Austin Police Department still investigating mysterious death
Tyler Cross consumed enough alcohol to elevate his blood
alcohol content to more than twice the legal limit on the night he fell from a
fifth-floor balcony at the University Towers dormitory, according to a
toxicology report released this week by the Travis County Medical Examiner's
© Copyright 2007 The Daily Texan
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
University of Texas-Austin freshman Tyler Cross fell to his death from his fifth-floor dorm room Friday morning.
The shock of Cross' death continues to resound from
Marietta to Austin, where he attended college to be near his older brother.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 05/08/07 4:50 PM
Prosecutors are investigating a Texas fraternity after an 18-year-old pledge from Cobb County fell to his death last fall.
Tyler Cross of Marietta died Nov. 17 after falling five stories from an apartment balcony. He was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin.
Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said his office, which prosecutes misdemeanors, wants to know if hazing occurred at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, where Cross was a pledge.
“Whenever there is a death … we look at the entire initiation process,” he said.
Dr. David Dolinak, the Travis County medical examiner, said an autopsy revealed that Cross had a blood alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.
Debra Cross, his mother, said her son was “a great kid.”
She said friends and family have pledged money for a landscaped entry way leading to the lacrosse field at the Lovett School — Tyler played lacrosse at Lovett. People have also pledged money for a scholarship in his name at UT Austin, she said.
University of Texas Investigates Fraternity Member's Death
Tuesday , May 08, 2007 Top of Page
A University of Texas at Austin fraternity is being investigated for possible hazing after one of its pledges fell five stories to his death from a dorm balcony in November.
No charges have been filed against Sigma Alpha Epsilon or its members, and Travis County attorney David Escamilla would not say how many students are being targeted in the probe.
Tyler Cross, an 18-year-old freshman from Marietta, Ga., was found dead Nov. 17 on the front sidewalk of an off-campus dorm. Police said the Sigma Alpha Epilson pledge accidentally fell.
An autopsy report said Cross had a blood alcohol level of 0.19, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.
"We are certainly concerned from our investigation that hazing did take place throughout the school year, including that night," Escamilla said.
A person at the fraternity house said the organization would have no comment.
The death is the second in recent years involving a UT pledge.
In 2005, Lambada Phi Epsilon pledge Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath was found dead in the fraternity's off-campus house. His blood alcohol level was 0.41.
A Travis County grand jury in December indicted three Lambada Phi Epsilon leaders on multiple counts of hazing, and the school revoked the group's status as a student organization until 2011.
UT-Austin spokesman Don Hale said he couldn't comment on whether the university was doing a separate investigation into Cross' death or hazing.
10:16 AM CST on Tuesday, March 6, 2007
There is new information regarding the death of an 18-year-old UT student who fell from a fifth floor balcony at the University Towers last fall.
A toxicology report for Tyler Cross shows the UT freshman died from an accidental fall, but it also says his blood alcohol content was well over the legal limit.
Cross’ autopsy results show that he had a blood alcohol content of .19, more than twice the legal limit when he fell from his fifth story balcony. Now, the TABC wants to know where the 18-year-old got the alcohol.
Cross is described as a talented player on the lacrosse team for UT. The Georgia native was pledging the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity when he died last November. A person walking their dog at 5 a.m. in the morning found the freshman’s body.
While Austin police continue to investigate the circumstances leading up to Cross’ death, the TABC wants to know where the 18-year-old was able to get alcohol.
“Our role is to basically find the source of the alcoholic beverages, and to determine whether or not they were obtained from a licensed premise which sells alcoholic beverages, or from someone that was 21 or over that made it available to that minor,” said Robert Saenz, with TABC.
Cross is now the third student to die in West Campus in an alcohol-related death in little more than a year’s time. In December 2005, 18-year-old Phanta Jack Phoummarath was found dead of acute alcohol poisoning at a fraternity house. Then in August 2006, a St. Edwards University student, 19-year-old James Leonard, died at a party from a mixture of drugs and alcohol. His friend was charged with providing alcohol to a minor.
In this latest case, detectives want to talk to witnesses who may have seen Cross before he fell to his death.
“You try to look for receipts. Witnesses are always very key in our investigations,” said Saenz. “A lot of times, they're very difficult to come by, but witnesses are always very, very important to us. They're able to provide clues or facts for us about what happened or transpired that evening, to where we got to the point that there was a death or an accident or serious bodily injury.”
Cross’ roommates and some of his pledge brothers are cooperating with police.Providing alcohol to a minor is a class A misdemeanor that could mean up to a year in jail
06:31 PM CDT on Thursday, August 16, 2007
New information surfaced Thursday concerning the death of a University of Texas student last year.
The Travis County District Attorney's office is investigating whether the student, Tyler Cross, was a victim of hazing.
