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Family of Stone Foltz files wrongful death lawsuit against BGSU

Foltz was killed in a fraternity hazing incident in March 2021. Six men pleaded guilty to various crimes this year; two others convicted on lesser charges.

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — The family of Stone Foltz is suing Bowling Green State University, saying it bears responsibility for his March 2021 death following a hazing incident at an off-campus fraternity house.

Cory and Shari Foltz appeared Thursday on CBS Mornings to discuss their son's death and the pending lawsuit. The family is seeking an unspecified amount of money, but according to the lawsuit, they are seeking "in excess of $25,000" for each of the two claims listed.

The lawsuit was filed on Shari Foltz's behalf by Columbus-based Cooper Elliott law firm. The plaintiffs contend BGSU is not only responsible for Foltz's death, but knew there was a history of hazing on the campus over many years.

"BGSU is responsible for Stone Foltz's death," the lawsuit reads. "For years, BGSU turned a blind eye to hazing within the Greek organizations on its campus while encouraging students like Stone to join its fraternities and sororities." 

The lawsuit lists a dozen reports of hazing incidents involving BGSU fraternities dating back to 1996. In each case, the lawsuit claims, the university failed to properly handle the incident or punish the Greek organization involved. 

The lawsuit also spells out a dozen incidents involving hazing at Pi Kappa Alpha chapters around the country and argues that the fraternity "has established a system that is toxic and dangerous to unsuspecting undergrads it persuades to pledge."

"Unbeknownst to the Foltz family, sending Stone to BGSU was a death sentence," the lawsuit reads.

Finally, the family argues that BGSU officials knew of the Pi Kappa Alpha chapter's Big/Little hazing ritual that involved forced drinking, but did nothing to stop it.

Statements from Foltz family and BGSU

Alex Solis, deputy chief of staff and Bowling Green State University spokesperson, issued the following statement Wednesday night regarding the complaint filed in the Ohio Court of Claims by the Foltz family against BGSU:

“Stone Foltz’s death was a tragedy, and what his family has endured is unimaginable. However, this lawsuit is meritless and undermines our continued efforts to eradicate hazing. We are resolved in our legal position, and as a state-supported university, we will defend our community vigorously against this action. This will not deter our goal to continue to foster a community of care that serves our students and their families.”

Cory and Shari Foltz statement:

"We promised Stone that we would end hazing on college campuses for good. By filing a complaint against Bowling Green State University, we are doing what is necessary to hold people in power accountable for their woeful inactions to keep students safe and reckless disregard for illegal activity. 

Despite being completely aware of the hazing activities that have taken place at Bowling Green for decades, the University enthusiastically endorses Greek life to parents and students. To be clear, any perceived benefit students get from joining a Greek organization is completely and totally outweighed by the risk of injury or death by antiquated and deadly hazing rituals. 

What happened to our son at Bowling Green State University is not unique. Students across the country will continue to experience humiliation, injury and death from hazing without immediate change. We demand increased education for students, transparency for parents, zero-tolerance policies for Greek organizations and immediate action from University leaders who have complete control over what happens on their campuses.

Change cannot happen without accountability; more than anything, we want to prevent another family from living our nightmare."

Foltz's death and aftermath

Foltz, 20, was at a Pi Kappa Alpha, or PIKE, new member initiation the night of March 4, 2021. New members, known as "littles" and who were almost all underage, received "bigs," or mentors, who gave their littles high alcohol content liquor and instructed them to drink the whole bottle.

Foltz drank all or nearly all of the bottle given to him before he was dropped off at his apartment. Foltz was found by his roommate and other friends, who called 911.

The roommate performed CPR until EMS arrived. Foltz was taken to the Wood County Hospital and later to Toledo Hospital, where he died on March 7. 

The coroner said Foltz died of fatal ethanol intoxication. His blood alcohol content was 0.394 percent, according to the family, who said it was likely even higher immediately after the alleged hazing ritual.

