CSUN Pi Kappa Phi fraternity pledge died in hazing - report

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Saturday, September 6, 2014
CSUN fraternity pledge died in hazing - report
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A new report blames the death of a 19-year-old California State University, Northridge student on hazing.

NORTHRIDGE, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new report blames the death of a 19-year-old California State University, Northridge student on hazing. A criminal investigation of the incident is underway.

"It's been 67 days since we lost him, and we still don't have answers," said Maria Castaneda, as she wept. Castaneda is the aunt of Armando Villa, who died in the incident.

Villa's family was in tears as they listened to the president of CSUN call the incident that took his life an act of hazing.

"Hazing is stupid, senseless, it is dangerous and it is against the law in California," Dr. Diane Harrison, CSUN president, said at a news conference Friday.

Villa died July 1 in the Angeles National Forest, about 1 mile north of Vogel Flats. He lost consciousness after reportedly suffering a heatstroke.

According to the school investigation, fraternity Pi Kappa Phi's hazing events were similar to boot camps. On the day Villa died, several pledges, including Villa, were forced to wear tight shoes. In the end, they were dehydrated and suffering in the hot sun.

"They had water, and not enough water," Harrison said. "The pledges wore really cheap, flimsy shoes. Some of them, including Armando's, were not the right size, and then you go on an 18-mile hike."

After hearing the details, Castaneda reflected upon what might have been running through her nephew's mind in his last moments.

"What were his thoughts, what was he thinking?" said Castaneda. "He probably knew, 'I may never see my mom again, I may never see my brother, my sister, my dad, my cousins.' Was he scared? Did he need us? And we weren't there."

The school suspended Pi Kappa Phi as the investigation began, before pressuring the fraternity to shut down the chapter and permanently withdraw from the school.

"Definitely you don't want this kind of organization on campus. All it takes is one rotten apple, they say. So a strong message will prevent others from doing the same stupid things," said Castaneda.

The fraternity released a statement late Friday afternoon:

"Although closing a chapter is never an easy decision, Pi Kappa Phi expects our students to uphold and abide by the fraternity's risk management policy of standards and conduct," said Mark Timmes, CEO of Pi Kappa Phi.

Villa's family is awaiting the results of an autopsy before deciding to take legal action.