Nearly eight months after 19-year-old college freshman Adam Oakes died of alcohol poisoning following an alleged hazing at a fraternity party, 11 people have been indicted in connection with the tragic event.
Richmond, Virginia, Police Department spokeswoman Tracy Walker confirmed to The Daily Beast that eight of the 11 have been arrested, but was unable to provide further information prior to an official announcement expected Friday afternoon. The names, ages, and exact charges facing the accused have not yet been released.
Oakes, a first-year student at Virginia Commonwealth University who was too young to legally buy alcohol, was at a gathering at Delta Chi’s off-campus frat house on Feb. 26 when he was ordered by the older members to drink an entire 1.75 liter bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey—a tad less than 40 shots—according to his family. He was found face down and unresponsive on a couch the next morning. The medical examiner ruled Oakes’ death an accident. At one point during the evening, Oakes was blindfolded and hit his head on a tree, partygoers said. His face was reportedly discolored when his body was found.
In light of Oakes’ death, the VCU chapter of Delta Chi was permanently barred from the school in June. In August, VCU recommended a complete ban on alcohol at fraternity and sorority events at the university.
“VCU continues to mourn the tragic death of Adam Oakes and is grateful to the Richmond Police Department for its investigation,” spokeswoman Laura Rossacher told The Daily Beast in an email. “VCU is dedicated to continuing its efforts, announced this summer, to promote a safe and welcoming fraternity and sorority life culture for all.”
In a statement to the media, the Oakes family said they were “grateful for some measure of justice these charges and arrests may produce, as well as the protection from hazing they may give young, impressionable college students.”
“The past seven months have been agonizing for our family,” they added. “This is the first time these young men have been held accountable for their historically toxic and destructive traditions, manipulation of the VCU disciplinary systems, and for Adam’s death.”
In May, following the announcement that Oakes had died from ethanol toxicity, his cousin, Courtney White, mourned him in an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“He had a bright future ahead with dreams of his own,” said White. “Those dreams will never be fulfilled because of one night, one group of boys and one fraternity tradition—but also because of a Greek system that regularly used hazing to control and coerce teenagers, endangering them and in too many cases, ending in their death.”
In 2018, having violated a laundry list of university rules, including hosting illegal parties and providing alcohol to underage students, Delta Chi was hit with a four-year suspension for “patterns of failing to comply.” But after appealing the decision, Delta Chi’s suspension was reduced to one year. The frat was once again up and running by the fall of 2019.
“Adam loved to play basketball with his dad and friends, debate about sports, play video games like Call of Duty and NBA2K, watch sports on TV, and spending time with his family and friends,” says the website of a nonprofit Oakes’ family set up in Adam’s name with a mission to better help students transition from high school to college life. “His favorite basketball player was the Wizards, Russell Westbrook and his favorite teams included San Francisco 49ers and the Oklahoma Thunder. He loved summers in Sunset Beach, North Carolina with his grandparents and extended family. He couldn’t wait to play with his little cousins in the ocean and in the pool. They absolutely adored him.”