The 18-year-old fell to his death from a fifth story balcony last November at the University Towers dormitory. An autopsy later showed cross was legally intoxicated at the time.
A search warrant, filed by the county attorney's office and seeking information from Google, Inc, tells what happened before he died.
Investigators are gathering information that was shared online by members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fall 2006 pledge class at UT, of which Cross was a member.
In the affidavit, we learned pledge members told investigators they were assaulted by active members of the fraternity -- beaten with bamboo sticks and pieces of wood and forced to commit acts of theft.
These men also said the night Cross died he was assaulted, cattle-prodded and became very intoxicated due to the alcohol the active members supplied to him.
Investigators retrieved hundreds of pages of content from a Google Groups Web site set up by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fall 2006 pledge class
One member said pledges were told the "two most important rules for pledging were: "Don't talk about pledgeship" and "don't die."
"Witnesses are always very, very important to us," said Robert Saenz, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, in a previous interview with KVUE News. "They're able to provide clues or facts for us about what happened or transpired that evening to where we got to the point that there was a death or an accident or seriously bodily injury."
The attorney's office, which is working with Austin police and the TABC, is investigating whether charges of hazing and supplying alcohol to a minor will be filed.
No one at the fraternity house on West Campus would speak with KVUE News on camera. One person inside the house said the fraternity still has an active status on campus.
As of now, no charges have been filed in this case.
Officials at the county attorney's office say they hope to have this investigation wrapped up in the next month or so.
U.T. frat is facing criminal
UT, fraternity agree on initiation, party regulations
AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) -- Stemming from a student's 2006 hazing death, an agreement to reform a fraternity's pledge and initiation processes and social events was reached with the University of Texas Tuesday.
Tyler Cross, 18, was a Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge who fell five stories to his death from a balcony at the University Towers Dormitory. Austin police declared Cross' death an accident.
The agreement means some big changes will be coming to the fraternity and to West Campus.
The university said the fraternity was already on probation for a prior violation of hazing and alcohol use by minors during the pledging process at the time of Cross' November 2006 death.
"I think they have to have some restrictions on it if kids are dying, obviously, and they are sponsored organizations by the university," said student Matt Hall. "Something needs to be done about it."
"They recognize they violated university policy regarding hazing and alcohol, and they will start taking different actions corrective measures to prevent that at all costs," Vice President for Student Affairs Juan Gonzalez.
Provisions under the agreement include:
The university said the agreement is the first of its kind.
"This provides us a model for conduct on the part of our student organizations and Greek organizations," Gonzalez said.
Students said the agreement is more likely to get fraternity members to follow the rules, rather than kick them off campus.
"It's going to happen regardless of whether they are on campus or off campus," Hall said. "As long as they are on campus, the university has some way of at least trying to regulate what goes on. It's been happening since my dad was in a fraternity. I don't think it is going to change anytime soon."
The university said fraternity members have been disciplined.
SAE members declined requests from KXAN Austin News for an interview.
Read the entire agreement from the University of Texas Web site.
Allegations center around fall semester, when pledge Tyler Cross fell to his death from balcony.
Accused of a variety of abusive behaviors — including shocking prospective fraternity members with an electric cattle prod and burning the pledges with a hot clothes iron — three former members of a University of Texas fraternity were charged with misdemeanor hazing Friday, according to court documents.
The former members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon's UT chapter also face charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor, the first time that Travis County Attorney David Escamilla's office has levied that charge in a hazing case, Escamilla said. A fourth former member of the fraternity was charged with failure to report hazing, also marking the first time the office has pursued that charge, Escamilla said.
The charges stem from an investigation into the fraternity's activities during the 2006 semester when pledge Tyler Cross, 18, fell to his death off the balcony of an off-campus dormitory. The teen's death sparked the investigation, but none of the charges is directly related to his death. Claire Dawson-Brown, a Travis County assistant district attorney, said a joint investigation into potential felony crimes in Cross' death was conducted in conjunction with Escamilla's but uncovered no crimes.
Charged with hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors are: Chase Bolding, 23, who was fraternity president in 2006 and now lives in New York; Will Evans, 23, who was a "pledge trainer" and now attends the University of St. Thomas in Houston; and Austin Sherrill, 23, also a former pledge trainer and UT student. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is punishable by up to a year in jail and hazing by up to six months. Former Vice President Jimmy Berry, 23, was charged with failure to report hazing, which is punishable by up to six months in jail. He is now living in New York, Escamilla said.
Escamilla said the charges are "raising the ante against hazing." He said the cases are set for pleas Monday but declined to comment any potential plea agreements. Last year, three officers of UT's Lambda Phi Epsilon received probation after an investigation into the death of Phanta "Jack" Phoummarath, a freshman honors student from Houston who was found dead after an off-campus fraternity party Dec. 9, 2005.
Berry's lawyer, Allan Williams, said his client's involvement was minimal and he will receive a sentence of one year deferred adjudication, a form of probation.
