Men Charged With Hazing After VSU Students Disappear In River - ABC 8NEWS - WRIC | Richmond, Virginia News & Weather

Men Charged With Hazing After VSU Students Disappear In River

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Cory Baytop (far left), Eriq Benson and James Mackey Cory Baytop (far left), Eriq Benson and James Mackey

Chesterfield County, VA—After the disappearance of two Virginia State University students following an initiation ritual at the Appomattox River Saturday, four men have each been charged with five counts of hazing; two of the suspects are students at the school.

35-year-old James A. Mackey, Sr., Eriq K. Benson, 19, and Cory D. Baytop, 26, were arrested Monday, and charged with five counts of hazing; these are misdemeanor charges. The fourth suspect, Charles E. Zollicoffer, remains on the loose. Baytop and Benson are freshmen students at Virginia State University.

All four men charged in the incident are affiliated with Men of Honor, an off-campus organization not affiliated with Virginia State University.

The body of 19-year-old Marvell Edmondson was pulled from the Appomattox River on Monday. A body believed to be that of a second missing student, Jauwan Holmes of Williamsburg, was pulled from the river Wednesday.

Virginia State University student Christian Cavosos told 8News that he and the missing young men were taking part in a pledge for an off-campus organization. Cavosos says the organization turned out to be fake.

"We did this for a Men of Honor, pledging to be in a real organization that we thought was a real organization."

Cavosos described the tense moments leading up to the disappearance of the freshmen.

"Five feet after the rocks, you just drop into the water, and you instantly start swimming."

Another student who says he was present at the pledging ritual, Michael Aken, added to the frightening encounter.

"The river was taking us down. The current so fast. It was just taking us all down stream."

The students told us they feel "angry" that there weren't "smarter" about the situation.

Saturday's incident wouldn't be the first time VSU students have died as part of an initiation process. In 1979, two VSU (then called Virginia State College) drowned in the Appomattox River while taking part in an initiation "going over" ritual, according to the book "Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing and Binge Drinking" by Hank Nuwer.

According to Chesterfield County Police, initiation into the "Men of Honor" organization takes weeks to compete and crossing the river is the final part of the initiation process. While the organization is not sanctioned by the university, police say VSU students have been members of the group for several years.

Men would join the group as a social club, police said; members would often meet at neighborhood businesses.

Anyone with additional information about this incident should contact the Chesterfield County Police department at 748-1251.

Stay with 8News for updates.

 

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