Parents of NIU freshman who died of alcohol, hazing speak out - FOX 10 News |

Parents of NIU freshman who died of alcohol, hazing speak out

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The parents of David Bogenberger, the Northern Illinois University freshman who died in 2012 after being forced to drink toxic amounts of alcohol at a fraternity pledge event, have spoken out for the first time.

Gary and Ruth Bogenberger said after 16 months they are finally in an emotional state where they can talk publicly about their son's senseless death. FOX 32 news spoke to them at their home in Florida last week. They remain very angry at the university and the fraternity, and have a warning for parents who believe those institutions will look after their children.

"It's our hope that we can help somebody else to avoid a similar tragedy," said Ruth.

The wounds are still raw, and the pain is felt every hour of every day.

"(Sighs) It still makes me cry. Honestly…I can't look at a picture of him and not cry," Ruth added.

Nineteen-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. However, his parents had an uneasy feeling when David called and told them he wanted to join a fraternity -- the Pi Kappa Alpha House.

"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,'" said Ruth.

David's father, Gary, said he felt better after going online and reading the university's strict policies regulating fraternity parties and alcohol consumption.

"This gave us -- gave me -- a little comfort in knowing that big brother was going to be watching him," said Gary.

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. 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.

"The ladies had even prepared vomit buckets," said Gary.

"Yes, personalized," added Ruth.

"They knew they were going to get sick. This was all orchestrated ahead of time for the simple purpose of degrading these pledges," Gary said.

DeKalb Police estimate David drank 40 ounces of vodka and other alcohol in 90 minutes.

"He was goaded. He was literally goaded with profanity. 'Why can't you take another drink?'," said Gary.

"Ridicule. Name calling," Ruth added. "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.

David's blood alcohol level was .35%, more than four times the legal limit.

"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," said Ruth.

Ruth was at home in Florida when a sheriff's deputy knocked on her door.

"He said…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," Ruth added.

"I was out at the golf course and I didn't even ask how...I just simply came home," said Gary.

A few days later, at a campus-wide memorial service for David, his parents were ushered into a room for a private meeting with then-NIU president John Peters, who offered his condolences.

"I said to him…that you have a wonderful policy statement. And only if you had enforced it David would be with us today. And he said nothing and looked down," Gary said.

The university said it can't comment on the Bogenberger's accusations because they have a civil lawsuit pending against NIU. Five of the fraternity members are facing felony hazing charges. Another 17 involved in the death have been charged with misdemeanors.

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