The University Record, January 18, 1999

Prosecutor rules death accidental

By Rebecca A. Doyle

After reviewing police reports including more than 80 interviews with students and others who may have seen Courtney Cantor in the hours preceding her Oct. 16 death, the Washtenaw County prosecuting attorney issued a statement last week that “no criminality could be proven in this tragic loss of life.”

Cantor, a freshman during the fall term, fell to her death from her sixth-story room in Mary Markley Residence Hall.

U-M Department of Public Safety officers and Ann Arbor police both conducted investigations and an autopsy was performed by Bader Cassin, Washtenaw County medical examiner. Cantor had attended a party at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house celebrating her acceptance in the Chi Omega sorority. Alcohol was served at the party and the medical examiner’s report indicated Cantor had a blood alcohol content of 0.059 percent, lower than the 0.08 percent limit used to determine impaired driving.

In addition, toxicology screens showed 41 ml/dl of gamahydroxybutyric acid (GHB), a substance that naturally occurs in the body, but which also has been identified as a “date rape” drug. Since up to 50 ml/dl can occur naturally in the body, “we will never know with any degree of certainty whether the level of GHB found in Courtney’s blood at the time of her death occurred naturally, whether she voluntarily ingested the drug or whether someone put the drug in her drink without her knowledge,” noted the prosecutor.

“It is beyond argument that Courtney fell from the window in her room,” stated the prosecutor’s report. The report noted fibers found on the outer window ledge that were consistent with the clothing Cantor wore when she was found and injuries that are what “you would expect to find in a fall from that distance.” Items on the window ledge inside the room were undisturbed, the report noted. The statement puts to rest speculation that Cantor had been on the top of the building or had been pushed from the window.

Fraternity members charged with alcohol violations

Ten U-M members of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity have been charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or community service and a mandatory $1,000 fine. They also were charged with “host law” violations—consumption of alcohol on premises by minors—punishable by a 30-day jail term and/or a fine of $1,000.

Five of the 10 also are charged with use of fraudulent identification to purchase alcohol. They face penalties of up to 90 days in jail and/or a $100 fine and a 90-day suspension of their operator’s licenses.

All 10 stood mute and a not guilty plea was entered for them at the arraignment before District Court Magistrate James Sexsmith in 15th District Court last Thursday. They have been released on personal recognizance and are awaiting pretrial hearings scheduled for Jan. 21, Feb. 18 and Feb. 23. They may also face penalties for violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

On Oct. 20, the Phi Delta Theta General Council suspended the U-M chapter’s charter. Phi Delta Theta Executive Vice President Robert Biggs, in a prepared statement, said at that time: “Last week, the chapter members broke their commitment to keep their house alcohol-free. In failing to keep that commitment, they also separated themselves from the core values of this fraternity. The culture of alcohol is destructive to those values and has no place in Phi Delta Theta.”

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