Two frat boys from the University of Missouri have been charged in connection with a 19-year-old at the school who was left blind and unable to walk or talk after being forced to down a family-sized bottle of Tito’s vodka.
Ryan Delanty and Thomas Shultz were indicted Friday in Missouri’s Boone County in connection with the treatment of Daniel Santulli, a teenager whose family say was forced to drink until his heart stopped last October during pledge month at Phi Gamma Delta. Shultz is facing an additional felony charge of tampering with physical evidence.
He has been left permanently and severely disabled as a result, in what his family’s lawyer says is the worst-known incident of hazing abuse in US history.
Santulli’s family has previously filed civil suits against 23 members of Phi Delta Gamma but this is the first time anyone has been criminally charged.
It’s unclear if Delanty and Shultz have been named as defendants in that civil suit.
The two young men are charged with felony hazing and misdemeanors of supplying liquor to a minor or intoxicated person.
Santulli was force-fed beer through a tube and told to down an entire bottle of vodka by his ‘fraternity fathers,’ including Delanty. At the end of the night, Santulli had a shocking .468 blood alcohol level, six times the legal limit in Missouri.
Danny Santulli, 19, is now blind, unable to talk and in a wheelchair as a result of the brain damage he suffered on a brutal night of hazing last October
Before: Danny is shown in 2020 before the hazing incident left him permanently disabled
The Phi Gamma Delta house at the University of Missouri
Delanty is accused of handing the bottle of vodka to Santulli and telling him to drink, while Shultz was the fraternity’s vice president and brought the vodka for the party. Shultz is 21, while Delanty is believed to be around 20 but his age is unclear.
When Santulli passed out and went into cardiac arrest, they dumped him outside a hospital.
Now, he is unlikely to walk, talk or see again. His mother Mary Pat has quit her banking job to care for him full time.
The family has filed cases against the fraternity, the owner of the house and the frat members.
‘It’s as horrible as it could possibly be and (have him) still be alive,’ Santulli family’s attorney David Bianchi told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. ‘It’s the worst fraternity hazing injury ever in the United States. We’ve been doing these cases for 30 years. I know the landscape of hazing. I know the defense lawyers who defend the fraternities. And everyone agrees this is the worst ever.’
Bianchi has filed the civil suits against members of Phi Delta Gamma, with all but two settling out of court.
So far, Delanty and Shultz are the only people who’ve been indicted by Boone County (where the school is located), but further criminal charges are likely to follow.
‘There are probably another dozen or more fraternity members who were responsible for this hazing event,’ Bianchi added.
Surveillance footage has emerged of the brutal hazing. Santulli was attending ‘Pledge Dad Reveal Night’ at Phi Gamma Delta.
The teenager was ordered to down a 1.75 liter bottle of Tito’s and had beer force-fed to him through a tube.
Surveillance footage obtained by Good Morning America shows Danny and the other pledges being led shirtless and blindfolded down a staircase in the frat house.
Later, he is force-fed beer through a tube and then he is seen falling backwards, passing out on a table and then slumped on a couch.
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Danny is shown on the night last October with a bottle of Tito’s in his hand
Danny is shown slumped half-off of the couch inside the frat house after passing out
Danny passed out on a couch inside the frat house and eventually his frat brothers took him to the hospital
Danny Santulli is shown above being carried to a car to be driven to the hospital on October 20 after a brutal night of hazing at his University of Missouri fraternity
Danny is shown falling backwards onto a table at the frat house on October 20 last year
In this blurry image, Danny is force-fed beer through a funnel and a tube despite already drinking a 1.75 liter bottle of Tito’s vodka
Fraternity pledges at the Phi Gamma Delta ‘Pledge Dad Reveal Night’ are shown walking blindfolded and shirtless down the stairs of the frat house
The boys are shown making their way through the frat house before Danny passed out
The footage also shows his panicked frat brothers trying to carry him into a car to take him to the hospital once they realized how severe his condition was.
By the time he got there, he had stopped breathing for long enough to cause severe brain damage.
