Fresno police investigating fraternity pledge death

September 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fresno police plan to interview 30 to 40 people as they try to find out what caused the death of a freshman who was joining the Theta Chi fraternity over the weekend.

On Monday the fraternity released a statement regarding the loss of such a young life.

18-year-old Philip Dhanens died after police say he consumed a large amount of hard liquor Friday night.

Police want to know where the alcohol came from since Dhanens was only 18. Police say three detectives are working to find out who is criminally responsible for the freshman's death.

Top officials from Theta Chi are in Fresno at the house where police say Dhanens drank until he became unconscious. The fraternity house was quiet Monday, but Fresno police say they have plenty of questions for the people who were at the party Friday night.

"Number one we're looking at who furnished the alcohol to this individual. We're looking at who was present at the time this alcohol was consumed, what the ages were of those who were consuming alcohol. The ages of those who purchased the alcohol," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said.

Investigators have already recovered several bottles of alcohol from the home. Action News has learned the victim drank an excessive amount of rum. The Bakersfield native had only been at Fresno State two weeks and was rushing to become a member of Theta Chi.

Theta Chi headquarters issued a statement saying the fraternity "has a strict anti-hazing policy, and strict guidelines for chapters which prohibit underage alcohol consumption."

The Fresno chapter was also suspended on Saturday.

Fresno County Coroner Dr. David Hadden will be investigating what caused Dhanen's death. He is compiling hospital records and police reports as well.

"We will also do an autopsy to rule out aspiration because very often when youngsters get drunk, they vomit because alcohol is a toxic substance. And if they are not properly attended to, when they vomit, they sometimes aspirate and that is the cause of death," Dr. Hadden said.

Investigators plan to interview 30 to 40 people who were at the fraternity house, including current Theta Chi members and alumni. Officers will also be probing into what Dhanen and others were told before they started drinking.

"What was said to those individuals that are pledging to be members of Theta Chi. What level of care was provided to those individuals that were drinking and we're looking to see what criminal violations are present so we can make sure that we're holding accountable those individuals that contributed to this young man's death," Chief Dyer said.

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