The nine suspects facing only hazing charges are Zachary Castillo, of Gretna; Sean Paul Gott, of Lafayette; Sean Pennison, Mandeville; Hudson Kirkpatrick, Baton Rouge; Elliott Eaton, of New Orleans; Patrick Forde, of Westwood, Massachusetts; Nicholas Tavlli, of Cypress, Texas; Zachary Hall, of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Ryan Isto, who is from Canada. Gott and Forde aren’t enrolled at LSU, according to Ballard.
Hall’s attorney, David Bourland, said his 21-year-old client didn’t participate in hazing activities or provide anyone with alcohol on the night before Gruver died. Hall, a junior who lived at the fraternity house, is in a “deep depression” over his friend’s death, his attorney said.
“But my client did not violate any law or code of conduct at LSU,” Bourland added. “He did not do anything that could have contributed to this unfortunate, tragic accident.”
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said his office will present evidence to a grand jury and could seek additional charges against some of the 10 suspects. Other individuals also could face charges in the case, Moore added.
Several pledges told police they received a group text message stating there would be ‘Bible Study’ at the house” at 10 p.m. on Sept. 13. Investigators seized a cellphone belonging to the fraternity member who sent the group text message about the “Bible Study” session.
Police executed search warrants at the fraternity house and at Gruver’s dorm room. Among the items seized from the fraternity house were a duffel bag filled with beer cans, bottles of liquor, a glass smoking pipe, a “pledge test,” cleaning supplies and two strands of white knotted rope, according to a search warrant return.
Police also found devices that may have captured video footage inside the fraternity house “during the times of the events,” a police affidavit says.
“Investigators also learned that there were several text messages sent about (Gruver’s) condition,” the affidavit said.
Police also obtained a warrant to examine Gruver’s phone so they could see who he called or texted before his death.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards asked leaders of the state’s higher-education system to review their campus policies on hazing, alcohol and drugs following Gruver’s death.
“One loss of life to hazing or drug and alcohol abuse is too many, and I know that you share my very serious concerns,” Edwards wrote in a letter dated Sept. 21, asking them to report their findings and recommendations to his office by Oct. 29.
A Penn State fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and 14 of its members face criminal charges over the death of a pledge who was fatally injured after an alcohol-related hazing ritual in February. Sophomore Tim Piazza of Lebanon, New Jersey, became highly intoxicated and later fell several times, including down a long set of basement steps, suffering severe head and abdominal injuries that led to his death two days later.