VCU student’s death ruled accidental from alcohol poisoning

Updated: May. 25, 2021 at 7:05 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A coroner has ruled the death of a Virginia Commonwealth University student who died at an off-campus residence as accidental from alcohol poisoning.

The results come close to 12 weeks after the VCU freshman was found dead in a home on West Clay Street on Feb. 27.

Adam Oakes’ death sparked outrage across the state after his parents claim he was taking part in an initiation ritual for the Delta Chi fraternity at VCU. The fraternity has since, been suspended.

On May 25, a Richmond city coroner ruled the cause of death as “ethanol toxicity” and the manner of death as an accident.

Adam’s family released the following statement regarding the findings:

“On behalf of our family, we are grateful for the thorough work completed on the part of the medical examiner’s office in identifying ethanol toxicity, or alcohol poisoning, as Adam’s cause of death. At this time, receiving the results feels similar to ripping a bandaid off an open wound. We are all mourning his loss again as if it just happened yesterday. Even though the results are unsurprising, it does not make it any easier to hear. However, we now have the scientific evidence needed to confirm his death was caused by hazing, specifically the excessive amounts of alcohol the fraternity supplied and pressured him to drink that night at the Delta Chi Big/Little event. The investigation is ongoing and as to not intrude or disrupt the work, we will not be divulging any further details at this time. We ask that you not forget my cousin was a 19 year old kid looking for acceptance and friends. He had an amazing heart, a kind spirit, and the absolute best bear hug. He had a bright future ahead with dreams of his own. Those dreams will never be fulfilled because of one night, one group of boys, and one fraternity tradition—but also because of a greek system that regularly used hazing to control and coerce teenagers, endangering them, and in too many cases, ending in their death. Please educate, hug, and love your children. #seekthetruth #justiceforadamo”

VCU released the following statement:

“We have not received a Medical Examiner’s report but know it will be included in the Richmond Police Department’s investigation. Once that investigation is complete, we will use it to determine what actions to take regarding organizations and individuals involved.

“Last month, VCU initiated disciplinary proceedings against the Delta Chi fraternity based on multiple reports and allegations of violations of university policies and directives in the hours before the death of VCU student Adam Oakes. The results of that process are expected this summer.”

Adam Oakes’ death comes as VCU hires Dyad Strategies to conduct an external review of Greek life at the university. The report from this review is expected to come in June.

The Delta Chi chapter at VCU is also suspended and could be possibly expelled if they’re found responsible for misconduct related to Adam’s death. The chapter’s disciplinary proceedings started last month and university officials anticipate the results from this process to come this summer.

The Richmond Police Department says detectives have not filed charges in connection with the death of Adam Oakes. Anyone with information is asked to call Major Crimes Detective M. Gouldman at (804) 646-3915.

This is a developing story.

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