BOWLING GREEN — The past president of a Bowling Green State University fraternity is going to jail for his part in the hazing death of Stone Foltz.
Daylen Dunson, 22, Cleveland Heights, was the first of five defendants who were sentenced Thursday. They had pleaded guilty for their participation in a 2021 hazing incident that led to the death of 20-year-old Foltz.
Dunson, Jarrett Prizel, Niall Sweeney, Benjamin Boyers and Aaron Lehane all were sentenced Thursday by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Joel Kuhlman.
Foltz’s mother asked the court to remember why they were there.
“Someone died and he was my son. His name was Stone,” Shari Foltz said. “Our lives are forever changed and will never be the same.”
She said she spent a year suffering depression, and both hating and blaming the men.
“I forgive but I will never forget,” Shari Foltz said.
These should be accountability, otherwise we will be back here in court after someone else is a victim of hazing, she said.
Dunson pleaded guilty May 5 to an amended charge of reckless homicide, a third-degree felony; tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; an amended charge of obstructing official business, a fifth-degree felony; eight counts hazing, all fourth-degree misdemeanors; and seven counts regarding providing alcohol to underage persons, all unclassified misdemeanors.
He was the president of the BGSU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha in the spring 2021. He attended the initiation event as president, talked to the new members and took part in photographs. At that Big/Little event, Foltz drank an excessive amount of alcohol. He was taken back to his apartment where he stopped breathing. He died March 7.
“This may be the most difficult part of this case, how to sentence those who pled, who admitted some culpability … in the death of Stone Foltz,” said Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson.
The defendants were strong students from good families, and never expected someone to die and to end up facing charges.
“Against that, what do you have? You have Stone Foltz. He just wanted to be accepted by this group,” Dobson said.
This death was preventable, he said, adding that this fall there will be thousands of students around the country rushing fraternities and sororities with active members facing the same decisions these defendants made.
Their choice will be to continue a deadly tradition or stand up against it, Dobson said.
“All these defendants, particularly Mr. Dunson, had the opportunity to say no, to stop it,” Dobson said. “They never thought of doing that, because of the tradition.”
It was tradition among the Pike initiation events for the pledges to drink from the family bottle, which is the same alcohol that their sponsor drank at his own initiation.
“Maybe some Greek leader stands up and says, ‘it’s too much. I’m not going to jail for this,’ and changes the initiation process and breaks that tradition,” Dobson said.
The fraternity members knew what they did was wrong: the party was held off campus, they lied to police, the destroyed evidence.
“Maybe what we do today, somebody else will think about it,” Dobson said.
He asked for a sentence of community control for three years with six months in jail, followed by an obligation to speak to others about the dangers of hazing.
“I don’t want to lose sight that someone died, and that someone was my son, Stone Foltz,” said Cory Foltz, who choked up during his prepared statement.
“For years, fraternities have hazed and coerced new members to commit harmful acts throughout the pledge process, specifically Big/Little night,” he said.
Pi Kappa Alpha’s behavior has been an ongoing concern, and the chapter was under investigation in January 2021 with a hearing set for March 14 – seven days after his son died.
“This is not a one-time incident of the BGSU Pi Kappa Alpha active members to break the rules or the law,” he said. “These young men continued to push the limits of how far and how often they could violate the rules without getting into trouble.”
He asked for the maximum penalties in order to send the message that hazing will not be tolerated in Wood County.
Dunson’s defense attorney Steven Bradley said as a freshman, his client had no experience with alcohol or Greek life. He pledged the fraternity to gain acceptance and a brotherhood, and many of the events, including the family bottle, were long in place.
“He regrets he wasn’t the person to finally stand up to all of the leadership that were part of this fraternity … to put a stop to this all,” Bradley said. “But we know he didn’t. And nobody else did either.”
He asked for a sentence of community control and said that was enough, as Dunson will be punished his entire life for this whole ordeal.
“He wants to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Bradley said.
“I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart to Stone Foltz and to his family,” Dunson said.
“Not a day goes by that I think about how I could have put a stop to this,” Dunson said, crying. “Stone Foltz would be here if I did.”
He said he would like to speak to students about the consequences of fraternity initiation events.
Dunson’s position in office influenced other’s conduct, Kuhlman said, adding that Dunson was on probation for a misdemeanor offense at the time of the party.
Dunson failed to provide leadership afterward and ordered the deletion of social media, Kuhlman said.
Several charges faced by his co-defendants relate to not cooperating and addressing the issue, “and you led the charge,” Kuhlman said. “Rather than cooperate, you decided to deceive the police and get rid of evidence.”
According to previous statements made by Dobson, when police interviewed him, he provided false information about his whereabouts and whether a fraternity event had happened that night. He also told others to lie about the existence of the event. He deleted social media and told others to do the same.
“It’s obvious you failed. What’s the frustrating part is there were a lot of adults in place who failed,” Kuhlman said, alluding to the local and national fraternity advisers who refused to give guidance after Foltz’s death.
The judge also became emotional.
“I have thought a number of times, that could be me. I could have been standing right where you are. I could have been Stone Foltz,” Kuhlman said, taking a moment to regain his composure.
He sentenced Dunson to 21 days in jail and three years community control. After being released from jail, he will be on house arrest for 28 days.
Kuhlman reserved a 48-month prison sentence if Dunson violates the community control.
Dunson must pay a mandatory $500 fine for each of seven alcohol violations, and complete 100 hours community service with 10 hours deducted for every speech given about the dangers of hazing.
Dunson was one of the three BGSU students expelled after this incident, according to court documents. Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was expelled from BGSU in April 2021.