Charges have been filed in connection with the November 2018 death of Ohio University freshman Collin Wiant.
Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn made the announcement on Tuesday, listing charges that range from involuntary manslaughter, hazing and reckless homicide to drug trafficking and underage drinking.
Wiant was an 18-year-old freshman when he died on Nov. 12, 2018, after collapsing on the floor of an off-campus fraternity house, where several Sigma Pi members lived and hosted unofficial frat activities. Wiant had pledged Sigma Pi his first semester.
Of the nine men indicted by Athens County, seven of them were Sigma Pi members before the campus chapter was shut down in April. Two of the men charged were with Wiant at the time of his death, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
A coroner’s report determined the college student died of asphyxiation from inhaling nitrous oxide from a whippit: a small canister of the gas used in whipped cream dispensers. Whippits are often abused as recreational drugs.
These charges were six months in the making, according to Blackburn, who told PEOPLE he believes the alleged crimes stem from a cultural depreciation of repercussions.
“It’s easy to talk about this in terms of fraternity or sorority hazing, but what we see every day in criminal justice is this level of decision-making that is based on groupthink and compounding bad choices on top of another,” he said. “The way the culture has changed, it seems that so many people don’t appreciate the consequences of their actions.”
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He added: “And when we’re talking about young people, who have grown up in this video game, hit-reset-start-life-over culture, they don’t appreciate that these decisions they make have consequences.”
Since their son’s tragedy, Wiant’s parents have taken legal action to lobby for stricter requirements in reporting and enforcing hazing offenses.
“We know this is an important day in the process of making change, to change behavior and make sure this doesn’t happen to any other families,” Wiant’s mother, Kathleen, said following the announcement, according to the Dispatch.
She added: “We’re out to save lives, and to do that we need to make sure that we bring justice … but especially today we understand that there are no winners, and that is heavy on our hearts.”
The Athens Police Department did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. PEOPLE was unable to immediately identify representatives for the nine men who were indicted.
“The tragic death of Collin Wiant was devastating for our community, and it is encouraging to see progress being made in the criminal case,” Carly Leatherwood, a spokesperson for Ohio University, told PEOPLE. “Our thoughts remain with the Wiant family following the heartbreaking loss of their son last November.”
According to the Columbus Dispatch, documents related to the university’s own hazing investigations showed that Sigma Pi pledges were allegedly beaten with belts and punched. Pledges also reported that they were forced to drink, and Wiant reportedly told his brother and girlfriend that he was forced to use cocaine.
“We need to start at home,” Blackburn said. “… We need to appreciate the fact that this opportunity we’ve all been given to be here is precious, and we need to love one another, care for one another, and try to make this world a better place.”
The nine indicted individuals will appear before the Court of Common Pleas for arraignment.