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Fraternity, 18 Members Charged in Penn State Student's Death

BALTIMORE (WJZ)--  Eighteen Penn State fraternity members are now facing of a slew criminal charges following the death of a student who was in the midst of joining the organization.

Eight of those members are also facing involuntary manslaughter charges.

New court documents reveal the dangerous conditions the student and other potential members were subjected to before his death.

Authorities say Timothy Piazza died Feb. 4 after falling down stairs numerous times inside the Beta Theta Pi house on Penn State's campus.

The investigation into his death revealed dangerous amounts of drinking and apparent disregard for his well-being.

"In honor of our son, we are committed to doing everything that we can to ensure that no other parents will have to go through the pain and grief we are currently experiencing," said Jim Piazza, Timothy Piazza's father.

Tim's parents opened up three months after the death of their 19-year-old son, following what authorities have called an "alcohol fueled" pledging ritual inside the Beta Theta Pi house on Penn State's campus.

A ritual investigators said ended with their son falling down flights of stairs several times seriously injuring himself.

Friday, the Centre County district attorney announced 18 members of the organization now face criminal charges.

Eight fraternity members are also looking at involuntary manslaughter.

"It's just heartbreaking all around, there are no winners. You don't win by even charging these young men because the only win is for him to be alive," said Stacy Parks Miller, Centre County district attorney.

Details of the investigation were released in new court documents that tell what happened the night before Piazza's death, including tales of pledges time and time again forced to drink heavily in what's known as a "Gauntlet."

They made the pledges, soon to be brothers, run from station to station, and drink enormous amounts of alcohol.

According to the charging documents, surveillance video shows Timothy's struggle after getting drunk. At one point one member saw him "lying on his stomach, face down at the bottom of the step."

They go on to say the video shows frat members carrying an unresponsive Timothy to a couch upstairs and one member "strikes [Timothy] him hard in the abdomen with his open right hand."

Authorities say despite many members having cell phones, more than 12 hours would pass before anyone called 911.

Beta Theta Pi lost its charter permanently on campus.

"This fraternity engaged in the most barbaric horrific hazing activities that anyone could conceive of," said Tom Kline, the Piazza family attorney.

One member "proceeds to slap Timothy three times in the face."

Penn State University's president called the incident "sickening and incomprehensible."

Beta Theta Pi International said their former members are entitled to the presumption of innocence as they face these charges but stand on the school decision to disband the organization on campus.

Despite touting itself as a dry fraternity, meaning no alcohol, investigators say they served frequently and to some under 21.

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