May 15, 2017
The family of a Penn State University sophomore who died in a fraternity pledging event called the actions of some of the fraternity's members "horrific," saying they treated Timothy Piazza as "roadkill and a rag doll."
The student's parents, Jim and Evelyn Piazza, and his brother, Michael Piazza, spoke publicly about Timothy's death Monday morning on NBC's "Today" show.
Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died Feb. 4 — two days after falling down the stairs while highly intoxicated during a Beta Theta Pi hazing ritual. Piazza suffered multiple injuries during the fall.
"This wasn't just boys being boys," Jim Piazza told NBC's Matt Lauer. "This was men who intended to force-feed lethal amounts of alcohol into other young men. And what happened throughout the night was just careless disregard for human life. They basically treated our son as roadkill and a rag doll."
Eighteen members of the fraternity are facing criminal charges, including eight fraternity brothers who are accused of involuntary manslaughter. Penn State has disbanded the fraternity.
Piazza drank a life-threatening amount of alcohol and then fell numerous times, according to a grand jury. He suffered severe head trauma and a shattered spleen. He died of a traumatic brain injury.
A timeline of Piazza's night at the frat depicts a harrowing scene.
It took nearly 12 hours before fraternity members called 911, despite Piazza being unconscious. Surveillance footage shows the fraternity members pouring liquid on his face, slapping his face and placing a backpack on his back — an effort to prevent him from choking on his own vomit.
A doctor has told the Piazza family that the 12 hours between Piazza's fall and when the fraternity brothers dialing 911 were critical, Jim Piazza said.
"I said, 'If he was brought here earlier, would the outcome be different?'" Piazza said. "And the doctor said, 'Yeah.' ... They killed him."
The Piazza family has not watched the footage of Timothy's final hours. Jim Piazza said he would consider watching it if Penn State President Eric Barron and the board of trustees watched it with him.
"I don't want to see it as a parent, because I feel like it's gonna be incredibly painful. And the last memories of my son will be him being abused for 12 hours and a dying a slow and painful death," Jim Piazza said.