BOULDER, Colo. -- The family of the University of Colorado student who died of alcohol poisoning last month are considering filing a civil suit in the case, saying that his fraternity brothers didn't help him but instead scrawled slurs all over his body.
The family of "Gordie" Bailey Jr. said they are unsure who would targeted by the suit or on what grounds, but are considering suing the fraternity, the individuals involved and the university.
Bailey was found dead in the Chi Psi house following a night of heavy drinking as part of a fraternity initiation.
A coroner revealed that after Bailey had passed out, his fraternity brothers marked up his arms, legs and trunk with racial and sexual slurs, said the young man's father, Lynn Gordon Bailey.
"This reinforces the nearly unbearable pain of the whole thing," Bailey said. "Was he dying while they were writing that?"
Bailey said the phrasings on his son's body include "It sucks to be you," and "(Expletive) me." He also said the were also drawings of male genitalia on his son's body and the word "B***ch" on the fingers of his right hand.
When it became apparent that the 18-year-old was not breathing, and police were going to be called in to investigate, someone tried to wipe off the slurs that were written on his face with a felt-tip marker, police said.
Some local fraternity members have declined to cooperate with police and some have hired lawyers, which has impeded the investigation, Boulder police said.
CU's Chi Psi fraternity's was shut down this week at the request of the university.
Bailey's death last month and three similar deaths around the nation have focused attention on drinking at fraternities and among students in general.
"We still don't see any leadership from the university. They have not proposed any change in the system -- but the system is killing our kids," said Michael Lanahan, Gordie Bailey's stepfather. "This is not about binge drinking; it's about hazing at fraternities. How lucky is Chi Psi that 26 pledges survived?"
CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said the administration is "continuing to work with the fraternity and sorority leaders to assess all aspects of Greek life, including the role of alcohol in social activities."
Bailey and the other pledges had begun the evening Sept. 16 blindfolded and abandoned in the woods near Gold Hill. Police said the pledges were told to drink large amounts of Ten High whiskey and Carlo Rossi wine.
Later, when they were driven back to the fraternity house after midnight, Bailey had passed out. Fraternity tradition called for members to write on the body of any pledge who passed out without taking his shoes off, a police search warrant said.
The next morning Bailey was found face down on the floor, and could not be revived. His blood-alcohol level was 0.328 percent, four times the legal limit for driving in Colorado.
The coroner told Bailey's father that the alcohol had created a massive depressant that shut down his son's central nervous system.
The death came less than two weeks after the death of Samantha Spady of Beatrice, Neb., a 19-year-old sophomore at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She died of alcohol poisoning after consuming 30 to 40 beers and vodka drinks in 11 hours, authorities said. Her body also was found in a fraternity house.
Bradley Kemp, 20, died earlier this month after drinking with fraternity brothers at the University of Arkansas. Officials said he died of an accidental overdose after mixing cold medicine and alcohol.
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- The
stepfather of a student who died of alcohol poisoning after a fraternity ritual
said University of Colorado officials need to get control of the fraternity
08:29 PM CST on Thursday, March 3, 2005
DEERFIELD, Mass. – To those who knew him, Lynn Gordon Bailey Jr. was a revelation, a bold inspiration.
"It wasn't just that he was the nicest kid you could ever meet," says Alex Berg, a fellow graduate of Deerfield Academy. "Maybe it was because he lived every minute of his life like it was his last."
So it came as a shock to this quaint community, nestled in the red and gold foothills of western Massachusetts, when the news from the Rocky Mountains made its way here Sept. 17.
Gordie, an 18-year-old freshman from Dallas who once attended St. Mark's School of Texas, had been found dead in the Chi Psi fraternity house at the University of Colorado. He had passed out, police say, after drinking alcohol as part of a fraternity initiation rite.
He and 26 other pledges had been blindfolded and left in Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest, in the thin air 1,500 feet higher than the campus in Boulder. He hadn't eaten, and he was dehydrated: Hours earlier, after a grueling practice, he had captured a spot on the school's lacrosse team.
Around sunset, police say, Gordie and the other pledges were given four bottles of Ten High whiskey, followed by six bottles of Carlo Rossi wine. Back at the fraternity house, Gordie passed out. Because he did so with his shoes on, fraternity members drew on his face with a Magic Marker. He was left unattended for five hours.
And then at 8:57 a.m., a fraternity member found him facedown on the floor next to a couch. Unable to revive him, a Chi Psi identifying himself only as "Cal" telephoned 911. It was too late.
Now, distraught friends and former professors are asking, "What happened?" How could a big teddy bear of a kid never known as a problem drinker end up dead? And can his death be used to prevent others in the future?
"If you got to know Gordie, he was anybody's kid," says his stepfather, Michael Lanahan, chief executive officer of Greystone Communities. He and wife Leslie Lanahan, Gordie's mother, live in North Dallas.
