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California bulletin: arrests in CA

San Luis Obispo, Calif., Police Department officials announced today that they have arrested and charged individuals in connection with the Dec. 2, 2008, death of 18-year-old Carson Starkey (at right) of Austin.
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San Luis Obispo officials are releasing more information at a 3 p.m. (Central Time) press conference, so check back here for details on what officials there are calling a “fraternity hazing death.”

Starkey died of alcohol poisoning during a fraternity initiation in California on Dec. 2. He had pledged to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity during his freshman year at California Polytechnic State University. According to a police report, Carson died as a result of hazing, and autopsy results showed his blood alcohol content was between .39 and .44. The legal limit to drive in Texas is .08.

A graduate of Austin High School, Carson Starkey was a member of the school’s tennis, lacrosse and cross-country running teams. But his father, Scott Starkey, has said that Carson Starkey’s true love was cycling, and he helped his father build mountain bike trails in Texas and Colorado.

After graduating in the top 10 percent of his high school class, Carson Starkey decided to go to Cal Poly because it was one of the top schools for architectural engineering, his mother, Julia Starkey, has said. He started school Sept. 13, bringing his cowboy boots and a Texas flag with him. He told his parents that he wanted to join the fraternity to make more friends.

Julia and Scott Starkey have said they knew little about alcohol poisoning before their son died and now want to educate other people about it. In March, they and about 200 of their friends and relatives walked in the Capitol 10K wearing blue T-shirts with a picture of Carson Starkey and the address of a Web site — www.withcarson.com — with information about life-threatening signs of alcohol abuse.

Since Carson’s death, the Starkeys have also persuaded the Austin school district to add alcohol poisoning and hazing awareness to the secondary health curriculum next school year, said Tracy Lunoff, the district’s health curriculum director. The Starkeys have also established a scholarship fund for a graduating Austin High School senior and a fund to create awareness about alcohol poisoning and hazing.

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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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