LSU's now-defunct Phi Delta Theta house had security cameras placed inside and outside of the house, but they were not working the night Maxwell Gruver died, a national fraternity spokesman told The Advocate.
Sean Wagner, Phi Delta Theta chief operating officer, confirmed in an email that local chapter previously installed cameras for "security purposes."
"However, the cameras did not work properly or stopped working shortly after being installed by the contractor and the system had been out of service for at least a year," Wagner said.
Security camera footage has been a critical part of the investigation of the Penn State University hazing case, perhaps the nation's most high-profile hazing incident of 2017. Tim Piazza's slow, gruesome death was captured on hours of surveillance footage from the Beta Theta Pi house in February.
Since Piazza died, at least three other fraternity pledges, including Gruver, died in incidents police have linked to hazing or binge drinking with fraternity brothers, setting off a national debate about Greek Life reforms. Surveillance video from the basement of the Beta Theta Pi house showed that Piazza was given 18 drinks in less than 90 minutes.
So far 28 people have been arrested in the Penn State incident, including one member who police said deleted surveillance video of the hazing ritual which was later recovered by the FBI.
East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said he couldn't discuss evidence as Gruver's death is still under investigation and is being presented to a parish grand jury this month. But he confirmed the presence of the cameras.
The last time Rae Ann Gruver saw her son Max, he enveloped her in a hug that she'll treasure forever.
"Video surveillance equipment was collected as evidence during this investigation and is being reviewed," he said. "The case has involved a multi-agency analysis of all evidence relevant to the case including surveillance evidence."
Wagner, the national fraternity spokesman, did not immediately respond to questions about why the security cameras were installed inside the Phi Delta Theta house.
But a former Phi Delta Theta member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the fraternity, said the security cameras were installed a few years ago because there was a string of break-ins and vandalism across Fraternity Row.
Other fraternity members had previously broken into the Phi Delta Theta house and stolen photos of various chapter classes throughout the years. Sometimes they returned the photos, but at least one time a photo was stolen from the house and found ripped to pieces. Another fraternity house down the row had recently reported spray painting on their property.
The "housing corporation," — a group of fraternity alumni who manage the house maintenance and rental contractrs for the frat house — decided to hire a contractor to install cameras inside and outside of the house. A storage closet was converted to a small, locked room that housed the monitors and the recording system, but no members were given access to the room.
The former fraternity member said he doesn't think it would have been likely someone in the frat would have had access to disable the security system or delete footage.
One day in September, Maxwell Gruver received a phone message from a member of the fraternity he hoped to join.
Ernie Ballard, LSU spokesman, said there are no university policies requiring or governing security cameras in Greek houses, because houses are almost all private property operated by the national organizations.
LSU's Residential Life maintains three sorority houses, which have cameras at the entrance doors, he said.
LSU does not keep a list of which houses have security cameras, and does not have the rights to view their security footage. LSU Police must obtain a search warrant to review any footage for a criminal investigation, Ballard said.
At Penn State, the Beta Theta Pi house had 12 cameras installed in 2009 as part of an $8.5 million renovation project financed by a wealthy Beta alum who wanted to protect the home from vandalism.
The video is expected to be a key piece of evidence used in the prosecutions of the fraternity members arrested in Piazza's death.
At LSU, it's unclear if other video recordings will be part of the evidence. Moore said early that he would be seeking all recordings, including smart phone videos. Police reports relied largely on interviews to create a timeline of the events that Gruver died.
In 2013, LSU's chapter of Pi Kappa Phi hosted an event for its new member class called "Big Brother Night." At that gathering, LSU would later…
Police said Gruver was targeted by senior members of the fraternity in a hazing ritual they called "Bible study," that required pledges to swig 190-proof liquor when they answered questions about the fraternity wrong. Gruver had a blood alcohol level of .495, according to the coroner, six times the legal limit to drive.
Ten men — almost all students and members of the fraternity — were arrested on the midemeanor hazing counts and one of those men, Matthew Naquin, was booked into jail on the additional count of felony negligent homicide.