Charlotte native among 10 charged in drinking death of LSU frat pledge

By: Alexis Stevens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution , Joe Bruno

Updated:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Sporting a black T-shirt and handcuffs, Charlotte resident Zachary Hall was guided into a patrol car fresh off being charged with hazing.

Hall is one of 10 Louisiana State University fraternity brothers of Phi Delta Theta facing charges related to Max Gruver's death. The freshman from Roswell, Georgia, was pledging the fraternity.


(Zachary Hall)

Eight students and two men not enrolled in the university were charged for their roles in the hazing incident.

Hall's lawyer told Channel 9 his client has done nothing wrong

“Unequivocally and without any reservation, I can say Zach was not involved in any inappropriate or illegal conduct,” said attorney J. David Bourland.

In this Sept. 14, 2017 photo, Louisiana State University Police investigate the death of Louisiana State University student Maxwell Gruver as a possible fraternity hazing incident, at an on campus fraternity house, Phi Delta Theta in Baton Rouge, La.
Hilary Scheinuk/AP

Warrants obtained by Channel 9 said Hall was an active participant last month when pledges were called to the frat house to answer questions about the fraternity.

Several pledges told police they received a group text message stating there would be "Bible Study" at the house Sept. 13. Investigators seized a cellphone belonging to the fraternity member who sent the text message.

Police also found devices that may have captured video footage inside the fraternity house during the time of the events, police said. 

Documents said the pledges were forced to drink every time they answered a question wrong.

Investigators said after heavy drinking, frat brothers laid Gruver on the couch and then left. When they came back the next day, they found him still there with a weak pulse.

Gruver died at the hospital Sept. 14. The coroner says his blood alcohol content was .496, more than six times the legal limit for drivers.

An autopsy determined Gruver died from acute alcohol intoxication with aspiration. 

Preliminary tests showed a highly elevated alcohol level, and Gruver also had THC -- the chemical found in marijuana -- in his urine.

Hall lives in the Phi Delta Theta home, but his attorney said that's the only thing he has in common with this incident. Bourland said the 21-year-old junior is upset his friend died.

“That was a fraternity brother and a friend of his,” Bourland said. “Anything we say, we don't want to take away from the seriousness and the tragedy of the event.”

If convicted of the hazing charge, Hall could face up to 30 days in prison.

This isn't the first time there has been a story like this.

Earlier this year, 18 fraternity brothers at Penn State were charged in the hazing death of Tim Piazza.

Piazza fell down a flight of stairs during a night of heavy drinking and no one called police for 12 hours.

Last month, some of the fraternity brothers received reduced charges, while others had theirs dropped.

One LSU student, Matthew Alexander Naquin, was also charged with negligent homicide, the university said. Gruver’s family was informed of the investigation findings and charges. 

“Today’s arrests underscore that the ramifications of hazing can be devastating,” Alexander said Wednesday in an emailed statement. “Maxwell Gruver’s family will mourn his loss for the rest of their lives, and several other students are now facing serious consequences -- all due to a series of poor decisions.”

Gruver was a 2017 graduate of Blessed Trinity High School and planned to study journalism at LSU. He loved sports and helped coach younger children, including his sister’s basketball team, according to his family. 

LSU president F. King Alexander suspended all Greek activities after Gruver’s death. The fraternity’s national headquarters also suspended the LSU chapter.

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