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VCU Freshman's Death Under Investigation After Fraternity Event


Early Saturday morning, Richmond Police Department discovered the body of a 19-year-old freshman named Adam Oakes. His body was found at an off-campus residence near Virginia Commonwealth University, where he was a student. According to Oakes' cousin Courtney White, Oakes had been pledging the Delta Chi fraternity, and this weekend was supposed to be his "big little reveal." In response to Adam's death—the cause of which is still being determined—both VCU and the national office of Delta Chi suspended the VCU chapter of the fraternity. In a statement, the national office encouraged its members to cooperate with law enforcement. White also urged members and classmates to come forward with information about her cousin's death.

"Adam was a kid who loved life and was just coming out of his shell," she said in a report from ABC News.

Adam Oakes' death and the police investigation are covered in the following stories:

Earlier Reports of Delta Chi Hazing

In February 2019, the Sacramento State chapter of Delta Chi was ordered to cease all campus activity after a video surfaced of a member tied to a table while gagged. He was seen on the video (filmed in November 2017) screaming while other people casually walked around or near the table. The student was reportedly kidnapped after falling asleep. The video was sent by an anonymous source who was reportedly a member of another fraternity or sorority. The video came with other photos depicting common hazing or simulations of common hazing practices. In response, Sacramento State sent a cease-and-desist order to the fraternity until the event could be investigated. The chapter was, however, not suspended in that instance.

Hazing Must Be Held Accountable

Fraternity organizations have a culture that is perpetuated at the highest levels of the organization. Delta Chi has a hazing culture that isn't limited to the VCU campus, and it is evident that this hazing culture has caused severe harm in the past. The question of Adam's death deserves an answer. His family deserves answers.

“It is just unimaginable that these things continue to happen after all of the senseless deaths and injuries we have seen in hazing cases over the years,” said Attorney David Bianchi. “In every case I have ever been involved in, the parent always says this needs to end, and yet it continues. We cannot give up trying because no family should ever have to suffer like this.”

Just as importantly, the leaders and organizers behind the events surrounding Adam's death must be brought into the light and questioned. Whatever their role in Adam's harm must be fully understood—and, if necessary, held accountable under the fullest extent of the law. Our hazing law firm has spent decades fighting to protect students from hazing behavior just like this. We cannot allow more young people to get injured or die from the wasteful, malicious, and abusive behavior normalized by contemporary Greek life.