Death of WSU’s Sam Martinez: Prosecutor files criminal charges

Death of WSU’s Sam Martinez: Prosecutor files criminal charges

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The charges are related to the Pullman Police Department’s investigation into the 2019 death WSU freshman Samuel Martinez, who died after a fraternity pledge event.

PULLMAN, Wash. — The Whitman County Prosecuting Attorney’s office announced on Wednesday that it is filing criminal charges against 15 current or former members of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity at Washington State University following a 2019 pledge event.

The charges are related to the Pullman Police Department’s investigation into the death of 19-year-old WSU freshman Samuel Martinez. Martinez, who was from Bellevue, died of “acute alcohol intoxication,” otherwise known as alcohol poisoning, on Nov. 12, 2019 after attending the fraternity event. The Whitman County Coroner ruled that the manner of his death was accidental.

In July 2020, Martinez’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university and the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity which he was pledging to join.

The men are charged with supplying liquor to one or more pledges at the fraternity event that was part of an initiation process, according to a press release from Whitman County Prosecuting Attorney Denis P. Tracy’s office. Furnishing liquor to minors is a gross misdemeanor in Washington state punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine, Tracy’s office said.

RELATED: ‘A hole left in our lives’: Family of WSU student who died during fraternity pledge event files wrongful death suit

The defendants in the case will be summoned to appear in Whitman County District Court. 

Pullman Police Department’s investigation into Martinez’s death was turned over to the prosecutor in February 2021. Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins told KREM that the department was recommending charges of hazing and furnishing liquor to a minor

The department “did not feel there was enough evidence for the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the charge of manslaughter,” Jenkins said in February 2021.

RELATED: Pullman police chief explains delays in investigation into WSU student’s death

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