Unrecognized fraternity linked to death of SUNY Oneonta student

ONEONTA, N.Y. - The Oneonta City Police Department is investigating the death of a SUNY Oneonta freshman, who they say was at a house associated with an unrecognized fraternity the morning he died.

Posted: Dec 4, 2017 7:07 PM
Updated: Dec 4, 2017 7:23 PM

ONEONTA, N.Y. - The Oneonta City Police Department is investigating the death of a SUNY Oneonta freshman, who they say was at a house associated with an unrecognized fraternity the morning he died.

Students at 34 Academy Street called police when 18-year-old Daniel Michaels, of Long Island, was observed as being unconscious on their couch.

"On December 2nd, at about 12:05, city of Oneonta police received a request for a report of an unconscious male in need of medical attention," Oneonta City Police Chief Douglas Brenner said. "He was noticed on the couch, and I believe their exact quote was 'not looking good.'" 

Brenner said Michaels was transported to A.O. Fox hospital by a private vehicle, not by ambulance.

"We received information from the hospital that he had gone into cardiac arrest," Brenner said.

"The campus was notified by the Oneonta Police Department shortly after 1:30 a.m.," Hal Legg, SUNY Oneonta's executive director of communications said.

"There was alcohol use and some other substance abuse," Brenner said. "We got a preliminary test on his blood alcohol content. It was below legal levels."

Brenner said the toxicology tests on the other substances will take at least four weeks to complete. Until then, police are investigating the possibility that a fraternity unrecognized by SUNY Oneonta was involved.

"We have received information that there's some members of an unrecognized fraternity who live there," Brenner said. "There was no party there that night, which is something that we looked into. But we are looking into whether or not there was a fraternity-related social event."

"From what I know, it was Alpha Pi," Valery Vinueza, a Hartwick College student who lives near the property said.

Unrecognized fraternities are not associated with the school their members attend, or with any chapter of a national or international fraternity. Hence, their activities, initiation rituals and social structure are not monitored by the school.

"Unrecognized frats aren't recognized by the school, so they're kind of like underground and they kind of just do whatever they want," Nicholas Brown, a Hartwick College student and member of a recognized fraternity said.

As police continue the investigation, SUNY Oneonta is offering additional counseling services to students in need.

"It's a difficult time for the students, friends and certainly his family, and we're just trying to be helpful as best we can," Legg said.

According to news reports, this isn't the first time Michaels' family has lost a child. In 2004, the NY Daily News reported his brother was killed when a falling tree crushed him at camp.

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