Detective Describes Probe into Penn State Pledge’s Death - Higher Education
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Detective Describes Probe into Penn State Pledge’s Death

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by Mark Scolforo, Associated Press

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A police detective was questioned for a third day Tuesday about the events at a Penn State fraternity house earlier this year that led to the death of a 19-year-old pledge who died after a series of falls during a night of heavy drinking.

Lawyers for members of the now-shuttered Beta Theta Pi house have been pressing State College Police Detective Dave Scicchitano about his investigation into the pledge ceremony and subsequent party that preceded the Feb. 4 death of Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey.

Among the issues is whether Piazza, a sophomore engineering student, would have felt pressured into drinking as he and other pledges were directed through a series of drinking stations involving beer, wine and vodka.

Scicchitano said joining in the drinking was a “rite of passage and the way to get in” to the fraternity.

The defense attorneys have also questioned Scicchitano about whether Piazza fell down a set of basement steps the next morning or could have walked down. The detective said both scenarios are possible.

Fraternity members who found Piazza in the basement and carried him back upstairs waited about 40 minutes before calling 911. Piazza later died at a hospital, and authorities have said he suffered severe head and abdominal injuries, and had consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol.

The hearing is for the fraternity chapter and 16 of its members. Some are accused of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated assault, while others face less serious allegations. Two defendants waived the hearing.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said Tuesday the hearing, already in its third day, was likely to stretch another day or two, given the number of defendants. She said Scicchitano will be her only witness.

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The judge will decide if prosecutors have put on enough evidence to send the charges to county court for trial.

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