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Investigation underway at PSU Altoona following suicide

By: Maria Miller

ALTOONA, Pa. -- A Penn State University Altoona fraternity has been suspended and an investigation is underway after the death of one of its members last week.

Investigators said Marquise Braham committed suicide at his home in New York, but his family alleges it was the result of severe hazing.

They are harsh allegations from that raise a lot of unanswered questions. While the investigation locally has just started, police have already hit a roadblock: The people they need to speak with most, Braham's fraternity brothers, aren't saying a word and immediately requested attorneys.

The 18-year-old was a freshman at Penn State Altoona, an active member on campus and a new recruit for Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity.

"He pledged a frat, which isn't against the law, but somehow he ended up dead from it," said Braham's father, Richard Braham in an interview with NBC New York. "How did that happen? That's what I want to know."

Braham's father said part of initiation included severe hazing, which left him feeling a lot of guilt for what he did and what he saw.

"He expressed to his friends that he was not comfortable and that he was not OK doing that," Braham said. "He didn't want to do that kind of thing. I think it's somewhere in there that the truth lies as to why Marquise jumped off the roof of Long Island Marriott."

New York investigators ruled his death a suicide but are continuing to investigate and so are police in Logan Township, Blair County.

Police have already searched Braham's Altoona apartment and have tried questioning his Phi Sigma Kappa brothers, but said they're not talking.

"Each day we look into this a little further and we have had several individuals invoke their right to counsel prior to an interview," said Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller. "That's where we stand right now."

"There are many of us who are really struggling with this situation and the emotional reactions that come from it," said Lori J. Bechtel-Wherry, chancellor and dean at Penn State Altoona.

Bechtel-Wherry said the university is deeply saddened to hear of Braham's death and confirmed the fraternity has been suspended, pending the ongoing investigation.

"They cannot attend the Greek Council, they're not able to engage in community service activities they had planned and a host of other things," Bechtel-Wherry said. "Essentially that will allow us to do an investigation."

"It's an unfortunate accident to this young man from New York," Heller said. "We're going to do everything we can to make certain that if the allegations are true, that those involved are prosecuted."

6 News contacted Phi Sigma Kappa International Thursday, but has not yet received a reply.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times