Alpha Tau Omega, WSU

Alpha Tau Omega at Washington State University 

PULLMAN - The Pullman Police Department has released its investigation into the 2019 death of a Washington State University student at his fraternity house, when 19-year-old Samuel Hector Martinez, of Bellevue, died at the Alpha Tau Omega house during the early morning hours of November 12, 2019. The Whitman County Coroner determined that Martinez died from acute alcohol intoxication finding that the manner of death was accidental. Coroner Annie Pillers also ruled that Martinez died 4 hours before paramedics were called to the house.

The Pullman PD sent their case to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office late last month for a charging decision. The PD initially declined to release the investigation and details of their charging recommendations. Chief Gary Jenkins has since decided to release the document after learning that the investigation would have to be released in response to a public records request.

The investigation reveals that Martinez died following a “Big/Little” event that the ATO’s held at their live out across the street. Detectives found that Martinez drank heavily at the event and was brought back to the ATO house and left on a couch after fellow pledges failed in trying to get him to throw up. The investigation reveals that the coroner determined that Martinez’s ethanol level was over 0.37.

The investigation requests that 7 men associated with the ATO house who were allegedly involved in the event be charged with misdemeanors. The recommendation involves hazing and furnishing liquor to minors counts. The hazing counts can’t be pursued because of Washington’s 1 year statute of limitations for that charge. Chief Jenkins says that his detectives initial focus on trying to find evidence for more serious felony charges led to the time running out on the lesser hazing case.

"We had our eyes on a potential more serious offense, that was manslaughter, and because of the logistics and trying to interview the large number of witnesses we had, it lengthened that investigation," said Chief Jenkins. "Unfortunately this pushed us beyond the one year timeline that would be required for some misdemeanors, and one of those misdemeanors is hazing. I wish we could have completed this investigation sooner, we just were not able to with the number of witnesses and logistics involved."

Of the 7 men who Pullman Police believe should face misdemeanors one is recommended for only the hazing count. The others are being requested for misdemeanor furnishing alcohol charges which can still be pursued.

The charging decisions are now up to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Denis Tracy says he expects to make a charging decision in the near future. Chief Jenkins notes that Tracy could still pursue a more serious felony manslaughter case.

The ATO house at WSU has lost its recognition for 6 years. Martinez’s family is suing the Pullman ATO chapter, some of its members, the fraternity and WSU in King County Superior Court.