MURRAY – The investigation into a 19-year-old’s accidental death at an off-campus Murray State University fraternity house concluded the youth died of ethanol intoxication after bringing alcohol into a party.

A source close to the investigation who asked to remain anonymous for legal reasons told the Murray Ledger & Times that Zach Wardrip of Indiana was visiting a friend who is a Murray State student on April 28. The pair is believed to have attended a party at the Pi Kappa Alpha House that night; Wardrip was found dead at an apartment on the Lambda Chi Alpha property the morning of April 29.

In the official Murray Police Department report, obtained through an open records request, Calloway County Coroner Ricky Garland said the cause of death was ethanol intoxication, and the subject’s death was an accident.

Although MPD redacted Wardrip’s name from the report it released to the Ledger & Times, he is referred to by name in this story due to the fact that the newspaper was able to confirm his identity.

MPD Detective Andrew Wiggins handled the case. In his report, the detective wrote that the youth was found dead in the apartment lying on a futon. “A large number” of alcohol containers were present in the room, and a bottle of Captain Morgan white rum was found outside the residence in the parking lot.

According to Wiggins’ report, a grand jury reviewed the case Nov. 6. It determined no one was criminally liable in Wardrip’s death, and no criminal charges were filed.

As there were no further leads to determine where Wardrip got the alcohol, Wiggins wrote, the case would be closed.

David Oakes, the Wardrip family’s attorney, said it was “likely” that civil action would be taken, though he could not confirm specifics.

Wiggins interviewed a close male friend of Wardrip, whose name was also redacted in his report. The friend told Wiggins that Wardrip arrived on the night of the 28th with the bottle of rum and a case of Busch Light. After he settled in, the youth began to drink.

Just before midnight, the pair arrived at what the Murray Ledger & Times’ source said was the Pike house for a party. Wardrip’s friend told police that their IDs were not checked, though the source disputed this claim.

Wardrip’s name did not appear on the party’s guest list, though the source said additional guests may be let into parties, provided they are escorted by a Greek member and are over 18. However, he said Pi Kappa Alpha did violate Murray State Greek policy by not recording Wardrip’s name.

Wiggins wrote that security video recorded outside the Pike house showed the youth carrying the bottle of Captain Morgan.

The source said the Pike party and other MSU Greek social events were “BYOB” – bring your own beer. They added that Greek organizations do not provide alcohol to guests, though once they pass the party’s security checkpoint, their IDs are not checked again and there are not specific areas for guests under 21.

One of Wiggins’ interviewees said the party had a bar where people could sit and drink, though corroborated that alcohol was not provided.

Wiggins interviewed other guests at the party, including the friend Wardrip came to visit. The friend testified that Wardrip drank at the party, with one describing him as “chugging” the rum he brought with him.

Wiggins wrote that Wardrip and others left the party, then returned briefly, as supported by video evidence. The source said none of the Pike’s party monitors noticed Wardrip acting belligerent or disruptive.

The detective wrote that the 19-year-old appeared to be “stumbling” as he walked. He was escorted by his friend and another unidentified person. The source said the friend was a member of the Lambda Chi fraternity, and took Wardrip to an apartment there.

According to the report, they stayed about 20 minutes to make sure Wardrip “was okay,” then left Wardrip on the futon with a trash can to throw up in.

Wardrip’s friends then returned to the party, but it wrapped up soon as Greek parties weren’t allowed to run past 2 a.m.

The following morning, Wardrip’s friend told police he woke up and “had a horrible feeling that (Wardrip) was dead.”

The friend got to the apartment around 11 a.m. and found Wardrip unresponsive.

“When he went in, he knew something was wrong because (Wardrip) always snores really loudly, but (Wardrip) was not snoring this time,” Wiggins wrote.

The friend called 911, where first responders confirmed the death.

Wiggins wrote that he spoke to Wardrip’s father, who raised concerns about how his 19-year-old son obtained alcohol. One person interviewed told Wiggins that they didn’t believe Wardrip “was the type to have a fake ID to get alcohol,” though someone might have bought him one.

The detective wrote that at the time of death, the youth’s blood alcohol varied between .247 and .269 from two samples.

Wiggins sent a search warrant to AT&T for historical GPS data from Wardrip’s phone to attempt to determine where he obtained alcohol. He wrote that it could not be determined specifically “if and where (Wardrip) stopped to get the alcohol.”

A friend of Wardrip’s told Wiggins that the youth had asked him for alcohol over the social media app Snapchat, though he had never agreed to do so. Wiggins sent a search warrant to Snapchat, and wrote that “based off their retention policy, it is very possible that if (Wardrip) contacted someone on Snapchat asking for alcohol, their message was immediately deleted from their servers.”

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