RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As questions still linger around the death of VCU Freshman Adam Oakes, students came together Wednesday evening to honor the 19-year-old’s life with a memorial and vigil at Monroe Park.
Police are still investigating how Oakes died over the weekend, but his family believes it was related to fraternity hazing.
Oakes’ parents and cousin made the drive to VCU from Loudoun County to visit the memorial honoring Adam.
“We appreciate all the love and support and all the posts, we read them. It’s helping my wife and I get through these tough times. It means a lot,” said Adam’s father, Eric Oakes, through tears.
As dozens filed one by one to light a candle and pay their respects, the family was moved by the support. “They kind of just embraced us as family and it’s just overwhelming,” said Courtney White, Adam’s cousin.
Meanwhile, some in the park tuned into a virtual vigil on Zoom honoring Oakes. The link was posted across social media for anyone who wanted to listen in.
VCU Senior Sabrina Hawa lit a candle at the memorial and watched the virtual vigil on her friend’s iPhone in the park. She did not know Oakes personally. “This is the least of least that we could do here which is come out and be supportive,” Hawa told 8News.
The details of the teen’s death have not yet been confirmed by police, but Oakes’ family believes he was the victim of hazing after receiving a bid to join Delta Chi.
One neighbor on W. Clay Street, where Oakes was found dead in a home, told 8News he heard a big party Friday night and saw a body being carried out of the house Saturday morning.
“I feel like we’ve got more people on our side now to really push for the change that we’re looking for in the Greek life,” White said.
The VCU chapter of Delta Chi was suspended from campus following Oakes’ death.
Richmond Police are still investigating to determine if the death was related to fraternity events. VCU announced it is launching its own independent investigation into Greek Life, but the university has not released details of how that investigation will be completed.
Junior Taylor Jackowski is hopeful that answers will provide accountability. “Honestly, the only thing I can hope is that we have all learned a huge lesson from this,” she said.
For now, the support from Adam’s friends and those who did not even know him is what is getting his family through.
“The kids are my comfort,” said Linda Oakes, Adam’s mother.
“Just all the love, that’s what Adam was about, kindness and friendship,” his father said.
VCU says they are fully supporting the investigation and ask anyone who believes they have information to contact Richmond Police Detective M. Gouldman at (804) 646-3915 or VCU Police at (804) 828-1196.