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Authorities: Search warrant and pledge emails may influence investigation into Cross’s 2006 death at U-Texas Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter

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from KVUE News

New information surfaced Thursday concerning the death of a University of Texas student last year.

The Travis County District Attorney’s office is investigating whether the student, Tyler Cross, was a victim of hazing.

The 18-year-old fell to his death from a fifth story balcony last November at the University Towers dormitory. An autopsy later showed cross was legally intoxicated at the time.

A search warrant, filed by the county attorney’s office and seeking information from Google, Inc, tells what happened before he died.

Investigators are gathering information that was shared online by members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fall 2006 pledge class at UT, of which Cross was a member.

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In the affidavit, we learned pledge members told investigators they were assaulted by active members of the fraternity — beaten with bamboo sticks and pieces of wood and forced to commit acts of theft.

These men also said the night Cross died he was assaulted, cattle-prodded and became very intoxicated due to the alcohol the active members supplied to him.

Investigators retrieved hundreds of pages of content from a Google Groups Web site set up by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fall 2006 pledge class

One member said pledges were told the “two most important rules for pledging were: “Don’t talk about pledgeship” and “don’t die.”

“Witnesses are always very, very important to us,” said Robert Saenz, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, in a previous interview with KVUE News. “They’re able to provide clues or facts for us about what happened or transpired that evening to where we got to the point that there was a death or an accident or seriously bodily injury.”

The attorney’s office, which is working with Austin police and the TABC, is investigating whether charges of hazing and supplying alcohol to a minor will be filed.

No one at the fraternity house on West Campus would speak with KVUE News on camera. One person inside the house said the fraternity still has an active status on campus.

As of now, no charges have been filed in this case.

Officials at the county attorney’s office say they hope to have this investigation wrapped up in the next month or so.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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