8 charged in alleged hazing

PITTSBURG — Seven Missouri juveniles and an 18-year-old adult are facing 39 felony aggravated battery charges for a hazing incident last month during an offseason football camp at Pittsburg State University.

Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso also filed misdemeanor battery charges against three other juveniles and said another could be charged by the end of this week. All of the students are members of the Seneca, Mo., high school football team.

Gayoso said as many as three more of the suspects could be charged as adults, but he doesn't expect that decision to be made until the end of the month.

Pittsburg State police interviewed more than 50 students who attended the early June camp. Police Chief Mike McCracken said officers identified 17 victims and 15 suspects.

"Upon review of the probable-cause affidavit, we determined that the other three or potentially four had no involvement in the hazing which rises to the level of criminal activity," Gayoso said.

The most serious incidents of abuse involved students being struck with plastic curtain rods from window blinds, McCracken said. He described some of the injuries as significant, but declined to be more specific.

Gayoso said the hazing also involved some of the suspects placing their genitals on the faces of the victims, resulting in misdemeanor battery charges.

Freshmen players were victims, as a rule, and upperclassmen were suspects, he said.

Seneca school administrators contacted Pittsburg State police on June 15 to report the hazing incident.

Seneca superintendent Rick Cook said the district has conducted its own investigation and punished a number of students, based on the district's anti-hazing policy. He said several parents are seeking hearings to appeal the punishments.

Members of Seneca's football coaching staff served as chaperones, but no charges have been filed against any of them.