BELLEFONTE, Pa. — A Penn State fraternity pledge who died after a night of drinking and hazing did not trip over sorority girls before tumbling down basement steps, the chief investigator testified Thursday.
State College Police Detective David Scicchitano said he talked to the two members of the Trilogy sorority who some have linked to the February 2017 fall that left Tim Piazza unconscious at the foot of the stairs in the Beta Theta Pi house.
A judge has to decide if there's enough evidence against 12 members of the now-shuttered fraternity who are facing charges that relate to Piazza's death to send the matter to county court for trial. The hearing is expected to conclude Friday.
Although much of the action the night of the bid acceptance ceremony and party with the sorority was captured on the house's extensive security camera system, there apparently is no footage of the moment that a visibly intoxicated Piazza fell down the stairs.
Asked by a defense attorney about the sorority members, Scicchitano replied that he spoke with two Trilogy members. One denied that Piazza tripped or fell over her, and the other said her friend was not in the area.
"She heard the fall and looked down," Scicchitano said. "According to her statement, when she looked down her friend was nowhere to be seen on that stairwell."
Piazza was carried upstairs unconscious, and later spent the night on the house's first floor in apparent severe discomfort. Fraternity members made ineffective or even counterproductive efforts to address his condition. They found him back in the basement the next morning, and then waited 40 minutes to summon an ambulance.
Scicchitano said he has found "no outside causes" for the fall and blames it on Piazza's intoxication. Experts have estimated Piazza had three or four times the legal limit of alcohol for driving at the time.
The detective told the judge he attributed the theory that Piazza tripped over Trilogy members to "somebody somewhere."
The second day of the preliminary hearing focused on video of the party, as fraternity members, pledges and their guests were shown drinking and dancing after the bid acceptance ceremony.
Scicchitano said three or four of the party attendees vomited, and one was shown urinating on the floor in the second-floor hallway.
The fraternity members are charged with offenses that include hazing, reckless endangerment and alcohol violations. One is accused of deleting portions of the security camera footage.
Prosecutors announced this week they were dropping the involuntary manslaughter and assault charges that some of the 12 had faced.
A separate preliminary hearing was held previously for 14 members of the fraternity.