Family of 4-year-old killed sue fraternity citing "failure to address underage drinking, hazing"

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT/WKYT) - Marco Shemwell's family have filed a lawsuit against a fraternity following the death of their four-year-old son,  WYMT's sister station WKYT reports. 

Photo: Shannon Andreas/GoFundMe/WKYT

Shemwell was killed after being hit by a car driven by a freshman pledge with the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity on the day of a University of Kentucky football game last September.

The driver was 18-year-old Jacob Heil, who is facing charges of reckless homicide and DUI in Shemwell's death. Heil had a blood-alcohol content of .05.

The lawsuit says the fraternity's “failure to address a history of underage drinking, hazing, and other dangerous practices” caused Shemwell's death.

The documents show the fraternity had a number of drinking violations at their UK chapter in 2017 and 2018.

In the court documents, it states that there was a "beer breakfast" held off-campus for a tailgate. After the "breakfast" many people drove off, one of which being Heil. The lawsuit claims members bought more than 1,000 cans of beer that were consumed within two hours at the event.

Heil is not a student at the University of Kentucky anymore, and the ATO chapter closed at UK following the crash that killed Shemwell.

According to Matt Minner, a lawyer, ATO did not fully cooperate with the investigation.

"They have a risk management protocol. but their risk management protocol is focused on getting their feet out of the hot water -- not on trying to right a wrong, not on trying to help the family," said Matt Minner with Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newtown LLP.

The Shemwell family says settling is not an option.

Alpha Tau Omega released the following statement after the lawsuit was filed:

"It is our understanding that a lawsuit has been filed by the parents of Marco Lee Shemwell in connection with his tragic death. Our sympathy continues for Mr. and Mrs. Shemwell and their family. We have not had sufficient time to fully review the lawsuit however a cursory review reveals many misstatements of fact. The National Fraternity will vigorously defend the lawsuit. Because litigation is now pending, ATO will not have additional comments at this time."

Heil's trial is scheduled for April of 2020.

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