Oxford, MS – Seven members of a suspended University of Mississippi fraternity were arrested on cyberstalking charges last week.
The series of events leading to their arrests began in the fall of 2020, when several pledges going through initiation into the Pi Kappa Alpha’s Gamma Iota chapter had bleach sprayed on their faces or into their mouths, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The fraternity was subsequently placed on probationary status by the university.
A former pledge who was among those who were sprayed with bleach said he later became the target of harassing text messages and emails for having reported the hazing to school officials, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The 20-year-old student reported the harassment, triggering another investigation into the fraternity by The Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity and the University of Mississippi.
The university ultimately suspended the fraternity for four years, WREG reported.
“As evidenced by the suspension of all operations of the Gamma Iota chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha of the University of Mississippi effective until May 1, 2025, hazing and related behavior, including cyberstalking, that put student health and safety at risk are contrary to the University of Mississippi Creed and will not be tolerated,” university spokesperson Lisa Stone told the Clarion Ledger on Monday evening.
Seven fraternity members were arrested on cyberstalking charges on Dec. 3 in connection with the harassing emails and text messages.
They have been identified as Wyatt Johnson, Walker Holden, Peyton Newcomb, Miles Baker, Cole Goretski, Christian Parten, and Baylor Reynolds, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Each of the suspect were released on $5,000 bond the same day after making their initial court appearances.
They are due back in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Feb. 28, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Stone said the university is aware of the arrests and is cooperating with investigators.
The 20-year-old cyberstalking victim is not currently attending the University of Mississippi and has suffered ongoing mental health and physical issues due to the hazing incident that occurred in 2020, his mother told the Clarion Ledger.
The student who allegedly sprayed bleach into the victim’s mouth has been identified as James Bowes Higgins.
A Lafayette County grand jury indicted Higgins for aggravated assault back in May in connection with the hazing incident, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The 20-year-old victim has filed a $10 million lawsuit against Higgins, the fraternity, chapter officers, and various other individuals, according to the paper.
The victim said he has been diagnosed with Grade 4 severe erosive esophagitis due to having ingested the bleach, court documents read.
He said he had difficulty eating and was unable to talk for days after the incident, the Clarion Ledger reported.
When he returned home weeks later, family members noticed he was still having trouble eating and said he had lost at least 50 pounds.
He is still seeing a specialist more than a year later, his mother told the Clarion Ledger.