After months in a rehabilitation center, Danny was recently taken home to Missouri where his mother now cares for him round-the-clock.
His family previously sued 23 people, including the fraternity, and won their case with an undisclosed settlement but they are now suing two individual frat boys; Sam Gandhi and Alec Wetzler.
They are also demanding felony charges be brought against the pair.
Wetzler has been charged with misdemeanor providing alcohol to a minor and he is no longer enrolled at the school, but Gandhi has not been charged and he remains a student.
According to the family’s lawsuit, Gandhi saw the dire state Danny was in but did nothing to help until it was too late.
In an interview with Good Morning America on Thursday, Danny’s mother cried as she explained that none of the boys ever called 911.
Danny, shown with his sister, is unlikely to ever walk, talk or see again. He will need 24-hour care for the rest of his life
Danny’s mother sobbed as she asked why none of the kids called 911 when they saw her son passed out with blue lips
‘Just the fact that nobody… they knew he was in distress. His lips were blue and nobody called 911. I mean, six year olds call 911.’
She added that he will need care ‘for life’.
‘He’s still not talking or walking, he’s in a wheelchair. He lost his vision. But he hears us and he knows we’re there. We’ll just keep fighting – we’re not going to give up hope, she added.
Danny’s sister told of her disgust that the frat boys responsible had not been charged. ‘It makes me sick to my stomach seeing the people involved that harmed Danny walking around campus acting like they did nothing wrong,’ she said.
According to the lawsuit, the fraternity brothers gave Danny a family-sized handle of Tito’s vodka and told him to finish it throughout the night.
He had, at that point, been at their ‘beck and call’ for a month as part of the grueling hazing process.
‘He was sleep deprived, was having to buy things for the fraternity brothers with his own money and was repeatedly ordered to clean the brothers’ rooms and bring food, alcohol and marijuana to them at all hours of the night.
According to the lawsuit, the frat boys from The University of Missouri (shown) were already under caution for a previous hazing incident
‘Making matters worse, during the pledging process, Danny had been ordered to climb inside of a trash can that had broken glass in it,’ the lawsuit reads.
Two nights before the incident, Danny cried to his sister that he’d had enough, the lawsuit claims.
His family told him to quit the fraternity but he said he didn’t want to because he ‘wasn’t a quitter.’
On the night of the hazing, the lawsuit says Weltzer stood on a chair ‘looking for a target’ and spotted Danny. He then forced him to drink a beer via a tube, then made him return to his family-sized bottle of Tito’s.
The petition alleges Wetzler put a tube into Santulli’s mouth and poured beer down his throat, coercing him to drink an excessive amount of alcohol.
Gandhi then walked away from Santulli after initially trying to assist him when it was clear that the freshman was dangerously intoxicated, Bianchi claims.
He walked into the room at 12.17am and saw Santulli had not moved from where he left him, the lawsuit alleges.
The 19-year-old’s blood-alcohol content was 0.486 percent, more than six times the legal limit for driving.
Santulli’s near-death hazing is the latest in a string of similar incidents in America in the last ten years.
There have been more than 200 hazing deaths at schools across the country since the 2000, with 2019 being one of the deadliest years.
The most recent death was that of Phat Nguyen, a Michigan State University student who died in November last year from alcohol poisoning. He had pledged to Phi Alpha Phi.
Before that, Adam Oakes and Stone Foltz died in two separate incidents at Virginia Commonwealth University and Bowling Green State University. They both suffered acute alcohol poisoning.
There were no hazing deaths in 2020 because schools were closed due to COVID-19.
In 2019, five kids died in alcohol-related hazing incidents.
America’s dark hazing history: Fraternity initiation rituals have killed nearly 500 college students since 1838 through alcohol poisoning, drunk driving, beatings and deadly pranks
America has a long, dark history of college hazing that has seen nearly 500 young students die in accidents while being initiated into Greek life.
The latest incident to shock the country was the October 2021 hazing of Danny Santulli, a 19-year-old who survived severe alcohol poisoning but is now blind and wheelchair-ridden as a result of it.
Danny’s family’s lawyer, David Bianchi, described it as the worst case of hazing injury the country has ever seen.
