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Authorities probe possible link between teen's suicide, fraternity hazing

Penn State freshman Marquise A. Braham committed suicide

Penn State freshman Marquise A. Braham committed suicide on March 14, 2014. Credit: Courtesy of the Braham family

Pennsylvania authorities are investigating whether there is a connection between allegations of hazing, alcohol and drug use in a Penn State Altoona fraternity and the suicide on Long Island of a teen who was a member, officials said.

Marquise A. Braham, 18, a 2013 graduate of Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale and an officer of the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity, committed suicide last Friday, the day he was set to return to school. His family, who lives in Queens, said he jumped off the roof of the Marriott in Uniondale after, his suicide note indicated, an aborted attempt earlier in the week.

Logan Township Police said they started investigating after Penn State Altoona police contacted them Monday about a student who came forward with allegations about the off-campus fraternity and the teen's family spoke to campus police Sunday.

"We're looking to see if there is a link between the Altoona incident and the New York incident," Logan Police Chief Ron Heller said. "Everything that has come to us, either by rumor or from the family, has put a red flag out there for us . . . that there could be more than just a young man who took his life."

An attorney for fraternity president Eric Traister said the fraternity was "devastated" by the death and denied any hazing. "We don't believe the fraternity had any responsibility relative to the young man's passing," said Theodore Krol of Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Krol said the fraternity "saw no signs of distress and anxiety" in Marquise Braham. "He embraced the fraternity and the brothers, from my understanding," Krol said.

In an interview Thursday, Rich Braham said his son did not discuss hazing with his family, but told friends in text messages that he had been hazed as a pledge and was uncomfortable as a new officer doling out the same treatment. He told friends the hazing involved excessive alcohol and drug use, among other things, Braham said.

"He couldn't drink. He didn't have a driver's license, but now he's a leader of the fraternity responsible . . . for doling out hazings," said his father, a managing editor at ABC News. "That's not who my son was. . . . He had a Christian upbringing his entire life."

The family is calling on authorities in Pennsylvania and Nassau to investigate what led to the suicide.

Braham said the family turned over his son's phone and laptop computer to Nassau County police Thursday. A Nassau police spokesman could not confirm that Thursday night.

In a separate development, the university said Thursday it had suspended the fraternity as it reviewed "allegations of violations of the university code," said Shari Routch, a Penn State Altoona spokeswoman.

Routch said the fraternity had no record of prior violations.

The Rosedale family alleges Marquise killed himself because of his trepidation about the hazing and "feeling no way out of the fraternity."

Braham said his son told a friend in a March 4 email he was glad to be coming home because hazing new pledges "was tough to watch."

Braham said he also learned after his son's death that Marquise had told an aunt he wanted to confess to a priest because "I have sins."

Braham said his son, who was studying biomedical engineering, did not appear suicidal. But last Friday, his son had lunch with his mother, then later killed himself after leaving a suicide note in her car.

"He was a good kid, a clean-living kid, who just enjoyed life," Braham said.

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