In April 2021, BGSU permanently banned PIKE from campus after the fraternity was found to have engaged in a pattern of hazing over a number of years.

"This expulsion is because of hazing, which is absolutely intolerable," a BGSU spokesman said in a statement. "The University's investigation found the fraternity to be reckless with a disregard for the health and safety of our community. This investigation also revealed a deep culture of deception rooted in the organization, filled with dishonesty and disrespect for our community." 

On July 30, 2021, BGSU expelled three students and suspended 17 others for their role in the incident following an investigation.

In October 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine signed Collin's Law and increased penalties for hazing. The legislation elevated a general hazing charge to a second-degree misdemeanor, and aggravated hazing to a third-degree felony. 

Collin's Law was named after former Ohio University student Collin Wiant, who died after a hazing incident in 2018. The legislation stalled in Columbus before being reintroduced after Foltz's death.

RELATED: Parents remember Stone Foltz one year after alleged hazing death

Defendants and court proceedings

Six men pleaded guilty to various charges, and two others were convicted in the case earlier this year. Five of them heard their sentences last week, including:

Daylen Dunson, 21, of Cleveland 

  • Count 1 – Reckless Homicide (Felony, 3rd degree)
  • Count 2 –  Tampering with Evidence (Felony, 3rd degree)
  • Count 3 –  Obstructing Justice (Misdemeanor)
  • Count  4 --  Obstructing Official Business (Misdemeanor)
  • Counts 5 through 12 – Hazing (Misdemeanor)
  • Counts 13 through 19 – Failure to Comply with Underage Alcohol Laws (Misdemeanor)

Dunson was sentenced to 21 days in jail, 28 days of house arrest, three years probation. 

Jarrett Prizel, 19, of Olean, N.Y.

  • Count 1 – Reckless homicide (Felony, 3rd degree)
  • Counts 2 through 9 – Hazing (Misdemeanor, 4th degree)

Prizel was sentenced to 28 days in jail, 28 day of house arrest, two years probation.

Benjamin Boyers, 21, of Sylvania

  • Count 1 – Reckless Homicide (third-degree felony)
  • Count 2 – Obstructing Justice (fifth-degree felony)
  • Counts 3 through 10 – Hazing (misdemeanor)

Boyers was sentenced to 28 days house arrest, two years of probation.

Niall Sweeney, 21, of Erie, Penn.

  • Count 1 – Tampering with Evidence (Felony, 3rd degree)
  • Count  4 – Hazing (Misdemeanor, 4th degree)

Sweeney was sentenced to 24 days in jail, 28 days under house arrest, two years probation. 

Aaron Lehane, 21, of Loveland

  • Count  1 – Obstructing Justice (Misdemeanor)
  • Count  2 – Obstructing Official Business (Misdemeanor)
  • Counts 3-10 – Hazing (Misdemeanor)
  • Count 11 – Failure to Comply with Underage Alcohol Laws (Misdemeanor)

Lehane was sentenced to 28 days under house arrest and two years probation.

RELATED: 5 men convicted in Foltz hazing case sentenced Thursday

Three men are still yet to be sentenced, including Troy Henricksen and Jacob Krinn, who were the only two to stand trial.

Canyon Caldwell is scheduled to be sentenced at 2:30 p.m. on Friday. He initially pleaded not guilty to all charges, but later took a deal, changing his plea to guilty on charges of hazing and obstructing justice.

Krinn and Henricksen are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 17, according to the Wood County Common Pleas Court. Krinn will be sentenced at 1 p.m. and Henricksen will be sentenced at 1:30 p.m.

Krinn was convicted of hazing, obstructing official business and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws.

Henricksen was convicted of eight counts of hazing and seven counts of failure to comply with underage alcohol laws.

Krinn was originally scheduled to be sentenced at 2 p.m. Friday, an hour before Caldwell. And Henricksen was originally set to appear before a judge a month later at 3 p.m. on July 29.

RELATED: Men on trial for death of Stone Foltz found not guilty on most serious charges

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