Hazing News

Salt Lake Tribune on Court appearance of Sigma Nu commander

Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:01/12/2009 06:59:42 PM MST
by Brian Maffly

A dozen Utah State University students appeared in court Monday to enter not-guilty pleas to misdemeanor charges that they participated in an alleged hazing that contributed to the death of a freshman fraternity pledge in November.

An attorney for Cody Littlewood, the commander of the Sigma Nu fraternity, contends Littlewood was not present at the hazing, discouraged alcohol use at Sigma Nu initiations, and took good care of 18-year-old pledge Michael Starks when he returned intoxicated.

“Cody Littlewood gave Michael Starks excellent care,” said lawyer Clayton Simms “It’s a tragedy. They liked Michael. They enjoyed his company. It’s double whammy to lose a friend and to be blamed for his demise.”

Cache County prosecutors have charged Littlewood, a 20-year-old junior majoring in journalism, three Sigma Nu brothers, and eight underage members of Chi Omega sorority with class A misdemeanors that carry a maximum jail term of one year. They have pretrial hearings set for Jan. 26. The USU chapters of their organizations are charged with felony hazing in connection with Starks’ Nov. 21 death from alcohol poisoning.

Before the incident, Littlewood and other Sigma Nu members identified Starks as their top pledge, whose reward was to be “captured” by Chi Omega women next door, according to charges. The women took Starks to a Logan home, where they painted him and gave him a liter of vodka, most of which he drank before his fellow pledges “rescued” him.

“He ended up at the fraternity house and was very intoxicated,” Simms said. “That was a concern for the fraternity brothers.”

Littlewood helped Starks remove the blue paint from his skin and another member called poison control. They followed the recommendations to lay Starks on his side and give him water. Littlewood remained up through the early morning hours studying and playing video games, going into Starks’ room every 30 to 45 minutes. He discovered Starks wasn’t breathing at around 4 a.m. and called 911.

According to Simms, Littlewood had no knowledge that the women would give Starks alcohol and had specifically forbidden any pledges be given liquor at initiation events.

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; 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 current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily-- and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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