Bolding's lawyer, Wayne Meissner, said his client is going to enter a plea Monday to accept responsibility for his actions but wouldn't say what the sentence is.
Meissner defended the conduct of the fraternity members as "part of the rite of passage of going to college" and said that none of the pledges complained about the hazing.
Lawyers for the other men could not be reached for comment.
The charges came just more than a week after the fraternity struck an agreement with UT that allows it to continue operating in exchange for changes to the process of initiating new members and conducting social activities.
According to affidavits filed by a county attorney's investigator, the hazing included an incident on Sept. 9, 2006, following UT's football game with Ohio State University, when the pledges were gathered in a University Towers dorm room.
Bolding, the president at the time, required a pledge to hold himself on a table on his elbows and toes, a position referred to as "bows and toes," and then turned the table over, sending the pledge falling to the floor, the affidavits said. Also during that meeting, Sherrill touched a hot clothes iron to the face of two pledges, causing minor injuries, and Evans made a pledge put his hand on a dart board while Evans threw darts at it, the affidavits said. The pledges were told not to go to class until the burns healed, they said.
At one event, the pledges were taken to a ranch and made to gather cacti with their bare hands, the affidavit said. There, Evans made three pledges eat Crisco shortening, made two eat cat food, made one pledge sit on a cactus and shocked several pledges with a cattle prod, the affidavit said.
Later in the semester, the fraternity held what members referred to as "jungle week" leading up to an annual party, the affidavit said.
One day, the pledges were required to carry large rocks across the fraternity house yard while members struck their backs and legs with bamboo sticks, the affidavit said. Some were shocked with an electric cattle prod, the affidavit said.
On Nov. 16, 2006, the end of jungle week and the night before Cross died, nine pledges were selected to participate in an activity called "Senior Boo" that began with the pledges being shocked with a cattle prod, the affidavit said. Later, the pledges, who were all under the legal drinking age, were given half-gallon sized bottles of tequila, whiskey and Rumplemintz liquor and encouraged to drink excessive amounts, according to the affidavit.
Bolding again made a pledge get into the "bows and toes" position and then kicked the pledge in the stomach, a blow described as a "field goal kick," the affidavit said.
About 4 a.m. Nov. 17, 2006, a person walking his dog found Cross, a freshman from Marietta, Ga., dead on the front sidewalk of University Towers, police said. He had fallen from a fifth-floor balcony, and an autopsy report said Cross had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit for driving in Texas.
A state judge in Texas has ordered a University of Texas at Austin fraternity chapter and its national parent organization to pay $16.2-million to the parents of a freshman pledge who died after falling, drunk, from his fifth-floor balcony two years ago, the Austin American-Statesman reported today.
Investigators said Tyler Cross’s death, at his off-campus apartment, followed a night of hazing by members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. In one of the rituals, pledges were reportedly given half-gallon bottles of hard liquor to drink. The authorities said pledges were also beaten with sticks and paddles.
Mr. Cross’s parents sued the fraternity in September. When neither the local nor the national group responded to the lawsuit, John Dietz, a district judge, issued the $16.2-million default judgment, according to Robbie Alden, a lawyer for the family. He said state law allowed the fraternity to seek a new trial if it could explain its failure to respond initially.
Representatives of the fraternity either did not return calls from the newspaper or could not be reached for comment. Four fraternity leaders pleaded no contest this year to charges in connection with the case and were sentenced to either four days in jail or deferred adjudication. —Katherine ManganPosted on Friday October 24, 2008
Associated Press Top of Page Article
Nov. 26, 2008, 11:29PM
AUSTIN — A state district judge has reversed a $16.2 million judgment against a fraternity sued by the parents of a pledge who died in an alleged alcohol-related hazing incident at the University of Texas.
District Judge John Dietz ordered a new trial in the case against the UT chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon and the fraternity's Evanston, Ill.-based national organization, the Austin American-Statesman reported in its online edition Wednesday.
The parents of freshman Tyler Cross sued Sigma Alpha Epsilon after their son fell from the fifth floor of his off-campus dormitory in November 2006.
Dietz issued the judgment against the fraternity after the national and local branches of the organization failed to respond to the lawsuit.
Fraternity attorney Jim Ewbank issued a statement saying Sigma Alpha Epsilon showed evidence that failure to answer the lawsuit was an accident.
"The case will now proceed as if the judgment had not been entered, and the defendants will have their day in court to prove that Tyler Cross' death was an unfortunate accident," Ewbank said in the statement.
Investigators said Cross and other pledges were given half-gallon bottles of liquor to drink. An autopsy showed Cross had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit of .08.
Following Cross' death, two former pledge trainers pleaded no contest to hazing and furnishing alcohol to minors.
Both were sentenced to four days in jail and given two years of deferred adjudication.
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