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UK releases findings of investigations into student death at fraternity house

The University of Kentucky has released the findings of two investigations into the death of Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood, two months after the 18-year-old student died of alcohol toxicity at the FarmHouse Fraternity.

UK Spokesman Jay Blanton said in a Wednesday press conference that investigations by UK Police and the Office of Student Conduct have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing directly related to Hazelwood’s death.

“They found no evidence of physical coercion or forced drinking associated on the night of this tragic incident. In fact, at least one new member who was present where the incident occurred did not drink at all. However, the reviews found that FarmHouse Chapter members practiced hazing throughout the semester, creating a culture of non-compliance in which such activities were accepted.”
University of Kentucky Chief Communications Officer Jay Blanton

Blanton said fraudulent IDs were purchased by FarmHouse Fraternity members, which, as UK Police Chief Joe Monroe pointed out, is a felony.

“What I would encourage them to do is either to destroy those IDs or turn them in to us immediately, so that we could look at how that was purchased. No charges would be placed against those individuals if they come forward and share that information with us.”
University of Kentucky Police Chief Joe Monroe

The two investigations included nearly 50 interviews collectively by police and student conduct officials, reviews of available video evidence, and hundreds of thousands of messages on social media platforms. The reports are not complete, but Blanton said the pending items are not expected to materially impact the findings of the review. He said it's important to be responsive in reporting what they know to the campus, and what they plan to do moving forward.

According to the briefing document, Hazelwood was described as consuming approximately eighteen (18) one-ounce shots of Wild Turkey 101 bourbon within approximately 45 minutes. Multiple students stated in interviews that Hazelwood was obviously heavily
intoxicated as the group practiced for serenades at sorority houses. The group reportedly decided to leave him at the fraternity house, not thinking he had reached a level of intoxication they considered dangerous.

The national chapter of FarmHouse has revoked the local chapter’s status and issued a no-contact order, which means that the now former members of the chapter can have no association with FarmHouse for seven years. Members who live in the house are expected to move out by January 9th. UK revoked FarmHouse’s student organization status for at least four years. Blanton said individual students could also be charged with violations of UK’s Code of Student Conduct. Wednesday's report recommends charges for Hazing, Misuse of Alcohol, Violations of Law or Other UK Policies, and Failure to Follow UK Covid-19 Health and Safety Guidelines.

“There is, and there will be, more work to do.”
UK Chief Communications Officer Jay Blanton

Moving forward, all new members of UK Interfraternity Council (IFC) chapters must complete expanded education including peer mentoring, alcohol awareness, and bystander intervention before activities can be resumed. Blanton said staff positions have been—and are being—added to address alcohol education and hazing prevention.

Summaries of the findings of the investigations can be found here.