Fatal fraternity bunk tumble a mystery

May 21, 2008 11:56:33 AM PDT
Aaron Miller was a typical college student winding down the academic year at Miami University in OhioThe 20-year-old seemingly healthy junior had a girlfriend, was a finance major in good standing and a member of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house, where he lived among his collegiate brothers.

Miller was critically injured after falling out of his fraternity house bunk bed April 27. He died this weekend at a hospice after he stopped breathing. He was buried Tuesday.

One day after Miller was laid to rest, the circumstances surrounding the death remains a mystery and has left his family, friends and fraternity brothers stunned.

"Everybody had some kind of accident and can picture it happening, but cannot picture this result," Claire Wagner, a spokesman for Miami University, told ABC News.

The Montgomery County Coroner's Office told ABC News that it could not provide a specific cause of death, citing toxicology reports that will take six weeks to complete.

But from the start, authorities have said that they do not suspect foul play. Miller, they say, who had been sleeping with his girlfriend, may have been drunk or high before his fatal tumble from the 6-foot-high bed. There was a party going on inside the fraternity house that night, but Miller also may have simply died from a one-in-a-million accident.

He was buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.

A few hours after the funeral, the Oxford Police Department released an incident report that provides some detail -- but raises many questions -- about what happened that night.

Incident Report Details

Authorities responded to the fraternity house at 1:27 a.m. April 27. A male student had fallen from his loft bed and suffered a head injury, according to the report.

An Oxford police officer was led through the house to a back bedroom, where Miller was laying on his right side, bleeding from either his nose or mouth.

"Miller was unconscious but was breathing at the time, with his face starting to turn blue," the officer wrote in his report.

Rescue personnel arrived at the house with a backboard and gurney. The police officer overheard someone say that Miller had stopped breathing, the narrative said.

Hollie Burge, identified as Miller's girlfriend, told police at the scene that she was in bed at the time with Miller, who was not feeling well and wanted to go to sleep early.

"She stated that he was laying on the edge of the bed that was about 6 feet off the ground," the officer wrote. "About 45 minutes after they laid down, she stated Miller rolled over and fell of (sic) the bed onto the floor."

Burge then asked her boyfriend whether he was OK, she told police, and he did not respond. She heard him gasping for air, got out of bed and found Eric McNeily, one of Miller's fraternity brothers, in the hallway, who then called police.

McNeily declined to comment to ABC News on Miller's death, forwarding questions to chapter president James Marsico. Marsico also declined comment in deference to Miller's grieving family.

Reached by ABC News on Tuesday, Miller's father, Jeff, declined to comment, but said he was unaware authorities were releasing new information about his son's death.

Wagner said the school's Pi Kappa Phi chapter remains on a "summary suspension," a routine designation after a fraternity death. The university will reconsider that decision based on the findings of the Oxford Police Department.

Mark Timmes, national CEO of Pi Kappa Phi, responded to Miller's death with a brief comment.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fraternity brothers during this difficult time," Timmes wrote in an e-mail to ABC News, "and in deference to them it is inappropriate to make any other statements."

The Oxford Police Department's case will remain open until the toxicology reports are completed by the coroner's office; authorities say those results could finally shed some light on the student's fall.