UK releases findings of investigations into death of student found unresponsive at fraternity
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - University of Kentucky officials have released the findings of the two investigations into the death of Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood.
A digital press conference was held Wednesday afternoon to officially announce the findings:
Back in October, 18-year-old Hazelwood was found unresponsive in the FarmHouse Fraternity. He later died at UK Hospital. The coroner says Hazelwood died from alcohol toxicity.
Two investigations into the incident were launched, one by UK police and the other by the Office of Student Conduct.
When the toxicology report results were released, the coroner’s office also said UK Police found no foul play in the case and no charges will be filed.
An email from UK President Eli Capilouto and Vice President for Student Success Kirsten Turner sent out to campus said there is no evidence of criminal wrongdoing directly related to Lofton’s death.
They also said there was no evidence of physical coercion or forced drinking. However, UK says the reviews found that FarmHouse Chapter members practiced hazing throughout the semester, “creating a culture of noncompliance in which such activities were accepted.”
Based on the findings of the investigations, UK says the following actions have taken, or are taking, place:
- The national chapter of FarmHouse has revoked the local chapter’s status. Members who live in the house are expected to move out, and we will work with students who want to live elsewhere on campus or find other living accommodations for next semester.
- Further, the national chapter has issued a no-contact order, which means that the now-former members of this chapter can have no association with FarmHouse for seven years.
- The revocation of FarmHouse’s status as a registered student organization (RSO) on campus for at least four years.
- Individual students, because of the review, could be charged with violations of UK’s Code of Student Conduct and will go through the institution’s review and hearing process.
- Enhanced and expanded education around required responsibilities for all new members of UK Interfraternity Council (IFC) chapters must be completed before activities can be resumed. Those education and responsibility programs include peer mentoring and education, alcohol awareness education and bystander intervention education and training.
- Increased staffing within Fraternity and Sorority Life has been — and is being — added with additional responsibilities for alcohol education and hazing prevention.
The law firm representing the Hazelwood family also released this statement:
The tragic reality in fraternity houses across the country is that young people do not appreciate the dangers of alcohol and hazing. First-year College students are the single most at-risk group susceptible to alcohol-related injuries or death. On October 18, 2021, Lofton Hazelwood became the latest victim of fraternity-sponsored alcohol consumption and hazing. Lofton was young, impressionable, and trying to live up to a long-standing FarmHouse fraternity tradition of pledges drinking Wild Turkey at the frat house before being required to go sing on the front steps of the campus housing of female students. Even after Lofton was in distress, he was left in a fraternity house room alone and with no attempts to get medical assistance. At the same time, the other pledges were taken to sing at sorority houses on campus. The Hazelwood family’s attorney, Matt Minner, said that “they were heartbroken to learn, through the University of Kentucky’s investigation, that Lofton was subjected to humiliating and dangerous hazing activities at FarmHouse from the time he pledged until the day he died.” The University’s investigation into the FarmHouse fraternity following Lofton’s death resulted in numerous hazing and alcohol-related violations.
“While the investigation is ongoing, one fact is clear: had Lofton Hazelwood not pledged FarmHouse Fraternity, he would still be here today,” said Minner. The Hazelwood family is determined to ensure that this tragedy is not repeated to someone else’s son in another fraternity house. While young people may not fully appreciate the dangers of alcohol, national organizations such as FarmHouse Fraternity know well the deadly consequences that accompany hazing and alcohol. Lofton loved farming and the outdoors. He was the baby brother to 3 sisters, all of whom attended U of K. The community lost a boy they adored. Minner asks that the media and public respect Hazelwood’s privacy during the Holidays as they grieve and lean on one another to heal.
Copyright 2021 WKYT. All rights reserved.