Police continue probe into campus frat
Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller said Wednesday that he expects his department soon will have possession of the computer and cellphone of a Penn State Altoona student who committed suicide last month.
Logan Township police are looking into allegations of hazing involving the Penn State Altoona chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity at an off-campus house.
The investigation was spurred by the March 14 suicide of Marquise Braham, a Phi Sigma Kappa member, who leapt to his death from a Nassau County, N.Y., hotel a day before he was scheduled to return to Altoona from spring break.
Information on his laptop and cellphone has led Braham’s family to believe alleged hazing activities of the fraternity overwhelmed him with shame that culminated in his choice to commit suicide.
Four investigations were spurred by Braham’s death and allegations of hazing. Nassau County police have been investigating Braham’s death aside from the fraternity’s potential involvement. Nassau police currently possess Braham’s laptop and cellphone.
“We are making arrangements to receive the devices,” Heller said.
Heller said his department is dealing largely with rumors and said it is too early to determine whether the investigation will result in criminal charges.
“But if the rumors are true, that would change things,” he said.
Penn State Altoona confirmed that some members of Braham’s fraternity were at Our Lady of the Snows church in Floral Park, N.Y., on Saturday for his funeral Mass.
Rich Braham began the eulogy for his 18-year-old son by saying he’s been humbled by those who’ve comforted his family with visits, cards, flowers and home-cooked meals in their time of grief.
He described his first-born child, Marquise, born on an Easter Sunday, as full of God’s love and eager to share it through his volunteer work during his elementary and high school years.
During the eulogy, Braham said, “I’m not sure if any of Marquise’s Phi Sigma Kappa brothers are here, but I wanted to let you know that I’m not angry with you. I’m concerned about you. You’ve been through the same experiences Marquise has.”
He urged fraternity members to tell police what they know.
The fraternity has been suspended by its national chapter and the campus. Those two entities are also conducting investigations. The campus is investigating whether the fraternity violated the student code of ethics. That investigation is ongoing, a campus spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Michael Carey, executive vice president for the Grand Chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa based in Indiana did not return a call regarding the status of the grand chapter’s internal investigation of its Altoona chapter.
Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry and Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Ken Womack attended the wake and funeral. A busload of students also attended.
“Dr. Ken Womack traveled with me to the services, and we were both moved by the experience of meeting with Marquise’s loving family,” Bechtel-Wherry stated in an email on Wednesday. “While his untimely loss is devastating, his father’s eulogy poignantly reminds us of Marquise’s goodness and of how many people he influenced in his young life.”
At least 12 members of the fraternity have consulted with attorneys Thomas Dickey and Ted Krol.
Heller said those attorneys have consented to having their clients be interviewed by police. Dickey provided the first of his clients to be interviewed last week. He said his client was “appalled” at the accusations of hazing. Heller said he would like to interview all PSU Altoona Phi Sigma Kappa brothers.