In late September, friends and family honored Gordie in emotional services in Dallas and Deerfield. The St. Mark's service alone drew more than 1,000 mourners. K. Derek Thomson, Gordie's lacrosse coach at St. Mark's, says several of his former teammates have tattooed his initials on their upper arms as a permanent reminder of their fallen friend.
"One of the reasons there was such an outpouring of emotion at St. Mark's," says Mr. Lanahan, "is that so many of those parents were saying, 'This could have been my kid.' "
A national problem
Gordie was the second Colorado college student to die under such circumstances in less than a month. Samantha Spady, a 19-year-old sophomore at Colorado State University, was found dead Sept. 5 after consuming what police say was 30 to 40 drinks.
Both deaths have drawn national attention. Researchers say as many as 1,400 students die each year in alcohol-related incidents.
Boulder police spokeswoman Julie Brooks on Friday questioned "the mind-set that validates drinking to the point of coma and death, all in the name of having a good time. Young adults may see drinking as part of growing up, but developing responsibility is also part of that process."
At the moment, litigation is not a part of the Lanahans' plans, but they are demanding that the University of Colorado and other schools take action.
On Wednesday, CU Chancellor Richard Byyny announced that incoming freshman won't be allowed to "rush" and may have to wait until their sophomore year. He also asked the national office of the Chi Psi fraternity to revoke the charter of the local chapter, which had been suspended, pending the fraternity's investigation into Gordie's death.
"I don't think anyone would knowingly want to kill Gordie Bailey, and yet, every step along the way, that was what was happening," says Mr. Lanahan. "What we would like to see is that all the people in positions of leadership do the responsible thing – and maybe the hard things – and put some protections in place for the next boy or girl who's put in a situation like that."
Sam Bessey, executive director of the national Chi Psi fraternity in Nashville, Tenn., met with the Lanahans on Sept. 18 and attended Gordie's memorial service in Dallas.
"There is a lot of tough work ahead," says Mr. Bessey. "Leaders of fraternities and sororities and anyone with a stake in the lives of college students and higher education in general should realize we have a serious problem to address when it comes to alcohol consumption."
On occasion, Gordie had been known to have a beer or two, his parents say, but he hated the taste of liquor and did not have a drinking problem. A big guy – 6 feet, 230 pounds – he loved life and was trusting to a fault.
In July 2003, Gordie Bailey (right) took a trip to Rome with his mother, Leslie Lanahan; his stepfather, Michael Lanahan; and his sister, Lily Lanahan.
He cherished being part of an elite "band of brothers" at Deerfield and may have made a fatal error, his stepfather says, in assuming he had been blessed with an equally loving band of brothers in Boulder.
A sheltered world
Gordie's father lives in Idaho. After his parents separated, he moved with his mother to Dallas when he was 3. He attended The Lamplighter School and St. Mark's until 10th grade, when he transferred to Deerfield.
The subject of two books and one movie, Deerfield has a reputation for greatness. Its alumni include King Abdullah II of Jordan and writer John McPhee.
Parents pay handsomely. Tuition costs more than $30,000 a year, but total expenses, according to the school's Web site, run about $60,000 a year.
Those who know the school say it's a loving but highly sheltered environment in which students and teachers share a deeply felt bond. As his mother says, Gordie and his friends had already concluded that "the real world was not going to be the same."
Deerfield also champions versatility; Gordie was a prime example. He played football and lacrosse, sang and danced and starred in plays, and even founded the "Hugging Club." His stepfather interrupted his eulogy here to ask the audience to hug the person next to them in honor of Gordie.
"Gordie was a golden retriever. He just loved everyone," says Lee Wicks, the secretary of Deerfield Academy. "I don't think it was within his frame of reference at all to think that anyone could lead him into harm's way. He had been so loved by family and friends here at Deerfield. So what experience had he ever had with any group of people who would put him into harm's way?"
He was so trusting, she says, that Gordie would have given his newfound friends every benefit of every doubt. It had been that way in Deerfield, so why wouldn't it be that way in Boulder?
"Even if whatever was going down seemed a little scary, well, Gordie would trust," says Ms. Wicks. "Because he was trustworthy, and because he didn't have any meanness in him."
David Marcus, a journalist who spent last year as a fellow at Deerfield and who was Gordie's adviser on the school paper, says Gordie was the embodiment of the modern prep school ideal. "He was a teenage Renaissance kid – a wonderful athlete, good student, talented performer, columnist for the newspaper and an icon on campus.
"High school is usually about separating into cliques, so it's astounding to see someone whose friendships span all the groups: boys and girls, jocks and theater techies, Republicans and Democrats, whites and blacks," he says.
