University Freshman, 19, Hazed To Death

“I sleep with my son’s ashes beside my bed. I cradle the black velvet bag each morning and night and tell Sam how much I miss him.”

THE WASHINGTON POST – Sam Martinez was in the library on a Monday evening when he and his fellow fraternity pledges were told to report to one of their chapter’s houses.

It was “Big Brother Night,” a Greek-life tradition notorious for copious consumption and hazing.

Less than 12 hours later, Martinez was pronounced dead in the basement of Alpha Tau Omega at Washington State University.

An autopsy later revealed that the 19-year-old’s blood alcohol content was 0.372, nearly five times the legal limit. Martinez was “hazed to death,” his mother said.

“On the night of his death, Martinez and another pledge were told to split a half-gallon bottle of rum, according to the filing. They drank nearly all of it, cheered on by the other fraternity members. Cocaine and cannabis were also passed around the party, which moved from an annex house to the main chapter lodge. Within about 90 minutes, Martinez had lost consciousness.” 

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The events of that night in November 2019 prompted a criminal investigation that lasted well over a year, a lawsuit, the suspension of one of the school’s oldest fraternities and misdemeanor charges this week against 15 men who were members of the organization at the time.

Martinez’s death has also driven his family to take on an influential system that has held sway on college campuses across the country for more than 150 years, despite a history of racism, sexual violence and fatal hazing.

After the Whitman County prosecutor announced the charges — 18 counts of furnishing liquor to minors — Martinez’s parents and sister issued a statement saying the punishment was far too lenient. “This is not justice,” the family said.

They pointed to the recent deaths of freshmen in Virginia and Ohio, who each died after “big brother” events, as evidence of a deeply rooted problem.

“Just like Sam, they were forced to drink lethal amounts of hard alcohol in order to join their frats. Just like Sam, they were abandoned by their so-called fraternity ‘brothers’ to die alone,” said the family statement, signed by Martinez’s mother Jolayne Houtz, his father Hector Martinez and his sister Ariana Martinez.

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“We say enough,” they continued. “It is time for universities, fraternities and policymakers to enact meaningful reforms that end this toxic culture.”

One such reform, the family said, would be to further criminalize hazing … CLICK HERE TO READ MORE. 

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