entered the room and went behind the bar, which Pecci moved out. The three of them lifted Piazza, who was unconscious and appeared stiff, and carried him toward the stairs.
Previous surveillance footage showed Erickson and the other brothers carrying Piazza upstairs around 10 a.m. Friday. Ryan McCann finally called 911 at 10:48 a.m.