May 15—BOWLING GREEN — Following tradition, new pledges at a former Bowling Green State University fraternity were expected to swallow a full bottle of alcohol at an initiation event on March 4, and most did, vomiting into pre-staged garbage cans in the process.
It was during this event that Stone Foltz, 20, of Delaware, Ohio, drank a 750-ml bottle of Evan Williams bourbon, known as a "family bottle," in a reported 20 minutes, accidentally causing his own death, according to the executive summary of an official investigation into the hazing death.
"Despite explicit acknowledgment by each member of the University's prohibition on hazing and contrary to [Pi Kappa Alpha] guidance, witnesses described a tradition within the fraternity for encouraging new members to not just drink, but to finish or attempt to finish the family bottle," the executive summary said. It said the tradition went back at least to 2017.
The university issued new student conduct violation charges Friday following the conclusion of a special counsel's investigation into the circumstances that contributed to the death of the university sophomore.
Based on the report, the university has notified 21 students of violations of the Code of Student Conduct, according to Alex Solis, deputy chief of staff and university spokesman.
The charges include hazing; harm to others, including endangering another person; disrupting order and disregarding health and safety, including illegal furnishing, consumption and possession of alcohol; falsifying, distorting or misrepresenting information in the conduct process, and shared responsibility for infractions, including inciting, aiding and abetting a university policy violation.
"This is another step to ensure hazing is eradicated and that this tragedy that occurred at BGSU and similar tragedies at too many other universities never happen again," Mr. Solis said.
The report said that David DeVillers, a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio now of the firm of Barnes & Thornburg, was retained March 15 by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to investigate on the university's behalf.
The report said it found abundant evidence that pledges were expected to try to finish an entire bottle at the "Big Little" event planned for March 4, so-called because the pledges, known as "Littles" were to meet their mentors, "Bigs."
The new members were blindfolded with their neckties and then led single-file into the building's basement, through a "tunnel" of PKA members, while they were "mildly pushed around" and with lots of yelling and loud music.
There, new members were egged on and encouraged to finish the bottle. They were told to expect to be too hungover the next day to go to class. And the basement where the initiation rite took place was prepared with multiple garbage cans where pledges could — and most did — vomit.
"Statements by friends of Stone Foltz make clear that he was under the impression, in the days leading up to the Big Little, that he had to finish the family bottle as part of the PKA pledge process," the report said.
Witnesses said he finished the bottle in 20 minutes, and got sick at the event in an off-campus house where a number of members lived, 318 N. Main St., known as "Bando."
"A number of witnesses state that Foltz could not walk on his own and that PKA members helped him out of the house and into a car. Foltz was taken back to his apartment by two active members and one new member. It was stated that all three individuals helped Foltz into his apartment and onto a couch in the living room and stayed with him for a short period of time, before leaving him on the couch," the report said.
A short time later, Mr. Foltz's roommate arrived at the apartment to find Mr. Foltz alone and passed out on the couch. Mr. Foltz's roommate called other friends of Mr. Foltz's, three of whom arrived shortly after. Concerned about his breathing, they moved him so that he would be upright, and then minutes later called 911.
The young man was taken to the Wood County Hospital and then ProMedica Toledo Hospital where he was placed on life support and died two days later.
The coroner declared the cause of death fatal ethanol intoxication, and identified his blood-alcohol content as 0.35 percent.
The report said that eight of the nine new members drank alcohol at the Big Little. All but one was under 21. The majority of them drank all or nearly all of their "family bottle." One drank at least half and one pretended to finish by pouring some out. One person did not drink at all, citing an excuse that none of the interviewees could recall.
"Nearly all the members who drank got sick and vomited at least once that evening," the report stated.
The report said that none of the 32 people interviewed said they were told that finishing the bottle was a requirement for joining the fraternity. Nor did they find documentary evidence of the necessity of consuming an entire bottle. The report said it was cited "multiple instances" of new PKA members either not drinking or not finishing the bottle on the "Big Little" night.
In addition to the campus charges, seven individuals — six students and one former student — face criminal charges in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
Indicted for involuntary manslaughter are Jacob Krinn, 20, of Delaware; Troy Henricksen, 23, of Grove City, Ohio; Daylen Dunson, 20, of Cleveland; Canyon Caldwell, 21, of Dublin, Ohio; Niall Sweeney, 21, of Erie, Pa. and Jarrett Prizel, 19, of Olean, N.Y. Aaron Lehane, 21, of Loveland, Ohio, is charged with tampering with evidence. Charges against an eighth indicted person on hazing and other misdemeanor counts were dismissed. The seven individuals with indictments also face charges of hazing and failure to comply with underage drinking laws.
A hearing is set for Wednesday before Judge Joel Kuhlman in Wood County Common Pleas Court.
The Foltz family has filed suit in Franklin County against the fraternity.
First Published May 14, 2021, 11:17am