Matt was special from the day he was born, we knew that he was meant for something great, but what we didn’t know is that he would not live to see what all he would accomplish. In life Matt was fearless and endearing, a joy to be around, I am still amazed by how many lives he touched in his short 21 years of life. I got a call from the Diablo Valley College School paper shortly after Matt’s death and the reporter asked me to describe Matt, one of the words I used was Sweetheart. She said “I can’t tell you how many people use that word to describe Matt” but I knew how many would use that word because that is exactly what Matt was a true Sweetheart. Matt always put others before himself he lived by the motto “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Unfortunately not everyone lives by that same motto, which our family found out when we learned about how Matt’s life was senselessly cut short.
On February 2, 2005, Matt was left to die of water intoxication on the floor of a cold, wet, sewer infested fraternity basement in Chico following hideous acts of hazing. He was terribly degraded and mistreated for the last three days of his life, all for the purpose of gaining admission into the fraternity, demonstrating his worthiness, and satisfying the brotherly love that the fraternity members promoted. Seven Chi Tau Fraternity Members have been charged with hazing and four of those have also been charged with felony manslaughter. The court hearings are ongoing; a tentative trial date has been set for November 2, 2005.
Through Matt’s death we hope others (parents and students) will learn before it is too late that fraternities and fraternity rituals can be coercive and dangerous. There are people out there who will take advantage of your good nature even though you may think that you are immortal because you are young and strong, fearless and good. You cannot succumb to the pressure and let others degrade or endanger you in order for them to feel better about themselves. Hopefully more children will be taught to live by the motto “do unto others.” If everyone could make this a way of life then maybe we could put a stop to these senseless deaths of our children and loved ones. I think Mark Yu (one of Matt’s best friends) was right and put it best when he said, “If everyone treated others the way Matt did we wouldn’t have any problems in society.”
~Matt’s Mom; August 10, 2005~
On Monday October 3, 2005 one of misdemeanor’s changed his plea to “no contest” receiving 30 days in jail, one-year probation, loss of student financial aid and was ordered by the court to participate in anti hazing work and must write a letter of apology to Matt’s parents.
On October 28, 2005 Matt supporters donning red and displaying their Matt Badges filled the courtroom along with a jury box full of reporters as the four defendants charged with involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor hazing changed their not guilty pleas. Sentences ranged from 90 days to one year in jail and 3 to 5 years probation, for the four defendants who must participate in an “anti-hazing outreach program” as a condition of their probation. They must also pay fines totaling up to over $3,100. They are currently working on an anti-hazing documentary with me.
On November 23, 2005 the final two charged with misdemeanor hazing pled not guilty and no contest receiving 30 to 45 days in jail and three years probation, with a loss of student financial aid, and must write a letter of apology to Matt’s parents.
We learned during this time that the California Hazing Law is quite flawed and are in the process of having it changed so that other families will not have to endured not only the pain of losing a loved one but the agony of those responsible possibly not being held accountable for their actions. Matt’s Law will not only make sure that if you participate in these acts you will suffer the consequences but more so will hopefully teach those that are considering doing this to someone to think twice before taking the chance of losing their freedom.
Click here to learn more about Matt’s Law and and how you can support it.
I love you Matt.
~ Matt’s Mom; updated March 6, 2006~
Matt’s Law was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger on September 29, 2006 and went into effect on January 1, 2007.
As of January 2008, there are three Beta Theta Pi Fraternity Members awaiting trial set for October 27, 2008 in Butte County, charged with misdemeanor hazing under Matt’s Law.
The hazing acts were committed in April 2007 in Chico, not far from where Matt was killed.
When will they ever learn?
~ Matt’s Mom; updated September 16, 2008~