They were new initiates to Beta Theta Pi fraternity at Penn State, in the USA, and had just run the gantlet - a series of stations where they guzzled beer, wine and vodka as fast as they could.
On the morning of February 3, police were called to the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house, where 19-year-old Piazza was found unconscious, about 12 hours after he fell down the stairs. He was a pledge at the fraternity.
"They made the pledges, soon to be brothers", Parks Miller said, "run from station to station and drink enormous amounts of alcohol in different phases".
Piazza, from Lebanon, N.J., was intoxicated at the February 2 pledge party when he fell multiple times and was knocked unconscious, the district attorney says. Fraternity president Brendan Young told pledge master Daniel Casey, both of whom are charged with manslaughter, to make sure he has the pledges clean the basement and get rid of "any evidence of alcohol".
Piazza fell down the stairs accidentally, his blood alcohol content somewhere between.28 and.36, according to investigators.
"This is a very sad day for Centre County - it's been sad ever since we lost a child for reasons that are totally preventable", District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said.
His final hours were captured on video as a result of a surveillance camera system within the fraternity house. The senior Piazza added his son's death did not have to happen. Attorneys for some of the defendants have argued that Piazza received injuries that were hard to detect, and that it was perfectly reasonable for the fraternity members to conclude that he was merely intoxicated.
However, no call to 911 was made until almost 11 a.m. the next morning, authorities say.
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Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey suffered an injury during the pledging events that he died from two days later.
Beta Theta Pi is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter, hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors and unlawful acts relative to liquor.
Beta Theta Pi was supposed to be a dry fraterrnity, but the grand jury found evidence that the brothers had what they called a "slush fund" for alcohol purchases. A fraternity brother told him they had it under control and shoved him aside. Right away I started freaking out ... Charges against students present at the event were announced in Bellefonte, Pa. on May 5. "We have also seen a rise in the intensity of excessive drinking and hazing at Penn State and elsewhere, despite more than a decade of focus and the introduction of educational and other programs, as well as policies that clearly spell out consequences".
President Barron wrote an open letter to the Greek community citing several rule violations coming from Penn State frats.
Beta Theta Pi's Penn State chapter itself was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, and the fraternity has since been barred from the university, the New York Times noted.
"Our thoughts continue to lie with the Piazza family as the justice process moves forward", the statement read.
Following the charges levied against former members of the Beta Theta Pi, the former chapter's worldwide fraternity released a statement.