Crime

National ATO fraternity dissolves UK chapter after death of four-year-old

The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at 441 Pennsylvania Avenue on the University of Kentucky campus The national chapter dissolved its UK chapter following the death of a four-year-old boy who was struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by an ATO pledge, freshman Jacob Heil.
The Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house at 441 Pennsylvania Avenue on the University of Kentucky campus The national chapter dissolved its UK chapter following the death of a four-year-old boy who was struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by an ATO pledge, freshman Jacob Heil. cbertram@herald-leader.com

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The national Alpha Tau Omega chapter has dissolved its University of Kentucky chapter following the death of a four-year-old boy who was struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by an ATO pledge.

Jacob Heil, 18, was charged with DUI Saturday at the scene, not far from a UK football game. UK put ATO on suspension Tuesday after finding the fraternity had allegedly served alcohol to pledges at a tailgate before the game.

“Following an investigation conducted by the national fraternity, Alpha Tau Omega has revoked the charter of the University of Kentucky Mu Iota chapter,” the ATO statement said. “Violations of the fraternity’s health and safety policy prompted the decision. The chapter is closed and ATO no longer has a presence on campus.”

Lexington police reported Heil told them he drank two beers Saturday morning. He was driving down Cooper Drive near Scoville Road when the accident occurred. According to a police report filed in court Tuesday, Heil had a blood-alcohol level of 0.051. The legal limit for people under the age of 21 is 0.02.

Marco Lee Shemwell, 4, was taken to UK Hospital, where he died Monday.

On Wednesday, Heil’s attorney made a not guilty plea on his behalf. The next court proceeding for Heil is Oct. 26.

Heil has been suspended from UK, officials said Tuesday. In a letter sent to the ATO fraternity, UK officials said an investigation showed the fraternity had collected money on Friday night to purchase alcohol before a tailgate was held off campus at 214 Waller Avenue on Saturday. In addition to minors having alcohol, the letter said, the investigation noted that pledges also served alcohol to fraternity members, which is a hazing offense.

ATO members will probably have to move out of their fraternity house on Pennsylvania Avenue, which is owned by UK.

“We will work with students over a period of time as to what they want to do in terms of housing,” said UK spokesman Jay Blanton. “We have plenty of options there, such as residence halls, and if there are students who want to move off campus, we have an office to work with them. Nothing will happen in the immediate future.”

The ATO house sits next to Sigma Chi, which was recently shut down by UK for a year because of drug and alcohol violations.

The UK chapter at ATO was started in 1909 and counts famed UK basketball coach Joe B. Hall among its alumni. The first ATO chapter was founded in 1865 at Virginia Military Institute as a way to “reunite men from the North and South in brotherhood” after the Civil War, according to its page on the UK Interfraternity Council website.

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