Note: Some of the following grand jury testimony is graphic in nature. Read the entire grand jury report on desktop at the bottom of this article.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Through grand jury testimony, police questioning and a review of Beta Theta Pi's complex video surveillance system, authorities have put together a harrowing narrative of the last hours of Timothy Piazza's life, from when he began the hazing ritual at the Penn State University fraternity, his fall down 15 feet of basement stairs to the 911 call for help the following morning and the desperate attempts by doctors to save his life.
The grand jury report released Friday also details Piazza's medical condition and a doctor's conclusion that he had consumed "a life-threatening amount of alcohol."
A doctor calculated that Piazza's blood-alcohol content at the time he fell down the stairs was between .28 and .36 percent. The legal limit for driving while intoxicated is .08 percent.
The report also said that doctors concluded Piazza suffered from "multiple traumatic brain injuries," including a fractured skull and a lacerated spleen, which resulted in 80 percent of his blood supply in his abdominal cavity.
At 9:21 p.m. Feb. 2, the fraternity's video surveillance system captured Piazza wearing khakis, a button-down shirt and a sports jacket, the required uniform for pledges to Beta Theta Pi. He was about to run "the gauntlet," one of the fraternity's initiation rituals.
The cameras recorded Piazza drinking vodka and beer shortly thereafter, and an hour later, needing help to walk from an area near the basement stairs to a couch, staggering and hunched over.
He's later seen trying unsuccessfully to open the front door, then “severely staggering drunkenly toward the basement steps” at about 10:45 p.m., the grand jury report said.
He was subsequently found at the bottom of the steps after apparently falling face-first. Four fraternity brothers carried his limp body back upstairs, where some poured liquid on him, and another slapped him three times in the face, the grand jury said.
At another point, one fraternity brother tackled another, landing on top of Piazza.
One time, when Piazza rolled off a couch, three fraternity brothers picked him up and "slammed him" back on the couch, according to the grand jury report.
Fraternity members put a backpack containing textbooks on him so he would not suffocate on his own vomit, the jury wrote.
When a fraternity brother insisted Piazza needed medical help, he was confronted and shoved into a wall, the report said. When the same brother insisted again that Piazza required help, he was told others were biology and kinesiology majors so his opinion wasn’t as valuable as theirs, the jury said.
Piazza tried to get up around 3:20 a.m. but fell backward and hit his head on the wood floor, the report said. He fell onto a stone floor at 5 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, a fraternity member went downstairs for a drink of water. He stepped over Piazza, looked at him, went to the kitchen, then returned upstairs.
A little later, another brother went downstairs for a drink of water and walked Piazza to another room. But Piazza fell down three steps and the fraternity brother stepped over him and left him there.
Another pledge testified before the grand jury that he woke up at about 7 a.m. and saw Piazza on a couch. He heard Piazza groaning, and eventually he saw Piazza roll off the couch and land on the floor. The pledge took a video of Piazza on the floor and posted it on Snapchat.
As he continued to groan, Piazza got to his knees and placed his head in his hands as if, in the pledge's words, he had "a really bad headache."
Other fraternity brothers discovered Piazza in the basement at about 10 a.m.
“Timothy was lying on his back with his arms clenched tight at his sides and his hands in the air,” jurors wrote. “His chest was bare, his breathing heavy and he had blood on his face.” He felt cold to the touch, his skin was pale and his eyes were half-open, according to the grand jury report.
During the next 42 minutes, fraternity brothers shook him, tried to prop him up, covered him with a blanket, wiped his face and tried to dress him but were unsuccessful "due to the stiffness of Timothy's body."
An analysis of a fraternity brother's cellphone found that during that time he searched the phrases "falling asleep after head injury," "cold extremities in drunk person" and "binge drinking, alcohol, bruising or discoloration, cold feet and cold hands."
Piazza was pronounced dead at 1:20 a.m. Feb. 4 in the surgical Intensive Care Unit of Hershey Medical Center.
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