8 indicted in death of student Frostburg State freshman died in Nov. of alcohol poisoning

'Becoming more vigilant'

Charges include manslaughter

liquor allegedly provided

February 11, 1997|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

An Allegany County grand jury has indicted eight people, including seven Frostburg State University students, in the alcohol-poisoning death of a freshman at the school last fall.

The students were all upperclassmen and members of KBZ, an unaffiliated local fraternity; according to the indictments, they sold liquor to freshman John Eric Stinner and others during an off-campus party Nov. 8. The eighth person indicted was a resident of the house where the party occurred.

Stinner, 20, of Glassport, Pa., had a blood-alcohol level of 0.34 -- more than three times the legal limit for intoxication -- when Stinner's roommate found his body the next night in his dormitory room. He had been dead for hours, according to the medical examiner.

State's Attorney Lawrence Kelly said yesterday in Cumberland that the indictments, the first sought by his office in an alcohol-poisoning death, represent a crackdown on people who "would for a profit provide alcohol to minors on a large scale."

All the people charged "had some personal involvement in providing alcohol" to Stinner, Kelly said.

Members of the KBZ fraternity, including those indicted, had held a party Nov. 8 attended by more than 100 people who paid an admission fee. At the party, according to the state's attorney, shots of vodka, gin and gelatin shooters, flavored gelatin made with vodka, were sold. Numerous beer kegs also were at the party.

The fraternity is not affiliated with a national organization and is not recognized by Frostburg State University or allowed to participate in campus Greek events, school officials said.

The night of the party, Stinner drank six to eight cups of beer and 12 to 14 shots of vodka in two hours, the state's attorney's office said. Two friends carried Stinner to his dormitory room before 11 p.m., when the doors of the dorm were routinely locked.

"The severity of the charges indicates that the legal system in Allegany County is becoming more vigilant not only about the underage drinking that is negatively impacting students around the country, but also about behaviors that put the lives of others in danger," said Frostburg President Catherine R. Gira, who pledged the school's continuing cooperation with authorities.

Gira also noted that the charges underscore the tragedy of Stinner's death.

Six of the eight charged on counts of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and sale of alcohol without a license surrendered yesterday morning and were released on their own recognizance.

They are Carl Thomas Bennett, 25, of Laurel; Frank Arthur Edmonds, 23, of Meyersdale, Pa.; Eric George Hallenbeck, 24, of Hagerstown; Matthew Lawrence Janulewicz, 23, of Ocean City; John Edgar Lewis, 22, of Williamsport; and David Anthony White, 22, of Baltimore. The name of the seventh student was not released pending his surrender.

Christopher Michael Dodson, 23, of Ellicott City, a resident of the house, also was charged.

Attorney Arnold Zerwitz of Baltimore, who represents White, declined to comment, pending consultation with his client. Janulewicz also declined to comment. The others could not be reached.

Manslaughter carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $500 fine; the penalty for reckless endangerment is a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The alcohol violation carries a maximum two-year sentence and a $1,000 fine.

University policy prohibits drinking by underage students on campus, but parties off campus where liquor is sold or served have been common for years, authorities said.

At some parties, students who are of legal age to drink buy kegs of beer and charge underaged students a $3 entrance fee that buys all the beer they can consume, authorities say.

Pub Date: 2/11/97

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