PSU Altoona freshman Marquise Braham jumped off the roof of the Marriott Long Island Hotel on Friday night, and his family thinks hazing at the hands of Phi Sigma Kappa drove him to take his own life. While Nassau County police investigate Braham’s death in New York, Logan Township, PA police have begun to investigate his fraternity, and how its pledging contributed to his deteriorated mental state.
Marquise’s father Rich Braham, an editor at ABC News, told the Altoona Mirror that he decided to take the story to the press after Phi Sigma Kappa’s president sought legal counsel instead of cooperating with a police investigation. (The fraternity has since been suspended.)
“I don’t want another parent to have to go through what we went through. We sent him in late August, not thinking he would come back to us and commit suicide,” Braham said. “It’s what happened in Altoona that sent him off the roof of the Marriott in New York.
“It’s clear he didn’t want to go back there.”
A photo in Marquise’s phone, provided to the Mirror by the Braham family, shows a young man blindfolded with someone pointing a gun to his head. Also in Marquise’s phone are text messages about use of the drug MDMA within the fraternity.
There are photos of bottles with names and numbers on them associated with the hazing process.
“It’s like being a whistle blower, but he’s not alive,” family spokesman Mike Paul said.
What makes this story unique is that Braham was the secretary of Phi Sigma Kappa. He wasn’t being hazed at the time of his death: He played a role in hazing new members.
According to friends and family, he became disturbed by the rituals, going so far as to have a somber conversation with his aunt about sin and confession and his role as a leader in Phi Sigma Kappa. ”He couldn’t go on seeing the hazings,” Rich Braham said. “But he didn’t think there was any way out of that fraternity.” Added Paul: ”He felt a lot of guilt and shame about what he’s done and what he’s seen. He felt he couldn’t stop it.”
Braham’s death proves, once again, that things can go too far in hazing. And the guy committing the deed can end up hurting just as much as the pledge on the receiving end. Which is a sobering thought.
And for god’s sake, remember you can always leave. Suicide is a tragic, long-term solution to a short-term problem.