An East Baton Rouge Parish jury has convicted a former LSU student and ex-Phi Delta Theta member of negligent homicide in the 2017 alcohol-related hazing death of 18-year-old fraternity pledge Max Gruver.

The six jurors decided the case quickly Wednesday, taking about an hour to convict 21-year-old Matthew Naquin. Sentencing was scheduled for Oct. 16. Naquin faces anywhere from probation to five years in prison.

Gruver, of Roswell, Georgia, had been at LSU a month when he died of alcohol poisoning in what authorities have described as a hazing ritual — dubbed "Bible study" — at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house.

Gruver and other Phi Delta Theta pledges were told to chug 190-proof liquor the night of Sept. 13, 2017, if they gave wrong answers to questions about the fraternity or could not recite the Greek alphabet. 

Gruver died the following morning. His blood-alcohol level was 0.495%, which is more than six times the legal limit to drive in Louisiana. An autopsy also detected THC, the chemical found in marijuana, in Gruver's system.

"The goal here is stop hazing of any sort, but definitely to stop hazing that leads to death," East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore said outside the courtroom Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Naquin, from Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, was primarily responsible for Gruver's death, but while testifying for the defense Gruver's former LSU roommate said Tuesday that Gruver was frequenting bars and missing classes throughout his brief time at LSU. James Patrick Canter, who pledged Phi Delta Theta with Gruver, said he could tell Gruver “had not had much experience with drinking.”

Naquin's former LSU roommate, Ryan Matthew Isto, 20, of Butte, Montana, and ex-LSU student Sean-Paul Gott, 22, of Lafayette, pleaded no contest last year to misdemeanor hazing and testified last week. Another former LSU student charged with hazing, Patrick Andrew Forde, 22, of Westwood, Massachusetts, also testified as a prosecution witness. Prosecutors said they’ll decide later whether to prosecute him.

Naquin has also been charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting hundreds of files from his phone during the criminal investigation and after a search warrant had been issued for the phone, but he was not standing trial on that charge this month.

"We want this to send a message to the country that hazing should not exist," Stephen Gruver, Max's father, said Wednesday. "It's dangerous and we have to all work together to bring an end to hazing."


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Trial testimony and court documents filed in the case indicate Naquin was warned by members of the fraternity — just two days before Gruver died — to tone down his interactions with pledges. He was told his actions with pledges were extreme and dangerous.

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

"It won't bring Max back... it's not something we're ever going to be happy about but at the same time it's justice for our son and for the man who caused his death," Rae Ann Gruver said Wednesday.

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