Details emerge in NIU freshman's hazing death

New details have emerged about what transpired the night of Nov. 1 that led to Northern Illinois University freshman David Bogenberger's death of alcohol poisoning after a hazing ritual, according to the family's attorney.

Bogenberger, 19, a graduate of Palatine High School, and 18 other pledges drank anywhere from three to five 4-ounce glasses of vodka in each of the seven designated rooms at the fraternity house within an hour and a half, according to the amended wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bogenberger's family against the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity, several of its members, and 16 female defendants.

The pledges were asked nonsensical and personal questions, including about their sexual history and preferences and told to drink after each answer by active fraternity members and women invited to participate in “Mom and Dad's Night,” a nonsanctioned initiation event. Pledges who expressed reluctance to drink as directed were berated with obscenities until they relented, the lawsuit claims.

The pledges were unable to walk on their own and were taken to the basement of the fraternity house and given buckets to vomit in; they vomited on themselves and each other. As they began to lose consciousness, their limp bodies were left in different places in the fraternity house such as the kitchen and hallway floors, according to the amended complaint.

Bogenberger was put on a bed by his “Greek father,” who placed his head and body in such a way that if he vomited, he wouldn't choke, the lawsuit alleges.

The “Greek parents” decided against calling an ambulance or getting medical help for the unconscious pledges, and they told others not to call 911, according to the lawsuit.

A fraternity officer sent a mass text message to members ordering them to delete photographs and videos of pledges who were unconscious, the suit alleges.

Bogenberger was found dead the morning of Nov. 2. His blood alcohol content was 0.351 percent, authorities said.

These “gut-turning” details were garnered from police reports and disciplinary hearings at Northern Illinois University that prompted the amended complaint filed last week in Cook County, said Chicago attorney Peter Coladarci, who is representing the Bogenberger family.

“I know more now about the narrative, and it's appalling,” Coladarci said.

Coladarci said it speaks to a serious lack of adult supervision by the fraternity.

The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity issued a statement in February saying the fraternity maintains standards with respect to alcohol and hazing. It has suspended NIU's Kappa Alpha Eta Nu Chapter and its former undergraduate members.

Coladarci said despite the fraternity's regulations against hazing, the president of the fraternity has said such initiation events are “good for pledge retention.”

“Somehow they got to thinking this was good for business, and it's not,” he said. “It's bad for kids. Unfortunately, these (unintended alcohol-related deaths) aren't as unusual as you think according to the Centers for Disease Control (and Prevention).”

Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, according to the CDC.

Coladarci said Bogenberger's parents, Gary and Ruth Bogenberger, hope this lawsuit will help educate college freshmen about the dangers of hazing involving alcohol.

“If everyone coming into a university or a college with a Greek culture knows or recognizes what these initiation rituals are and their risks, then they will stop doing it,” he said. “David wasn't stupid. He just wanted to be liked. If every (fraternity) officer of the country realizes what could happen to their lives ... this is going to be on their conscience until the day they die.”

Five officers of Pi Kappa Alpha are facing felony hazing charges, with 17 other members charged with misdemeanor hazing in DeKalb County court.

In May, 16 women were added as defendants to the lawsuit for allegedly taking part in the fraternity initiation ritual on Nov. 1 and 2. The lawsuit seeks more than $100,000 in damages and additional costs. The next hearing in Cook County circuit court is on Sept. 18.

Coladarci said he also is planning to sue NIU in the Illinois Court of Claims before the anniversary of Bogenberger's death.

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