9 charged in connection with hazing death of FSU student

Andrew Coffey, 20, of Pompano Beach, found dead after frat party

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Nine men are facing hazing charges in connection with the death of a Florida State University fraternity pledge, police said Tuesday.

The Tallahassee Police Department said that arrest warrants were signed earlier in the day by a Leon County judge. Luke Kluttz, 22, Clayton Muehlstein, 22, Brett Birmingham, 20, Conner Ravelo, 21, Christopher Hamlin, 20, Anthony Petagine, 22, Anthony Oppenheimer, 22, John Ray, 22, and Kyle Bauer, 22, all face a charge of "college hazing-cause injury or death."

Andrew Coffey, 20, a junior from Pompano Beach, was found dead Nov. 3 inside a home where a Pi Kappa Phi party had taken place the night before.

A Leon County grand jury last month said that it saw enough evidence for criminal charges but that the investigation was not complete. It left the decision about charges up to the state attorney's office or a future grand jury.

An autopsy found that Coffey died of acute alcohol poisoning and that he had a blood-alcohol level of .447, more than five times the legal driving limit.

According to grand jury testimony, a fellow FSU fraternity pledge found Coffey unresponsive at the party, but instead of calling 911, the pledge contacted other members of the fraternity.

"The brothers, pledges, and officers were more concerned about getting in trouble than they were about trying to save Coffey's life," the grand jury said.

After Coffey's death, FSU President John Thrasher suspended all Greek life and banned alcohol at all recognized student organization events. Pi Kappa Phi's national office has closed the FSU chapter.

The grand jury did find that although Coffey's alcohol consumption was not physically forced, an environment of hazing existed that culminated in his death. The fraternity's "Big Brother Night" party, which was held at an off-campus home, encouraged binge drinking.

The party introduced pledges to their big brothers and included drinking large amounts of liquor straight from the bottle. The presentment said Coffey consumed a bottle of bourbon he was given. He passed out and was described as "snoring loudly" on a couch in the living room while others played pool.

A fellow pledge tried to awaken Coffey the next morning and found he didn't have a pulse. Phone records show the pledge called and texted five fraternity members before calling 911.

Ravelo was one of four fraternity members who appeared before the grand jury. The jury also heard from 38 pledges but noted they found elements of obstructionism surrounding the case. It also took to task the lack of substance in testimony, their demeanor and attitude.

"This collaborative investigation was critical to finding answers for Andrew Coffey's family and our community.  Hopefully, this investigation and its outcome will prevent another tragedy from occurring," Tallahassee police Chief Michael J. DeLeo said.

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