The death of Oakes, 19, of Sterling, generated national attention and renewed questions about hazing and excessive drinking by Greek organizations at the Richmond university and at colleges across the country. Oakes’s family said in a statement that the charges gave them a measure of relief, but they hope more serious charges are filed in the case and the state legislature explores making unlawful hazing a felony.
“We are grateful for some measure of justice these charges and arrests may produce, as well as the protection from hazing they may give young, impressionable college students,” the statement read.
“The past seven months have been agonizing for our family. This is the first time these young men have been held accountable for their historically toxic and destructive traditions, manipulation of the VCU disciplinary systems, and for Adam’s death,” the statement noted.
Oakes died after attending what is known as “Big Little Reveal” sponsored by the Delta Chi fraternity, his family said. Oakes had been pledging the fraternity and was supposed to be introduced to the big brother who would guide him through Greek life. Roughly 12 hours after going to the party, Oakes was found dead on a couch at an off-campus house, his family said. A Virginia state medical examiner later ruled that Oakes died of alcohol poisoning and that his death was an accident.
Relatives said Oakes was a huge sports fan who once refused to wash his hand after getting the chance to high-five NBA star Kevin Durant. He was thinking of majoring in sports management, marketing or criminal justice.
Courtney White, a relative of Oakes, said the group of people indicted included Oakes’s big brother at the fraternity. The Richmond police declined to comment on whether those indicted were all members of the fraternity or what role, if any, they played in the group.
Those arrested include, Benjamin J. Corado, 19; Quinn A. Kuby, 22; Riley K. McDaniel, 21; Alessandro Medina Villanueva, 21; Jason B. Mulgrew, 21; Christian G. Rohrbach, 22; Colin G. Tran, 20; and Enyanat W. Sheikhzad, 22. The names of those indicted but not arrested were not released.
A website for the group listed Corado, Kuby, Villanueva, Rohrbach, Mulgrew and Tran as part of the “leadership team.” None of the accused were yet listed in online court records, so it could not be determined if they had attorneys. All of those charged declined to comment or could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday.
The Delta Chi Fraternity International Headquarters said it is aware of the arrests and condemned the alleged actions of its former members. The VCU chapter of Delta Chi remains indefinitely suspended, officials said.
“Our policies are clear as it relates to the expected conduct of members including that no member shall engage in or condone acts of hazing,” fraternity leaders said. “Any individual found responsible should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. No family should ever have to experience what the Oakes family has experienced.”
After Oakes’s death, Virginia Commonwealth University, the campus police and Richmond police launched probes of the incident. After a months-long investigation into Delta Chi, the university expelled the fraternity from campus in June. The investigation was triggered by Oakes’s death, but also followed reports of misconduct, including some allegations that fraternity members violated coronavirus protocols and policies regarding events, recruitment activities, alcohol and hazing.
Amid heightened scrutiny of Greek life on college campuses, the university initiated a review of its 20 fraternities and 17 sororities. It also contracted an outside firm to perform a similar audit, which found Greek organizations provide members with a “largely positive and meaningful” experiences but struggle with hazing and alcohol abuse.
The results of those reports led the university to prohibit alcohol at all Greek events this school year, initiate a pause on new-member recruitment and commit to publishing incidents of misconduct online.
Both the outside firm, Dyad Strategies, and the university made several suggestions to improve health and safety for some 1,200 students involved in Greek life, including expanding the school’s hazing policy and working with fraternities to reevaluate “Big Brother” mentorship programs.
University officials said they will provide an update on the school’s progress in December. VCU released a statement Friday saying the university continues to mourn Oakes’s “tragic death.”
“VCU continues to mourn the tragic death of Adam Oakes and is grateful to the Richmond Police Department for its investigation,” the statement said. “VCU is dedicated to continuing its efforts, announced this summer, to promote a safe and welcoming fraternity and sorority life culture for all.”