HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Authorities are investigating the death of an 18-year-old Penn State student who last week jumped from a rooftop, a suicide the young man’s father blames on fraternity hazing practices his son was asked to inflict on fellow students.
Marquise Braham, a freshman from Rosedale, New York, who attended Penn State’s Altoona campus, leaped to his death last Friday from a hotel in Uniondale, New York.
His father Rich Braham, managing editor at ABC News, said he believes his son was driven to take his own life by the hazing practices he had participated in earlier this year as a member of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.
The fraternity has been suspended, pending an investigation, according to a campus spokeswoman.
Marquise had texted a friend about his concerns, sought counseling from a priest and confided in an aunt in the days before his suicide, his father said on Thursday.
“He could not haze the other students. He expressed in text messages how uncomfortable he was doing that. He didn’t think he could do that,” Braham said. “He was a nice kid, a kind person.”
Photos found on his phone included one taken earlier this month of a blindfolded pledge with a real-looking pistol held to his head, Braham said.
His son’s text messages described a choice offered to pledges to take cocaine or have a sex toy inserted into their lower body, he said.
Another practice, according to his son, was making pledges drink alcohol until they vomited, then do so again, he said.
His son, during his own pledging last fall, was ordered to put on a ski mask and steal a bag of chips from a store, he said.
“He was terrified,” Braham said.
Michael Carey, executive vice president of the Indianapolis-based Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, with 75 chapters nationwide, said the Altoona chapter has been suspended and that the national organization has launched an investigation.
Nassau County police detectives are investigating the student’s death in New York, while police in Logan Township, Pennsylvania, the site of the off-campus fraternity house, said they are investigating the hazing activities.
Logan Township Chief of Police Ron Heller said the fraternity has not cooperated with the investigation and has invoked its right to legal counsel.
Penn State Altoona has a zero-tolerance policy toward fraternity hazing, according to Shari Routch, director of university relations.
She confirmed that Phi Sigma Kappa has been suspended, pending an investigation by Penn State.
Routch added that school officials did not recall the house being in trouble before. “They’re one of our better fraternities,” Routch said.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Gunna Dickson