Three sorority members charged with hazing

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Three members of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority at Southeast Missouri State University were charged Monday with assault and hazing for incidents that allegedly occurred in February in Cape Girardeau.

Darleta McKennis-Weems, 23, of 522 N. Sprigg St., Ashley Moore, 22, of Dearmont residence hall, and Jessica Reynolds, 23, of 1710 N. Sprigg St., Apt. 608, each have been charged with one count of misdemeanor hazing and one count of misdemeanor third-degree assault.

McKennis-Weems is accused of requiring a sorority pledge to eat a mixture of food taken from a garbage can and spoon-feeding the concoction to the pledge on or about Feb. 4.

Moore is accused of striking the woman with a closed fist on or about Feb. 15.

Reynolds is accused of spraying the pledge in the face with liquid from a spray bottle on or about Feb. 15.

Summonses were issued for the three defendants to appear in court June 4 in Jackson before Associate Circuit Judge Gary Kamp.

Cape Girardeau County prosecutor Morley Swingle voiced dismay that students continue to haze fraternity and sorority pledges. "It is frustrating that allegations like this occur, that hazing is apparently still going on," Swingle said.

The university has tried to educate students about the ban on hazing for years, Swingle said. Student Michael Davis died Feb. 15, 1994, after enduring a weeklong hazing ritual of slaps, punches and body slams as part of a fraternity initiation.

The latest charges stem from an investigation by campus police alerted by the sorority's national organization.

"No victim came forward to us," said Art Wallhausen, associate to the president at Southeast.

The national organization has suspended the sorority chapter's charter. Without a national charter, the sorority won't be considered a campus organization, Wallhausen said.

Wallhausen said the university will take disciplinary actions against the students through the campus judicial process. Sanctions for violations of the student code of conduct range from a warning to expulsion, school officials said.

For the criminal counts, the students could face up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on the hazing charge and up to 15 days in jail and a $300 fine on the assault charge, Swingle said.

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