‘You can’t be more injured and still be alive,’ he told DailyMail.com this week after filing a lawsuit against two of the frat boys involved. While Danny survived, more than 400 other kids have not.
There is no official database for hazing deaths or injuries thanks largely to the blanket of secrecy that is immediately thrown on incidents by universities, fraternities and sororities.
Pledges are loaded into the back of a U-Haul van to be driven to a hazing event at Northeastern University
The closest count to an official tally is that of Hank Nuwer, a journalist who has covered hazing and written multiple books on the topic.
By his count, there were 179 hazing deaths at American colleges between 1838 and 1999, and an additional 281 between 2000 and 2022.
Three boys died in 2021 after schools reopened following a year-long shutdown thanks to COVID. There were no hazing deaths in 2020 and so far, there have not been any in 2022.
In recent years, alcohol poisoning deaths have been on the rise. In all three suspected hazing deaths of 2021, the victim died as a result of acute alcohol poisoning.
There was a brief gap in hazing deaths in 2020 when college campuses closed as a result of COVID-19.
Now, with more kids rushing back to school, there are fears of an uptick – and experts however say hazing will be harder to police now that more and more kids are taking the rituals off-campus, out of the view of the schools which monitor them.
A 1905 article from The Albuquerque Evening Citizen details how student Stuart L. Pierson was tied to train tracks and hit by a locomotive in a hazing ritual at Kenyon college
Adam Oakes (left) died at Virginia Commonwealth University last February as a result of alcohol poisoning. Phat Nguyen (right) died in November at Michigan State University
‘It’s all going underground,’ Newar told DailyMail.com. He said the uptick began in 1995 when the tradition of ‘bottle passing’ began.
It involves a pledge being gifted an entire bottle of alcohol – normally cheap vodka – to finish in one evening.
Newar’s research – which involves interviews with fraternity brothers and psychologists – reveals that the entire act is underpinned by camaraderie.
‘There’s denial after the incident that occurs, a blindness among fraternity members just like the government in Bay of Pigs.
‘If you do something risky enough long enough something bad is going to occur, but they don’t see it coming. Interview after interview I find them surprised and I don’t think it’s faked surprise.
He said the only way to stop hazing is to stop the tradition of pledging – but colleges and fraternities are hesitant.
‘These slaps on the wrists are not helping anybody. I think it makes frat members arrogant and thinking. Everybody should have a good time but no one should die for a good time.
‘In doing the research and talking to people, [it seems] it’s a form of cheap entertainment – it’s a kind of domestic abuse. They call themselves brothers sons dads, it’s in a house.
‘We have to end pledging – end that power dynamic,’ Nuwer added.
In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks – ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus. Hunter Hudgins was charged with her death =
Stone Foltz, pictured with his parents, died last year in an alcohol hazing at Bowling Green State University
While alcohol poisoning is a leading cause of hazing death, it is not the only root of the problem.
Drum major Robert Champion was beaten to death in 2011 by frat boys taking part in a hazing challenge
Other incidents include that of Stuart Lathrop Pierson, an 18-year-old who died in 1905 after being tied to train tracks as part of a hazing prank at Delta Kappa Epsilon at Kenyon College in Ohio.
A newspaper article from that year has the headline: ‘Was this student hazed to death?’
The coroner found that Stuart had either been tied to the tracks or was somehow unable to get away fast enough as a locomotive train approached him.
In another incident in 2019, Western Michigan University student Bailey Broderick was killed when she was struck by a van being driven by a drunk pledge carrying out one of his tasks – ferrying his fraternity brothers around campus.
In 2018, Collin Wiant died from asphyxiation after inhaling nitrous oxide from a whipped cream canister at Sigma Pi.
Five years earlier, students Marvell Edmondson and Jauwan Holmes both drowned after a night of drinking at Virginia State University. They had attempted to swim in a river.
Hazing is a felony crime in 13 states if it causes serious harm or death.
Those states are Florida, Texas, California, Utah, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New Jersey.
Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana do not have any specific hazing laws.