Parents Sue NIU Over Son's Death
Updated: Saturday, April 19 2014, 05:15 PM CDT
The parents of a Northern Illinois University freshman are speaking out for the first time. Their son died in 2012 after being forced to drink a deadly amount of alcohol at a fraternity event. Fox's Dane Placko talked with the student's parents about his senseless death and delivers their warning for parents who believe institutions will look after their children.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "it's our hope that we can help somebody else to avoid a similar tragedy."
The wounds are still raw. The pain felt every hour of every day.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "It still makes me cry. Honestly, Dane, I can't look at a picture of him and not cry."
19 year old David Bogenberger was one of three triplets raised in northwest suburban Palatine. Following in his father's footsteps, he decided to attend Northern Illinois University, but his parents had an uneasy feeling when david called and told them he wanted to join a fraternity -- the Pi Kappa Alpha house.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "I said to David, I said 'what about this? Is there going to be hazing going on?' And he said 'no mom, that's not allowed.'"
Gary Bogenberger says he felt better after going online and reading the university's strict policies regulating fraternity parties and alcohol consumption.
Gary Bogenberger says, "This gave us--gave me--a little comfort in knowing that big brother was going to be watching him."
On November 1st, 2012, David and 16 other pledges were instructed to attend a "mom and dad's night" party at the pike's house. At the party they were given a list of room numbers and told to knock on doors until they found their pledge mom, a member of an associated sorority. The room numbers are still on David's cellphone. Each time they failed to find their pledge mom, the pledges were told to take a drink.
Gary Bogenberger says, "the ladies had even prepared vomit buckets.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "yes, personalized."
Gary Bogenberger says, "they knew they were going to get sick. This was all orchestrated ahead of time for the simple purpose of degrading these pledges."
Dekalb police estimate david drank 40 ounces of vodka and other alcohol in 90 minutes.
Gary Bogenberger says"he was goaded. He was literally goaded with profanity. 'why can't you take another drink?'
Ruth Bogenberger says, "ridicule. Name calling. That's not a party. A party is supposed to be a happy time where people are gathered to have fun. I don't know how falling down drunk pledges who are physically ill is fun."
After David passed out, fraternity members dragged him into an empty room and closed the door.
The next day he was found dead. His blood alcohol level was at point-three-five percent, which is more than four times the legal limit.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "David was dead a long time before he was discovered. I'm not going to go into all the details. They were pretty graphic. But we've read the coroner's report as well. Nobody was checking on David."
Ruth was at home in Florida when a sheriff's deputy knocked on her door.
Ruth Bogenberger says, "He said, I don't know the exact words, Dane, something to the effect of 'David Bogenberger has died.' Who expects that? Your 19 year old child? You just talked to him the day before and everything is fine."
Gary Bogenberger says, "I was out at the golf course and I didn't even ask how. Excuse me. I didn't even ask how. I just simply came home."
A few days later, at a campus-wide memorial service for David, his parents were ushered into a room for a private meeting with the then NIU president John Peters, who offered his condolences.
Gary Bogenberger says, : "I said to him -- if I could just have a word -- that you have a wonderful policy statement and if only you had enforced it David would be with us today. And he said nothing and looked down."