An LSU student testified Thursday he saw Matthew Naquin order Phi Delta Theta pledge Max Gruver to take a 10-second chug of hard liquor the night the 18-year-old Gruver died following a 2017 hazing ritual at the campus fraternity house.

Kwabena Kumi, however, told jurors at Naquin's negligent homicide trial that Naquin wasn't the only Phi Delta Theta member who made Gruver drink at the so-called “Bible study” initiation the night of Sept. 13, 2017. Gruver was pronounced dead the next morning.

"All of the guys up there made him drink," said Kumi, of Natchez, Mississippi.

LSU student Zachary Castillo, who was arrested on a hazing charge in the case but not indicted by a grand jury, testified he was one of the Phi Delta Theta members who had a bottle of liquor that night and gave pledges alcohol. He said he may have given alcohol to Gruver.

Castillo, of New Orleans, estimated there were six to 10 bottles of 190-proof liquor at the ill-fated hazing event. He testified under a grant of immunity from prosecutors.

Kumi testified Naquin appeared to have been in charge of the initiation ritual and was definitely the loudest one there. Kumi also said Naquin appeared to have been drinking.

Prosecutor Morgan Johnson asked if Naquin's actions that night went too far, and Kumi replied, "Probably; yes, ma'am."

Kumi said Gruver wasn't targeted initially, but as the night wore on and Gruver repeatedly failed to answer questions about the fraternity and could not recite the Greek alphabet, "I do believe he became a target."

Naquin asked most of the questions during the Bible study hazing, Kumi added.

Jacob Little, an LSU nursing school student in New Orleans, also testified Thursday and said Naquin homed in on Gruver during the Bible study incident even though Naquin didn't call out Gruver by name. Little said the slightly built Naquin appeared to have been on a power trip and was the most aggressive Phi Delta Theta member at the hazing ritual.

"He was a leading force. I could tell he was more into it — obnoxious and loud," said Little, of Baton Rouge.

LSU student William Chautin, of Slidell, testified Naquin had a bottle of liquor in his hand and “was very directly targeting Max.” Chautin said he heard Naquin use Gruver’s name.

At one point during the night, Little said, Naquin struck a pledge on the head with a fraternity manual. The pledge was wearing an empty beer box on his head.

Little said the pledge complained, and other fraternity members told Naquin to calm down and straighten up.

Little also testified that he had seen Gruver drink to excess at bars around LSU, and also said Gruver was known to smoke marijuana.

Gruver's autopsy showed his blood-alcohol level was 0.495 percent, which is more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. THC, the chemical found in marijuana, also was detected in his system.

Rachel Champagne of the LSU Student Advocacy and Accountability office testified she interviewed Naquin, with his attorney present, after the incident and Naquin stated, “None of this is an issue for me.” In a written statement given to that office, Naquin denied forcing Gruver or any pledge to drink alcohol that night.

LSU Police Lt. David Abels identified for the jury photographs of the interior of the Phi Delta Theta house that were taken the morning after the hazing event. One photo shows one of Gruver's shoes on the couch where he had died. Another photo captured an orange Home Depot bucket that had been placed next to Gruver in case he got sick. Other photos show liquor bottles and beer cans upstairs, where the hazing incident occurred. There also was an opened cooler with the words “black out or get out” written on the inside lid.

Abels also showed jurors Gruver's wallet, which still had his Phi Delta Theta pledge pin clipped to it, and the mustard-stained short pants Gruver wore that night. Former Phi Delta Theta member Sean-Paul Gott, of Lafayette, testified Wednesday that he had sprayed the pledges with mustard.

Gott, 22, pleaded no contest last fall to misdemeanor hazing. He hasn't been sentenced.

Ryan Isto, 20, of Butte, Montana, who was Naquin's roommate at LSU, also pleaded no contest to hazing last year and testified Tuesday. He will be sentenced later.

Naquin, 21, of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, faces up to five years in prison if convicted in the death of Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia.

His trial will resume Monday.

Phi Delta Theta has been banned from LSU's campus until at least 2033 as a result of the probe into Gruver’s death.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.