Six students charged with hazing after death of freshman Ferrum College student
FRANKLIN COUNTY (WSLS 10) – Six Ferrum College students are indicted by a grand jury after a death investigation of 20-year-old Ferrum College student Michael Walker.
Charges show his death could be related to fraternity hazing.
According to search warrants, Michael Walker of Cumberland, Virginia was found unresponsive on a porch on April 17th, 2016 after witnesses say he had been heavily drinking all that day.
A second search warrant shows that police seized the phone of 23-year-old Michael Rucinski after he admitted to police that he had taken pictures of Walker apparently passed out from drinking.
"Michael Rucinski showed this officer (Timothy B. Taylor, Investigator for the Franklin county Sheriff's Department) and Sgt. J. P. Nolen a photograph on his cell phone of Michael Walker laying on a proch apparently passed out from drinking. According to Rucinski, the photograph along with text messages related to this incident were sent to several other people," the search warrant stated.
Rucinski along with Nicholas Hoxter are charged with hazing and providing alcohol to a person under the age of 21.
Four others, Trevin Clark, David Creedon, Adali Cano and Michael Satterwhite are charged with hazing.
All are students at Ferrum College and members of local fraternity Sigma Alpha Kappa Fraternity.
It's unclear where the incident happened. No one was present at the house associated with the fraternity on Union Street near the college when WSLS 10 approached the home.
According to search warrants, Walker was found in the early morning hours of April 17th not breathing and unresponsive.
"Rescue personnel were called to the scene where CPR was administered," the search warrant stated.
Walker was taken to Carilion Franklin Memorial Hospital then later transferred to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital where he remained in critical condition until he was pronounced dead on April 25th.
According to witnesses, Walker had no other medical conditions that could have contributed to his death.
An official cause of death has not been released.
Walker was a member of the soccer and the cross country team at Ferrum College. According to his obituary, Walker attended school in Prince Edward and later in Cumberland where he graduated high school. He took a year to prepare for college working at Food Lion in Powhatan.
He enrolled as a freshman at Ferrum in the Fall of 2015.
"Michael was happiest when surrounded by people and especially when there was a game of soccer to be played. Only two things surpassed his love of people and soccer – his family and the love he had for our Heavenly Father," his obituary stated.
His mother Melissa French says she and her son were extremely close. "He never missed a night calling me," French said. "So when he didn't call me Saturday night I had a horrible feeling, and the next morning was my worst nightmare."
French said her son wasn't typically a drinker, and that the way he died was very uncharacteristic of her son. She said he was normally the designated driver who had never been involved with drugs or even smoking cigarettes.
"He was very talented and extremely smart and handsome," French said.
Ferrum College could not comment on whether the six students charged will be returning to Ferrum College.
This is a statement released by Ferrum College:
"Our policy on hazing is aligned with state law. If College policies are violated, the College responds judicially. Ferrum College considers the safety of all students to be a top priority. The local SAK fraternity has been disbanded. We continue to keep our student's family in our thoughts and prayers."
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