After a heated morning of discussions and objections related to expert testimony in Wood County Common Pleas Court, the last two prosecution witnesses testified Wednesday in the trial of two former Bowling Green State University students accused of hazing their fraternity brother Stone Foltz to death.
Prosecutors called nearly two dozen witnesses to testify during the hazing trial, which was originally scheduled to last three weeks. Many of the witnesses were Foltz's former fraternity brothers who pleaded guilty to a variety of charges prior to the trial, as well as members of his pledge class, his mother, roommate and girlfriend.
Broken Pledge: A podcast series about fraternity hazing
Jacob Krinn, 21, of Delaware, and Troy Henricksen, 24, of Grove City, both face multiple charges related to Foltz's death, who died in March 2021 of fatal alcohol intoxication following an initiation event called "Big Little Night" held by their fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha International, better known as PIKE.
Krinn is charged with first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter, third-degree felony involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, felonious assault, hazing, failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, and obstructing official business.
Henricksen is charged with first-degree felony involuntary manslaughter, tampering with evidence, obstructing justice, eight counts of hazing, and seven counts of failure to comply with underage alcohol laws.
Prosecution, defense spar over expert witness
One of the prosecution's final witnesses — Gregory Parks, associate dean for strategic initiatives and professor of law at Wake Forest University who primarily studies fraternities and hazing — was the subject of objections from Krinn and Henricksen's defense teams.
Shortly after Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson began questioning Parks and moved to have him declared an expert in fraternities and hazing, defense teams asked to approach Judge Joel Kuhlman's bench. After a five-minute sidebar, the jury was released for nearly 30 minutes while attorneys discussed the validity of Parks' expertise.
Krinn's attorney, San Shamansky, wanted to cross-examine Parks before Dobson had finished his direct, which Dobson said was "absolutely ridiculous." Shamansky asked Kuhlman to allow a continuing objection to "everything" Parks testified to.
"I have an objection to every single word that comes out of his mouth," Shamansky said.
Kuhlman ultimately recognized Parks as an expert in the psychology of hazing. He limited, however, Parks' testimony to only discussing the psychological aspects of hazing and cannot give legal opinions on this case.
Parks testified that local fraternity chapters have a significant amount of power over new members, which can lead to coercive and dangerous hazing practices.
"The members hold the keys to membership, or at least they hold the keys to acceptance," Parks said.
A Greek organization, for instance, might have a national governing body that lays out rules for membership, but even if an individual meets those qualifications, Parks said it is ultimately up to the local chapter members to accept them and meet their expectations.
New members quickly learn that they need to engage in certain behaviors, like cleaning for current members or drinking, in order to either be initiated or to be accepted by the chapter, Parks said.
Witnesses describe pledging process, Big Little Night
In addition to Parks' testimony, prosecutors also called Sgt. Scott Frank, a Bowling Green police officer who responded to the scene at Foltz's apartment. He also interviewed PIKE members at the off-campus house where the Big Little Night was held and the fraternity's on-campus residence.
Former PIKE members testified throughout the trial that the Big Little Night was held on March 4, 2021, at the residence of several current and former fraternity brothers that members called "Bando Mansion."
Big Little Night is a tradition common in many Greek organizations where new members are paired with an older member as a mentor. Foltz was paired with Krinn, who he knew from their hometown.
At the event, PIKE pledges were blindfolded with their ties and led into the basement, where active members yelled and barked at them to disorient them. After their blindfolds were removed, pledges' Big Brothers were revealed and were handed a "family bottle," a bottle of liquor that was the same brand that their Bigs drank during their initiation.
Krinn handed Foltz a liter of Evan Williams bourbon, the equivalent of about 18 shots, which he drank in about 15 minutes, former PIKE members previously testified.
Aaron Lehane, a former PIKE member who lived at Bando the night of the party, testified Monday that it was "tradition" for pledges to finish their bottles.
Jurors watched body camera footage of Frank interviewing Krinn and two other PIKE members at their on-campus residence after Foltz was hospitalized. In the video, Krinn said that he wasn't at Big Little Night, and said that active members didn't have any communication about the event.
Assistant Wood County Prosecutor Pamela Gross then asked Frank to read a series of messages between active PIKE members in a private Facebook group chat called the "Kentucky Slumdog Slingers." In total, 150 messages were exchanged in the group chat that night and into the early morning hours of March 5, 2021, related to Foltz and the party.
Krinn and two other men took Foltz back to his campus apartment after the event. PIKE members previously testified that Big Brothers were supposed to bring Littles back to their homes and take care of them after the event.
In the exchange, Krinn told PIKE members that Foltz was OK and already asleep when he dropped him off. Krinn also said he looked for Foltz's roommates but didn't find anyone, so they left after about 30 minutes.
"If no one was there, why didn't you take him home and watch over him?" one PIKE member messaged Krinn.
Traffic cameras showed PIKE brothers driving to Foltz's apartment at 10:05 p.m., and that Wade McKenzie, Foltz's roommate, arrived at their apartment at 10:35 p.m., according to Snapchat records.
Frank told jurors that it is unlikely then that Krinn stayed as long as he had claimed.
Foltz's girlfriend, Maddy Borja, called 911 from his apartment at 11:21 p.m., which jurors listened to earlier this week.
The prosecution also played an 80-minute audio interview between Frank and Henricksen as part of the police investigation.
Henricksen told investigators that his role in PIKE was new pledge coordinator, during which his primary responsibility was running the pledge education classes twice a week. He also assigned pledges with their Bigs and planned Big Little Night, although he didn't attend.
Henricksen also said it was the Big Brothers' responsibility to stay with their Littles after the initiation.
"I'm not going to (expletive) leave you," he said. "That doesn't make any sense to me."
Closing statements will take place Thursday morning.
Sheridan Hendrix is a higher education reporter at the Columbus Dispatch. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter at @sheridan120. Sign up for her Mobile Newsroom newsletter here and her education newsletter here.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: BGSU hazing trial: Prosecutors call final witnesses