Suspect expelled for Nov. SigChi break-in
By Tyler Leard, Staff Writer
A Gettysburg College student has been expelled after an investigation by the Department of Public Safety and the school found him responsible for breaking into the Sigma Chi Chapter House on Nov. 21 and setting several fires on the property. The Gettysburg Police Department is actively investigating the incident, and could file criminal charges against the former student.
“Our investigation led us to believe that it was one student who was responsible. The eventual suspect went before a review board and was found responsible,” said DPS Director William Lafferty. “After an appeal failed, the student was expelled from the college.”
DPS sent the student body multiple emails regarding the incident.
The break-in is also the subject of an active police investigation conducted by the Gettysburg Police Department.
“[They] have been a running a parallel investigation of the break-in which is still active. When they finish, they will present their findings to the District Attorney and he’ll determine what, if any, charges will be filed,” said Lafferty.
After smashing a window with a brick, the suspect gained entry to the Sigma Chi House at 5 a.m. on Nov. 21 via an unsecured door. He proceeded to set a plastic jar of cooking oil on top of a stove burner before turning the burner on. The suspect also opened the propane valves on two grills outside of the house and placed a lit cigarette on top of one of them, and stole a fraternity composite and a Founder’s Day picture from the house.
The resultant fire from the stove triggered the fire alarm system. Several fraternity brothers who had been awoken by the fire were able to extinguish it with minimal damage prior to DPS’ arrival.
According to Sigma ChiPresident Will Simon, few people were in the house at the time of the crime because the incident occurred a day into Thanksgiving break. The brothers who were present, including Simon, Nick Hommes and Chuck Maas, provided descriptions to DPS and Gettysburg police.
“[Hommes and Maas] were on the porch following the break-in and witnessed an individual across the street leaving the area,” Simon said. “Their report was instrumental in the investigation and was later confirmed by video footage.”
The suspect claims he was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
No motive for the incident has been provided, although it does not appear to have been motivated by any particular animosity against Sigma Chi.
Since the incident is still the subject of an active criminal investigation, the suspect’s name will not be released until charges have been filed.
Simon said he is pleased with the way that the College has handled the situation.
“I knew little about the Student Conduct Review Board before the incident, but I was impressed with the amount of time they spent deliberating and the formality of the process,” he said. “I think our chapter agrees that, as far as the college’s investigation is concerned, expulsion was an appropriate measure.”
Simon, who was elected just days before the incident occurred, noted that former SigChi president Tim Bitler advised him how to best handle the situation. The chapter’s house and risk managers are now working to improve house security.