Search for Brotherhood Ends in Hazing Deaths

Published on April 26th, 2013

Searchers look for bodies of two Virginia State students.

[CBS screen shot] Searchers look for bodies of two Virginia State students.

Two freshmen who died during a ritual gone wrong will be honored today during a memorial service at Virginia State University.

Jauwan Holmes and Marvell Edmondson II were among seven students who attempted to walk across the Appomattox River linked arm and arm as the last step of a weeklong pledging ritual to join Men of Honor, an unofficial club at VSU.

The young men were told the water was only chest height, but they were soon overtaken by the current and pushed down the river. Holmes and Edmondson, both 19, have been missing since last Saturday. Searchers recovered Edmondson’s body Monday afternoon and found Holmes’ body on Wednesday.

Anthony Baylor, a Virginia State freshman, was in shock to hear that Edmondson, his floor mate, had been missing. “The organization appeared legit to everyone,” said Baylor, who considered joining Men of Honor with Edmondson. “No one knew it was fake.”

Virginia State University has released a statement saying that Men of Honor is not an approved or sanctioned organization on campus, though VSU was aware of its existence. No one has been able to locate the group, known for throwing parties on the Petersburg, Va., campus, south of Richmond. However, police in Chesterfield County, Va., recently charged four members with five counts of hazing.

James A. Mackey, Cory D. Baytop and Eriq K. Benson have been arrested, while Charles E. Zollicoffer II is not yet in custody. The men range in age from 19 to 35.

This is not the first incident where hazing has led to death. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) was recently in the news after one dozen men were charged with manslaughter following the death of a band member as a result of hazing.

Darryl Sharpe, Xi Alpha Lambda Dean of Pledges, described the typical training steps before new membership at VSU. “Organizations participate in a three-hour initial membership development process about initiation procedures before even accepting new members,” Sharpe said. Men of Honor did not participate in this certified training.

In addition to the VSU memorial service, Edmondson’s wake will be held this afternoon at his high school in Portsmouth, Va. His funeral is Saturday at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church. Services are still pending for Holmes.

Kelly Sharp covers social issues for 101 Magazine.

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