Drama teacher John Reese said in his eulogy: "I don't believe I have ever known a student in my 36 years of teaching that had a sunnier disposition – as you all know, Gordie's was the brightest. And there wasn't a mean bone in his body to boot."
Band of brothers?
The truth is, Gordie never wanted to go to CU. His mom says he was a B to B-minus student who applied to nine colleges and was accepted by one – CU.
From left: Gordie Bailey, Brooks Scholl and Alex Berg were the varsity football captains for Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts in 2003.
He hoped to transfer as soon as he could, she says, with an eye toward Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., so he could be closer to his "brothers" from Deerfield. He had been at Boulder only two weeks and was hoping Chi Psi would give him a niche among nearly 30,000 students.
"To some extent, he was blindsided by what he thought was this new band of brothers," says Mr. Lanahan. "And they were not. They weren't really brothers in terms of looking out for people they were entrusted with protecting."
In the aftermath of his death, his mother and stepfather hope his legacy will be one of change – change that can save lives.
"We simply won't accept the status quo," says Mr. Lanahan. "If six more fraternity brothers have to die of alcohol poisoning, when are we all going to say, 'This is enough'?"
Bailey was the second student found dead in a Colorado fraternity this month. Samantha Spady, a 19-year-old sophomore at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, died of alcohol poisoning at the Sigma Pi fraternity on Sept 5. She died with a blood alcohol level of .436 -- five times the legal limit for driving. An autopsy determined that she had 30-40 drinks in an 11-hour period.
An 18-year-old University of Colorado freshman found dead in a fraternity house Friday morning has been identified as Lynn Bailey Jr. of Dallas.
There was no obvious sign of trauma, but investigators had not yet determined the cause of death, Boulder police spokeswoman Julie Brooks said.
An autopsy was pending.
Bailey's body was found in a common area of the Chi Psi fraternity house after police received a 911 call early Friday, Brooks said. Students who live near the fraternity, located across the street from the campus, said they believed there was a small party at the house late Thursday.
"They're cool guys," said 20-year-old Derek Kellogg, who lives three houses down from the fraternity and pledged the house when he was a freshman two years ago. "They're definitely rowdy guys, but who isn't?"
Campus Chancellor Richard Byyny said the Chi Psi chapter had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
In a separate incident early Friday, Boulder County sheriff's deputies pulled over a charter bus for speeding on U.S. Highway 36 and discovered members of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity had been drinking.
The fraternity members were returning to Boulder from an outing in Denver, sheriff's spokesman Vincent Montez said in a statement.
Eighteen of the bus' passengers were cited for underage drinking after it arrived in Boulder, Montez said in a statement.
Fraternity members gathered outside the majestic, white-pillared chapter on Friday and some were escorted into the building by police to retrieve their belongings. None would talk with reporters.
The death comes less than two weeks after the death of Samantha Spady, a 19-year-old sophomore at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Authorities Friday said she died of alcohol poisoning at the Sigma Pi fraternity on Sept. 5 of alcohol poisoning.
Investigators said Spady, of Beatrice, Neb., had drunk the equivalent of up to 40 beers and vodka in 11 hours.
The Boulder school has been stung by recent events tied to alcohol: It was dubbed the nation's top party school by the Princeton Review and its football program was recently criticized for the use of sex, drugs and alcohol by player-hosts during recruiting visits.
Byyny said the circumstances surrounding Bailey's death were still unclear.
"These kinds of events are always shocking and we worry about the grief of the young man's family and friends," Byyny said. "In light of recent events in Colorado and the nation, we worry about the possible role of alcohol. When we as a university learn decisive facts, we'll take appropriate action."
Students already can face suspension and in some cases expulsion for off-campus violations, such as underage alcohol possession and misdemeanors. Some students fear the school would further clamp down.
"It's outside my school responsibilities, on a weekend at my own house," said 20-year-old student Nate Ebbs. "It sucks that we can get disciplined (for off-campus violations).
Coroner: blood-alcohol level 0.328
Aimee Heckel, Camera Staff Writer
Lynn Gordon "Gordie" Bailey Jr., would've had to drink the equivalent of almost a half a handle of whiskey — 17 shots — in 30 minutes during a fraternity function that resulted in his death, based on preliminary autopsy results.
The Boulder County coroner ruled Monday the 18-year-old Chi Psi pledge died of alcohol poisoning in the fraternity house Sept. 17. No drugs or foul play were involved. The coroner said Bailey's blood-alcohol level was 0.328 — below 0.40, typically considered the lethal threshold.
"Obviously, there's no magical number," said John Meyer, Boulder County forensic pathologist.
Bailey's blood-alcohol level was 0.108 lower than that of Colorado State University sophomore Samantha Spady. She died of alcohol poisoning Sept. 6 with a BAC of 0.436. Officials estimated she drank 30 to 40 alcoholic beverages over 11 hours.
