Family Suspects Hazing in Student's Death

Adam Oakes went to an off-campus party for Delta Chi initiation
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2021 5:11 PM CST
Family Suspects Hazing in Student's Death
Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond   (Getty/Jennifer Blount)

Adam Oakes had, at last, been asked to join a fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University. On Friday night, Oakes, 19, went to an off-campus party for the first step in his Delta Chi initiation, CNN reports. "He had already tried to get into other fraternities and had been turned down, but he saw the camaraderie," said his father, Eric. "He'd see the brotherhood and just loved the actual acceptance." Adam texted his father at 9 that night from outside the Richmond house, a relative said, saying: "I'm going in. Love you." Police called to the house Saturday morning found the student unresponsive. Officials said the cause of death is not yet known. "He wasn't just a good kid or good person to us," a cousin said. "He was to everybody." VCU's president tweeted that the school will cooperate with the investigation, saying, "We are heartbroken at the tragic loss of one of our own."

The university and the national Delta Chi organization have suspended the fraternity's campus chapter. There was no word on whether the house where the party was held is connected to the fraternity house, which is about a mile away. Police also haven't said whether the party involved hazing, which the Delta Chi prohibits, but the Oakes family suspects it did. "We deserve answers," Eric Oakes said Tuesday on Today. "Adam deserves answers." Other pledges told the family that as part of the initiation, Adam drank a large bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in an hour, then passed out. They said he appeared to be all right at midnight when they checked on him, but not in the morning. "These things are very preventable if people just step and do the right thing," said the father of a student who died during a Penn State hazing in 2017. "I want to make sure this never happens again to any kid, any family," Eric Oakes said. (A Louisiana hazing resulted in criminal charges.)

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