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Suit: 5 Took Their Lives at Frat Leader's Urging

'There were too many similarities'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 2, 2019 9:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – A disturbing lawsuit out of Missouri claims a fraternity member at Truman State University successfully urged five of his friends to kill themselves in a single year. Alpha Kappa Lambda members Alex Mullins, Jacob Hughes, Josh Thomas, and two others who weren't part of the frat died between August 2016 and August 2017. Police determined Brandon Grossheim, 20 or 22, was the last person to see or speak to all five and had access to the rooms of four, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The allegations:

  • Grossheim was frat house manager when he found Mullins and Hughes dead in their rooms, per the wrongful death suit Thomas' and Mullins' parents filed Wednesday against the university, frat, and Grossheim. It notes Grossheim had been asked to watch Hughes after he made suicidal statements.
  • Later, Grossheim had cash missing from Hughes' room, wore his friend's clothes, and started dating his girlfriend, per the suit.

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  • Thomas was allegedly found in a storage closet next to a note on which Grossheim's name and contact information had been written.
  • The suit paints Grossheim as a quasi-counselor who offered "advice on how to commit suicide," per NBC News. It further claims Grossheim was building manager at an apartment complex where a fourth man died across the hall from Grossheim's apartment.
  • All four male victims are believed to have died by hanging. The parents also accuse Grossheim of involvement in the suicide of an unnamed woman. He allegedly claimed he was the last person to see her alive and a polygraph test "detected deception in his statements to police about her death," the suit reads.
  • "There were too many similarities, one person in common and so many questions. It's time for answers," says Mullins' mother, Melissa Bottorff-Arey. Truman State has denied responsibility for the deaths.
  • The Kansas City Star reports Grossheim, who is currently living in Illinois, didn't end up graduating from the university.
  • BuzzFeed spoke with the families' lawyer, who says Missouri’s voluntary manslaughter law could apply in the case, as it prohibits people from helping someone commit "self-murder" (suicide).

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