A turkey that died at a Beta Theta Pi fraternity house party near the University of Kansas campus last year was abused, Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announced Friday.
“After an exhaustive investigation, we believe there is evidence to suggest the turkey was mistreated,” Branson said in a statement about the December 2012 animal cruelty case.
The fraternity did not return phone calls Friday.
The case involved reports that Beta members chased a turkey through a crowded formal dinner party, threw it like a football, choked it and eventually killed it. Witnesses said at the time that one of the bird’s wings was snapped and a leg broken.
But Branson said authorities heard so many conflicting statements about what happened that night that it was impossible for his office to determine who was actually responsible.
“The investigation revealed several fraternity officers were present at the Turkey Pull when the mistreatment occurred,” the statement said. “But accounts of the incident that had been given by some witnesses to the media were not the same as accounts given to law enforcement investigators.”
Because it was clear that Beta members were present when the bird was mistreated, the fraternity has agreed to complete 1,000 hours of community service beyond what it normally would do in an academic year.
And the fraternity must pay Lawrence $5,000 toward the cost of investigating the matter. Branson said he wanted to wait until students had returned to campus this year before making an announcement about the investigation.
University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little called the treatment of the turkey “inexcusable” and said the fraternity had embarrassed itself and the entire school.
“The behavior reported does not reflect the principles or standards of conduct I expect from our students,” Gray-Little said in a statement. “Fraternity leadership should use this time to restore the trust of the university and the public.”
The incident was investigated by the Lawrence Police Department, the district attorney’s office, the Interfraternity Council and the national chapter of the fraternity.
On the fraternity’s national chapter website, the KU chapter is listed as being suspended. National chapter officials did not return calls about whether the suspension had anything to do with the turkey incident.