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Lawsuit includes new details of pledge's hazing death

DeKALB – The night David Bogenberger died, he and 18 other pledges drank several four-ounce glasses of vodka in rapid succession, but their “Greek parents” decided against calling for medical help – and also told others not to do so.

Instead, the fraternity leaders and women invited to participate in the nonsanctioned initiation party gave the pledges decorated buckets and positioned their unconscious bodies in a way they thought would prevent them from choking if they got sick, court documents allege.

Bogenberger, 19, was found dead the next morning; authorities later said his blood-alcohol content was 0.351 percent.

Bogenberger’s family updated a wrongful death lawsuit Wednesday with details of what they claim happened Nov. 1 at the Pi Kappa Alpha house. They hoped the information encourages other parents to warn their children about excessive drinking, family attorney Peter Coladarci said in an email.

“The Bogenberger family hopes that families sending their sons and daughters off to college this month will consider what happened last November to David, how it has affected his family, how his death has changed the lives of all the individual defendants and discuss frankly the need for their children to develop mature and intelligent judgment,” Coladarci said.

Five fraternity leaders face felony hazing charges, and 17 other fraternity members were charged with misdemeanor hazing in DeKalb County court. The Bogenberger family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the national fraternity, the NIU chapter, and the fraternity members and women they allege were involved that night.

Coladarci said he compiled the detailed account in the lawsuit from statements gathered during the police investigation and NIU disciplinary hearings. According to the amended lawsuit, party organizers told the pledges they were required to attend that night if they wanted to become fraternity members.

The pledges were divided into groups of two or three and traveled from room to room in the fraternity, where women and fraternity members asked them nonsensical and personal questions, the lawsuit alleges.

After each question, the pledge was required to drink vodka from a four-ounce cup. If he was reluctant to drink, he was heckled with obscene names until he did so.

Each pledge consumed three to five four-ounce glasses of vodka in each of seven rooms of the house within about 90 minutes, the lawsuit alleges. The organizers then took the pledges, who by that time weren’t able to walk on their own, to the basement, where they received T-shirts and paddles, as well as buckets decorated by the “Greek moms,” to be used to get sick in. Many pledges were sick that night, the complaint states.

As they lost consciousness, the pledges were placed on makeshift beds in the kitchen and hallway floors, or in their “Greek dads’ ” rooms, the lawsuit alleges. About 11 p.m. Nov. 1, a fraternity officer sent a mass text message to fraternity members ordering them to delete photographs and videos of pledges who were unconscious.

The lawsuit, which seeks more than $100,000 in damages, is next due in Cook County Circuit Court on Sept. 18.

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