Published January 25, 2017
This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," February 8, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Police are deciding whether to file charges in the death of a 21-year-old college student. Matthew Carrington died during a fraternity hazing ritual. He and another student were forced to drink gallons of water while doing pushups and other exercises in the cold frat house basement. Matthew had a seizure, collapsed and later died at the hospital.
Joining us in San Francisco are Matthew's close friend Kristi Vahl and his mother Debbie. And joining us on the phone is Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.
Debbie first, of course, our condolences losing a son, there aren't any good words or right words for me to say but certainly our condolences to you tonight.
DEBBIE SMITH, SON DIED IN HAZING RITUAL: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: Debbie, the viewers are unfamiliar with this tragedy. Can you tell them what happened to your son?
SMITH: Well, from what I understand, he had taken in so much water that it lowered his salt levels and his electrolytes and that's what eventually caused the seizure and the vomiting that had happened before that and that led to a heart attack.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kristi, you've known him since he was three. What was he like?
VAHL: He was a great guy, very easy going. Everybody loved him who met him pretty much.
VAN SUSTEREN: Debbie, is this an accident in your mind? Is this murder? I mean what is this?
SMITH: I don't think it was intentional but I don't think that it's something that can be let go. I think that those involved have to be held accountable for what they did. What that means I don't know but something has to be done and they need to be held accountable.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let's go to the district attorney on the phone. Mike, how do you evaluate this case and what do you do as the D.A.?
MIKE RAMSEY, BUTTE COUNTRY DISTRICT ATTORNEY (by telephone): Well, you asked whether this was an accident. It might be said this is no more an accident than a drunk driving collision is an accident.
We have a crime here in California called hazing and this appears from the facts that we've gotten so far to match the elements of that crime. And any time that you have an underlying misdemeanor crime, such as hazing and you have a death, we're looking at manslaughter.
VAN SUSTEREN: And, when do you expect, Mike, a decision will be made about whether a crime will be charged?
RAMSEY: We expect towards the end of this week. The Chico Police, the police agency that's investigating this, is working quite diligently to try and get all of the facts to me. Obviously, right after this occurred, a number of the fraternity members went away. They split for their various homes, so we're trying to bring them all back in and get various interviews.
VAN SUSTEREN: Debbie, has the fraternity been helpful to you in terms of answering any questions you might have?
SMITH: Most of them weren't there from what I understand. We did speak with two of the boys and we got a little bit of information but there's a third that we really didn't have a chance to speak with and the others weren't really in the house at all and they've been very nice. Other than that, you know, I only know what we were told by the police and the young man that was down there also with Matt.
VAN SUSTEREN: Debbie, I know the first choice is to have your son back. We can't do that for you. No one can do that for you. Second choice, what would you like to see to be done?
SMITH: Well, I think we need to make people aware of what happened her so that it doesn't happen again. I mean the word has got to get out this is dangerous. This hazing is a dangerous thing. You know we've heard of it. We've never heard of it with water. That's unbelievable, you know. People need to know about that.
But I think they need to put a stop to the whole thing because they've tried making it illegal. They've tried making it, you know, changing it where you can do this but you can't do that. Let's just not do any of it, you know. We can't seem to get it right. Let's not do it at all.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kristi, were you aware that this kind of hazing was going on?
VAHL: I was kind of aware. I know that things go on behind closed doors that aren't supposed to go on. I didn't know that or to what extreme I guess that they did it and I had no idea that this would be so damaging. I didn't know that water could be so bad.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess and frankly a lot of us didn't. Debbie, Kristi, Mike thank you all, appreciate it.
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