Alcohol may have played a role in the death of a 20-year-old Texas State University student and fraternity pledge who was found dead at an off campus apartment, officials said.
Friends of 20-year-old Matthew Ellis called 911 after they discovered the sophomore wasn’t breathing at about 11 a.m. Monday.
EMS rushed to the Millennium Apartments, where Ellis had stayed, but were unable to save the young man, who was pronounced dead on the scene.
The Humble, Texas, native appeared to have a passion for the outdoors and often posted photos of himself and his family fishing and hunting.
He also played tennis, and competed at a varsity level in high school.
“Very proud of him,” his father wrote in April 2016, sharing a photo marking his son’s last match. “He started playing tennis about 5 years ago. He wift (sic) a lot more balls than he hit in the beginning. Pure determination and drive made all the difference. Now he’s giving lessons at the club. Don’t change a thing Matt. Love you!”
Ellis worked as a tennis coach at Walden Country Club on Lake Houston. Authorities there declined to comment on Ellis’s passing.
Ellis was a business major at Texas State University who was slated to graduate in 2020.
He was also involved in Greek life and was pledging for the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi at the time of his death, the San Marcos Police Department said.
Ellis attended an off-campus social event hosted by members of a university fraternity the night before he was found dead, according to Texas State University President Denis Trauth.
It was not immediately clear where the event was held or whether it was hosted by the frat for which Ellis was pledging.
The university’s chapter of Phi Kappa Psi was already suspended “for unrelated matters” at the time of Ellis’s death, the national organization said in a statement.
“We are heartbroken by the death of Texas State University student and Phi Kappa Psi new member Matthew Ellis," Phi Kappa Psi executive director Mark Guidi said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire TSU student body during this difficult time."
InsideEdition.com has reached out to the fraternity about the circumstances surrounding the chapter’s suspension.
“These chapters are prohibited from holding new-member events, chapter meetings, social functions, and philanthropic activities until a thorough review of the Greek Affairs system is completed,” she said in a statement.
“#TXST must develop a culture that places the highest priority on safety,” she later said on Twitter.
The president’s decision appeared to not sit well with some students, while others spoke out against their classmates’ perceived insensitivities.
“People need to stop being so selfish and respect what happened to Matthew Ellis, not everything revolves around social events,” student Alejandra Longoria wrote on Twitter.
A ton of txst students are complaining about Greek life being canceled, talking about transferring to a different university,” another student wrote. “Matthew Ellis died this week and Jordin Taylor died last year. Investigations need to take place and insensitivity needs to go away.”
On Oct. 29, 2016, Jordin Taylor, 20, was found dead at least 12 hours after being dragged 500 feet by a bus at a fraternity party.
Her cause of death was “consistent with being struck and dragged by the bus” and “appears to be an accident,” Guadalupe County Sheriff Arnold Zwicke told the San Antonio Express-News in April.
Four Texas State fraternities — Pi Kappa Alpha, Alpha Tau Omega, Kappa Alpha Order and Delta Tau Delta — were suspended and punished for “alcohol-related policy violations” in the wake of Taylor’s death.
San Marcos Police Chief Chase Stapp said Ellis’s death will likely result in criminal charges based on a preliminary review of evidence in the case, according to KVUE-TV.
"I think it is pretty likely we are going to have some kind of criminal case," Stapp told the television station and the Austin American-Statesman on Wednesday. "Once we know the complete picture, we will have to have discussions with the district attorney on the most appropriate course of actions."
The development comes days after new charges were filed against some former members of the Penn State chapter of Beta Theta Pi, where Tim Piazza was fatally injured after a hazing ritual, officials said.
District Attorney Stacy Parks Mills said the former members of Beta Theta Pi erased video that showed Piazza consuming 18 drinks over the course of an hour and 22 minutes.
“And Mr. Piazza in the basement video… never once obtained any of those drinks for himself,” she told reporters Monday. “Brothers were coming up to him and giving him those drinks, including in the basement.”
Piazza ultimately fell down a set of stairs and was found lying face down at the bottom.
Members of the fraternity carried Piazza up the steps and put him on the couch, where they dumped water on his face and slapped him in an apparent attempt to wake him, according to a grand jury report citing surveillance footage, witness testimony and phone records.
One pledge tried to intervene, but he was shoved into a wall and told it was already under control, the report said.
Piazza tried for hours to stand on his own, but each time he fell and eventually he went still. By the time a brother called 911 on Feb. 3, his skin was gray, the report said.
He died a day later of traumatic brain injuries.
“Over the last several months, we listened to defense arguments centered around victim blaming,” Piazza’s father, James Piazza, said at Monday’s press conference. “’How could the defendants know they were putting someone seriously at risk since no one died before?’ As if they were entitled to one free death."
No arrests have been made in connection to Ellis’s death.