*The following article contains discussion of suicide
In August 2016, the Alpha Kappa Lambda - Xi Chapter at Truman State University suffered a series of losses.
The Kirksville, Missouri school saw three ΑΚΛ members take their own lives.
Two of the young men, Alex Mullins and Jake Allen Hughes, died in August of 2016. The third young man, Joshua Thomas, ended his life in April of 2017.
At the time, Alpha Kappa Lambda shared the news of their loss on their Facebook page as well as tributes to the young men.
Now the families of Mullins and Thomas are suing a former member of ΑΚΛ.
They allege, based on a police investigation, that Brandon Grossheim provided his three fellow fraternity members with step-by-step directions for ending their lives.
The suit also alleges Grossheim was the last person to see the young men alive, was nearby when they died and when their bodies were discovered and knew the young men were depressed and having suicidal thoughts.
Grossheim was quoted as claiming he was a "superhero" who connected with depressed people and counseled them. In addition to Mullins, Hughes and Thomas, a fourth young man who was not a member of ΑΚΛ also committed suicide. A possible fifth victim, a young woman, is still being investigated by police.
The young men all died in similar manners. Grossheim allegedly had keys to their rooms or apartments.
According to police reports, Grossheim had a "fascination with death."
After the death of one young man, Grossheim allegedly "wore his clothes and began dating his girlfriend." According to the lawsuit, Grossheim was also seen with "large amounts of drugs, and cash that had gone missing from two of the men's rooms after their deaths."
Several ΑΚΛ members reported Grossheim's behavior to police.
The families are also suing Alpha Kappa Lambda and Truman State University for allegedly allowing the "suspicious fraternity brother to be alone and have unfettered access to the victims" despite knowing of his "dangerous" behavior and the young men's mental health issues.
Truman State responded:
"As the litigation proceeds, it will become clear that the University is not responsible for the deaths of these students."
Alpha Kappa Lambda stated:
"Our sympathy continues for the families and friends of our lost Brothers of the Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Lambda. The death of these young men during the 2016 – 2017 school year greatly impacted the Xi Chapter and the surrounding community."
"Like Truman State University, The Fraternity of Alpha Kappa Lambda, Inc., the National Fraternity, strongly disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit to the extent those allegations are directed against it and will vigorously defend the lawsuit."
The three ΑΚΛ members were found at the fraternity house. The fourth young man was found in his apartment. The circumstances of the young woman's death have not been made public.
No charges have been filed at this time.
Alex Mullins mother, Melissa Bottorff-Arey, stated:
"At college, in a 'brotherhood', you think your kids are 'safe & cared for'. Within just months there were 4 more young people gone."
"There were too many similarities, one person in common & so many questions ... it's time for answers."
Suzanne Thomas, Joshua Thomas' mother said:
"We were so saddened and shocked to learn he suffered so much after going to TSU and joining the fraternity."
Attorney Nicole Gorovsky who is representing the families added:
"This situation had been swept under the rug. The university held a short symposium on suicide and the fraternity seemingly shrugged their shoulders and everyone went away quietly."
"But no one told the public, parents or students on campus about the psychological manipulation that had been involved…that a fellow student and fraternity brother was a danger."
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/