Fred Grimm

FIU student’s coke-laced tequila binge adds to frat party fatalities

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“Let’s kill formal,” Kellie Fullilove texted her frat-boy coke supplier. “Before formal kills us.”

And so it did.

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Florida International University nursing student Kellie Fullilove didn’t survive Phi Gamma Delta’s off-campus fall formal. She died after an ingesting a combination of cocaine and an extraordinary amount of tequila. The toxicology report indicated the 19-year-old Cape Coral woman died with an alcohol blood level of .50 — six times Florida’s threshold for drunken driving.

The death of Fullilove at a Fort Lauderdale beach resort on Nov. 15 added another fatality to a national epidemic of binge drinking misadventures associated with college fraternities. Bloomberg Business reported that in the spring semester of 2015, 133 fraternity and sorority chapters at 55 U.S. colleges were shut down or suspended after serious injuries, assaults and sexual crimes, most spawned by excessive drinking.

Kellie’s tequila binge was exacerbated by cocaine — creating a “mixed drug toxicity,” according to medical examiner. It was a death presaged by text messages exchanged with a cellphone that police linked to her date, a Phi Gamma Delta fraternity member named Sean Velazquez, 22. (Velazquez’s attorney, however, told my colleague David Ovalle that his client had not “authorized or sanctioned” those texts.)

The messages included a startling series of drug references, with Kellie anxious to procure a gram of cocaine for that evening. The responding texts assured her, “When your fraternity deals coke to FIU, it’s easy to get.” And, “The snow storm never quits with these damn Phi.” A price was negotiated. “Welcome to FIU.”

She shared a hotel room with Velazquez and another student that Saturday at Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Mar waterfront resort, where Phi Gamma Delta was staging an “Islander” themed dance. She didn’t survive the night.

The circumstances were incriminating enough that FIU suspended Phil Gamma Delta until August. But apparently not incriminating enough for Fort Lauderdale police, which closed the case last month without charging her suspected enabler. He was lucky the fraternity had held its formal north of the county line in Broward. The Herald’s Ovalle cited two pending Miami-Dade cases in which providers in fatal drug ODs face murder charges.

Criminal charges seem to depend on the jurisdiction. Back in 2001, two University of Florida students were given short jail sentences followed by two years of house arrest and 13 years of probation for supplying just a single OxyContin pill to Matthew Kaminer, 18, of Boca Raton, at a frat party. That one pill was blamed for Kaminer’s death.

But these cases are notoriously difficult to prosecute. Last year, a California judge finally dismissed charges against attorney Howard K. Stern for providing prescription drugs that contributed to the 2007 fatal overdose of Anna Nicole Smith at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood.

Fullilove’s family may not find much relief, either, if they sue the fraternity. In 2014, an Atlantic magazine investigation found that fraternities and their lawyers have become expert at avoiding civil liability, despite a series of frat house injuries, assaults, sexual crimes and at least 60 deaths since 2005.

And Kellie Fullilove makes 61.

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