Boulder police said recently they were awaiting results of Bailey's toxicology tests in deciding whether to bring charges. Spokeswoman Julie Brooks said Monday investigators won't decide for several days or weeks whether to cite anyone.
Chi Psi national officials plan to rule in the next few days whether to shut CU's chapter down.
"This was one of the final pieces that we had been waiting for to complete our investigation," said Donald Beeson, risk management administrator for Chi Psi headquarters.
Bailey's family declined to comment on the coroner's report Monday night.
"I do not look at it scientifically. The end result has been made clear to all of us. ... The fact remains that Gordie is just not with us today," Andrew Freedman, a friend of the family, said from Bailey's parents' Dallas home Monday evening.
Police said members of the Chi Psi fraternity took Bailey and other pledges to a campsite near Gold Hill after a pledge ceremony at 6 p.m. Sept. 16. Police said members brought four handled bottles of 80-proof Ten High Bourbon Whiskey and six 1.5-liter bottles of Carlo Rossi wine.
Police said pledges and members drank for 30 minutes before returning to the fraternity house, where they drank beer. Bailey's friends said he didn't drink back at the house.
Online blood-alcohol calculators show the 230-pound student would've had to consume 17 shots of whiskey or 25.5 glasses of 20-proof wine in 30 minutes for his blood alcohol to reach its fatal level. That's 0.75 of a liter of whiskey — nearly half of the 1.75-liter handle — or two bottles of wine.
Pathologist Meyer and Coroner Tom Faure refused to comment on Bailey's specific case.
However, Meyer said how much a body can take before shutting down depends on how fast and what a person drinks, as well as the person's tolerance level. Some people can die with alcohol levels in the 0.20s, while longtime alcoholics can tolerate up to the 0.60s, he said.
Shortly after Bailey's death, his family said he wasn't a big partier.
Meyer also said blood-alcohol levels can fluctuate over time and possibly by 10 percent after death. He said the death may not occur at the level's highest point.
In most alcohol-poisoning deaths, Meyer said the brain slows breathing down until it stops. People also can choke on their vomit, he said, but that usually is classified differently on autopsy reports. Bailey's final autopsy won't be released for several weeks.
During the 911 call the morning Bailey died, his friends said he had dried vomit on him.
CU Chancellor Richard Byyny said in a written statement the coroner's report "tragically underscores the dangers associated with the misuse and abuse of alcohol." CU is looking at intensified educational programs and changes in Greek life.
In addition to the two Colorado deaths, two other students were recently found dead inside fraternity houses — one in Arkansas and another in Oklahoma. Alcohol was involved in both deaths, officials said.In 1995, 318 people ages 15 to 24 died from alcohol poisoning, many of them after a night of binge drinking at college, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Court rules damages limited by number of claims in suit
Rob Ryan Top of page
Issue date: 1/23/08
While the case of Lynn Gordon Bailey is still being tried, the matter of how much his family can receive from the suit has been settled.
The Colorado Supreme Court ruled on Monday Jan. 21 that Leslie Lanahan, Gordie Bailey's mother, can receive a maximum of $250,000 in accordance with the Colorado Wrongful Death Act.
The opinion of the court, delivered by Justice Allison Eid, said that Lanahan was not entitled to additional compensation because the maximum damages amount allowable per claim is $250,000.
Lanahan filed a Rule 21 petition arguing that she should be entitled to $250,000 per defendant for a potential total of $2,250,000, but the court ruled that the language of the WDA caps the total at $250,000 because it is a single claim being filed.
Bruce Jones, partner at the Holland and Hart firm, which is Denver based, and Lanahan's attorney in the case, said plaintiffs can recover damages from multiple defendants in cases where injury results, but the language of the WDA sets strict limits on how much a plaintiff can be awarded.
"In cases involving personal injury that do not result in death, non-economic damages can be recovered on a per defendant basis," Jones said. "I think it's a rather sad comment that if several people injure somebody they're all liable, but if they take it to the extreme and cause death they have to split $250,000 among them."
David Mayhan, an attorney at the Denver firm of Wells, Anderson and Race and attorney for former Chi Psi President Patrick Wall in the case, declined to comment saying that he did not wish to speculate on a pending case.
"The plain language of section 13-21-203(1)(a) C.R.S. (2006), bars a plaintiff from recovering more than $250,000 in non-economic damages in any wrongful-death action regardless of the number of defendants," according to the brief filed by Wall's attorneys in response to Lanahan's petition.
The case was scheduled to be in trial court this March but was delayed following Lanahan's petition. Jones said that Lanahan is not planning on any further appeals and that the focus is now on winning the case in trial court once the date is set.
"The case is back in trial court now, we're ready to go," Jones said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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