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CSUN students shocked, saddened by hiking death of fraternity pledge

CrimeHazingCalifornia State University, Northridge
Cal State Northridge students appalled by death of 19-year-old fraternity pledge during hike
Homicide detectives conducting accidental death probe in hiking death of CSUN fraternity pledge
Family members of CSUN student who died hiking in Angeles National Forest say he was being hazed

Cal State Northridge students expressed shock and sadness Thursday over the death of a 19-year-old fraternity pledge during a hike in the Angeles National Forest.

"Oh my God, that's sad," said Joanna Amezcua, 23. "I don't think they should have gone to that extreme. It shouldn't be about that."

Armando Villa, 19, who just finished his first year at CSUN, was on a hike Tuesday that included five new members of Pi Kappa Phi and three who had already been initiated, said fraternity officials. Villa was recruited into the fraternity in the spring.

Some members made Villa leave his cellphone in his car, took away the new members' shoes, gave them little water to share and “they told them to find their way down the mountain," said Efrain Lopez, Villa's cousin.

Los Angeles County sheriff's officials have not officially identified Villa but said the victim was hiking with friends off Big Tujunga Canyon Road and "passed out" along the trail after they apparently ran out of water.

Homicide detectives were conducting an accidental death investigation and have interviewed family members. His family claims he was hazed.

The fraternity is investigating alleged violations of the organization's hazing and risk management policy, according to a statement released Thursday morning.

“Hazing has no place in our fraternity," said Chief Executive Officer Mark E. Timmes. “Should the student chapter or individual members be found in violation of Pi Kappa Phi’s standards of conduct through our discipline process, they will be held accountable by the national fraternity.” 

On Thursday, some students at CSUN were just hearing the news.

"That's just crazy," said Christian Mejia, 27, shaking his head. "To take someone out there and take their shoes and leave them without enough supplies...that's just taking it too far."

"It's tragic," Moe Nia, 20, of Northridge said.

Some said it was careless and cruel to leave a group of young men in the mountains without enough water, cellphones and shoes.

"It's horrible," said Amanda Proietty, 26, of Camarillo. "I don't know why anyone would want to do that to be in a fraternity."

Some said they hoped the university and the fraternity's national organization would take steps to ensure these types of incidents are stopped.

"They should know it's not OK to be doing something like that," Amezcua said.

Others said they hoped criminal charges would be filed against those involved in the incident.

"They should get charged for something because they did it with the intent of not going back and helping them," Proietty said. "But I also don't think they meant for anyone to get hurt."

Said Mejia: "Someone has to be held accountable; you can't just leave anyone out there like that."

Lopez said Villa left for the hiking trip Monday night. Villa had participated in two other pledging events, Lopez said.

He does not know details about the first, but during the second, new members were taken to the beach and members of the fraternity “made him [Villa] do some stuff on sand."

Lopez said when Villa's parents arrived at the hospital, a doctor “was telling them that this is really surprising that he was brought in with no shoes and had blisters on his feet."

The doctor told Villa's father the incident could be related to hazing, Lopez said. 

When asked about hazing allegations, sheriff's spokeswoman Nicole Nishida declined to go into specifics.

"Detectives are looking at everything in totality," she said.

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For breaking news in Los Angeles and the Southland, follow @Caitlin__Owens, or email her at caitlin.owens@latimes.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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CrimeHazingCalifornia State University, Northridge
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