A grand jury indicted four people Thursday in the death of a Louisiana State University student whose blood-alcohol content was more than six times the legal limit for driving after fraternity members allegedly subjected him to a hazing ritual.
The state grand jury issued the indictments six months after 18-year-old Maxwell Gruver died at a hospital after a night of drinking at the Phi Delta Theta house on LSU’s campus. Fraternity members found the freshman from Roswell, Georgia, lying on a couch and couldn’t tell if he was breathing.
The jury indicted Matthew Alexander Naquin, 20, of Boerne, Texas, on a felony negligent homicide charge, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Three others were indicted on a misdemeanor charge of hazing: Sean-Paul Gott, 21, of Lafayette, Louisiana; Ryan Isto, 19, of Baton Rouge; and Patrick Forde, 21, of Westwood, Massachusetts. The misdemeanor charge is punishable by up to a maximum of 30 days in jail.
Police originally arrested 10 people in October, but prosecutors presented the grand jury with evidence of possible charges against nine of them. Ultimately, the grand jury indicted only four.
Gruver’s father, Stephen, praised the work done by investigators.
“We really appreciate everything that they’ve done,” he said outside the downtown Baton Rouge courthouse.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said Louisiana’s hazing statute doesn’t sufficiently address the harm done in this case. He said Gruver’s family is trying to rally support for changing the law to toughen the penalties.
“Our hazing statute is inadequate to cover the death of their son,” Moore said. “It’s not an appropriate penalty.”
Naquin’s attorney, John McLindon, said, “We will be ready to go to trial, and we will show Matthew Naquin did not commit negligent homicide.”
Witnesses said that Naquin singled out Gruver during a hazing ritual involving 18 to 20 pledges and forced him to drink more than other pledges on the night before his death, according to a police report. Naquin targeted Gruver because he was frequently late for events and forced him to drink because he was having trouble reciting the Greek alphabet during “Bible Study,” a ritual testing their fraternity knowledge, witnesses told police.
One pledge said Gruver was made to take at least 10-12 “pulls” of 190-proof Diesel, while other pledges had to drink less of the hard liquor, according to the police report. A second fraternity member said he told Naquin and another member to “cut it out” because it was “getting out of hand,” and a third member said he warned Naquin and the other member to “slow it down” several times, to no avail.
Several fraternity members said they had checked on Gruver throughout the night before they found him on a couch at the fraternity house around 9 a.m. on Sept. 14, police said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark concluded that Gruver died of acute alcohol intoxication, with aspiration: He had inhaled vomit and other fluid into his lungs. An autopsy showed Gruver’s blood-alcohol content at the time of his death was 0.495 percent, Clark said. The legal blood-alcohol limit for driving in Louisiana is 0.08 percent.
All 10 of the arrested suspects were associated with Phi Delta Theta. Gott and Forde were no longer enrolled at LSU at the time of their arrest, according to school spokesman Ernie Ballard.
SOURCE: The Associated Press