Penn State frat brother may have deleted basement video in hazing death, detective says

(ABC) — A detective testifying in a Pennsylvania courtroom Thursday regarding the death of Penn State student Tim Piazza said some surveillance footage from the Beta Theta Pi house appears to have been deleted.

In the fourth day of a preliminary hearing in the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte, State College Police Detective David Scicchitano testified that authorities recovered a surveillance camera from the basement of the fraternity house, but footage prior to Feb. 6 had vanished.

Piazza, a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State, fell down the stairs at the Beta Theta Pi house during a night of drinking for a pledge ceremony there on Feb. 2. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital in the early hours of Feb. 4.

Piazza’s death “was the direct result of traumatic brain injuries,” according to the forensic pathologist on the case.

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Fraternity members referred to the pledge ceremony as an “obstacle course” in text messages, according to a report on the grand jury’s investigation. They did not call 911 until the morning of Feb. 3, about 12 hours after Piazza fell, the report said.

The grand jury concluded that, after Piazza was taken to the hospital, there was an active attempt to conceal evidence of the hazing and underage drinking, from deleting text messages to admitting to discussing erasing surveillance video.

During questioning in court Thursday, Scicchitano said one of the 18 fraternity members already facing charges in connection to Piazza’s death earlier this year may have deleted the basement video. He did not reveal the name of the member in question.

A judge presiding over the preliminary hearing, which began in June, will decide whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial. Two of the defendants waived their rights to a hearing.

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Prosecutors claim the former fraternity brothers at Beta Theta Pi waited to get Piazza help in an attempt to cover up their drinking and “coordinate a story.”

Of the accused young men, eight face involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; four face reckless endangerment and hazing, among other charges; and six face charges for evidence tampering. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity, which has since been barred from Penn State, is facing charges including involuntary manslaughter and hazing. No defendants have entered pleas at this time.