Lafayette College President Alison Byerly announced she will step down at the end of the academic year. (Courtesy of Shuvaev/Creative Commons)

Authorities release more details about Lafayette student’s death


Lafayette student McCrae Williams died two days after drunkenly sustaining a head injury, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli revealed in a press conference Tuesday.

The Morning Call published footage from a conference in which Morganelli shared details about the “chain of events” between Sept. 15 and Sept. 19 that led to Williams’ death, based on information obtained from an investigation at the college. Twelve or 13 students related to the incident were interviewed by police, according to The Lafayette student newspaper.

Williams reportedly attended several parties with friends from the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, where he did consume alcohol.

“The investigation tells us we know that Mr. Williams was fine on Saturday morning, in that he received a call from a number of friends,” Morganelli said.

Text messages retrieved by police revealed Williams was “active and OK” Saturday afternoon.

Around 1:30 p.m. he went to a “day drink” party at an off-campus house, where witnesses reported he appeared to be moderately intoxicated but otherwise OK.

“Based on numerous interviews of students, we have no evidence that there was any type of hazing that was occurring as a result of his membership on the lacrosse team or just being a freshman college student at Lafayette,” Morganelli said. “No one interviewed indicated that Mr. Williams was in any distress at this time. There’s no evidence that his consumption of alcohol was nothing other than voluntary.”

A few hours later Williams was captured on Lafayette and Wawa security cameras walking to the convenience store with several other people and buying food.

“You could identify Mr. Williams on the video and he appears to be unsure of his footing and is actually seen stumbling slightly several times,” Morganelli said.

Next, he went back to his dorm room in Ruef Hall, along with a female student.

The student told investigators that at some point Williams went to the bathroom to throw up.

“It was her opinion that he was throwing up because of the alcohol he had consumed all day, starting very early that afternoon up until the time that he left that party,” Morganelli said.

About an hour later Williams told the friend he had to throw up again, and he stood to go to the bathroom. The female student said she wasn’t paying attention as he walked out of the room, but she heard a loud sound and turned around to find him laying on the cement floor.

She called several of Williams’ friends, who came, lifted him onto the bed and placed him on his side with a backpack on so he would not choke on any vomit if he were to throw up again.

“All of the students interviewed reported that none of them saw any signs of injury on Mr. Williams at that time,” Morganelli said. “I would also note that during the autopsy there were no external injuries on Mr. Williams that someone observing him at that time would have noticed any type of injury.”

The investigation revealed Williams’ friends repeatedly checked on him Saturday night and Sunday morning, and they said he was able to verbalize and seemed to indicate that he wanted to sleep.

“The students believe that he was still drunk from the afternoon of drinking and that it was best for Mr. Williams to sleep it off,” Morganelli said.

They ultimately decided to seek medical assistance around 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon, nearly 24 hours after his fall.

The students contacted their lacrosse coach, who instructed them to immediately call 911. The coach arrived outside Ruef Hall around the same time as the public safety and EMS squads responded.

Williams was taken to Easton Hospital, and he died at Lehigh Valley Hospital the following day. The autopsy indicated the cause of his death was blunt force head injuries.

Authorities are still waiting for toxicology reports.  

A spokesman from Lafayette said the community is still in mourning and will not answer questions regarding the possibility of disciplinary actions for any of the students related to the case, according to a report released by the Associated Press.

Morganelli said there is no evidence to suggest Williams was involved in a hazing ritual or that students knew Williams had sustained the injury.

Morganelli said at this time, charges will not be pressed against any of the involved students, according to The Lafayette. He said this case is “not a Penn State case,” referring to the alcohol-induced, hazing-related fatal head injury sustained by sophomore Timothy Piazza.

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