NEW YORK CITY – More than 30 members of a disbanded Baruch College fraternity face charges in the death of student Michael Deng, who died during a trip to the Poconos in 2013, including five accused of murder, police said.
Chun Hsien "Michael" Deng, a 19-year-old Baruch College student studying finance, died after a pledging ritual at a Poconos home on Dec. 8, 2013, where members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity — which has since been disbanded — blindfolded Deng, made him carry a 30-pound backpack and then shoved and struck him until he was unconscious.
While Deng was unconscious, members of the fraternity failed to call 911, and instead contacted the president of the fraternity, Andy Meng, who allegedly encouraged them to cover up any evidence tying the incident to the fraternity, police said. Members then changed Deng’s clothes and searched online to try to diagnose what was wrong with Deng, police said.
It wasn’t until roughly an hour had passed before Deng was finally taken to a local Pennsylvania Hospital where he was pronounced dead on Dec. 9, 2013.
A total of 37 fraternity members face charges including homicide, assault and criminal conspiracy, according to a statement from the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department, which has been investigating the incident.
Charles Lai, Kenny Kwan, Raymond Lam, Daniel Li and Sheldon Wong were charged with criminal homicide, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault, hindering apprehension, hazing and criminal conspiracy, police said.
Steffen Loh, Anthony Phung and Steven Chen were charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, hazing and criminal conspiracy.
David Chen and Brian Choong were also charged with simple assault and criminal conspiracy, among other charges.
In addition, 27 others, including Andy Meng, face lesser charges including hazing and criminal conspiracy.
Deng’s mother, who asked to only be identified as Mary, told DNAinfo New York Monday that she was “heartbroken.”
“I feel like I still don’t believe it,” she said. “I just remember, I think my kid go to school...I don't know, it's like a nightmare. It’s been a long long time that I speak to anybody. Once I talk, the memory comes back.
“I tell you, my son is a bright guy. He is really kind and really nice guy," she continued. "He really has a good heart, and I know if something happened, he would be the first to help. But no one even called 911 for help. That’s what breaks my heart.”
Police conducted interviews with 34 people who were present at the Poconos home, at 2140 Candlewood Drive, where the incident took place. They also executed a search warrant, where they seized fraternity clothing, fraternity paddles, fraternity banners, signs, notebooks, book bags containing sand bags, cell phones, cameras, marijuana and mushrooms, according to police.
The Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department and the Monroe County District Attorney’s office would not immediately answer calls for more details.
In the ritual that caused Deng’s death, called “glass ceiling,” members of the fraternity tried to take down pledges as they walked through a line wearing blindfolds and weighted backpacks.
During the brutal rite, Deng was “speared” as he was being tackled, and that’s when he started complaining about his head hurting, said police in a statement, adding that the ritual was “harder on him than anyone else.”
Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist who studied Deng's body for the cause of death, concluded that Deng had multiple impacts to his head, torso and thighs.
There were three severe impacts to the head that would’ve taken “hundreds of pounds of impulsive loads ... in order to cause the damage to the interior of the brain,” police said of Ross’ analysis.
Deng also had a bruise on his back caused by repeated impacts and bruises on his thighs.
“The delay in treatment of 1-2 hours significantly contributed to the death of Mr. Deng,” according to the analysis from police.
Deng was a freshman at Baruch studying finance and a pledging of the national fraternity, which opened a Baruch chapter in 2010 and was later disbanded by the college after the incident.
Baruch College released a statement Tuesday saying that the Pi Delta Psi fraternity had been banned permanently, and that all pledging activities have been suspended for fraternities and sororities at Baruch.
The college also stated that it conducted its own internal judicial review of students involved in the incident, "and brought disciplinary proceedings against all of them, except for those who voluntarily withdrew from Baruch College."
Todd Greenberg, who represents the former fraternity's president Andy Meng, said in a statement on Tuesday, "The Meng family remains saddened by the tragic death of Michael Deng and their thoughts at this time are of him and his family. Andy Meng was not present in Pennsylvania at the time of his death, had no role in his medical treatment and did not commit any wrongdoing regarding the investigation of his death or obstruct that investigation. Nor did he conspire with others to do so."
Deng also attended the elite Bronx High School of Science, and lived with his mother in Oakland Gardens.
“I cannot blame anybody,” Mary said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone anymore.
“I haven’t been able to do anything. I stopped everything. I cannot go home anymore….this is what my life is.”