Winter break fraternity vandalism spree leads to two arrests
A former fraternity president has been charged in a fraternity-house theft and vandalism spree affecting three different groups over winter break.James Chase Pickett and Thomas Cole Champion were charged with criminal trespassing in the break-in and vandalism of the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity house, police said.
Pickett, 21, of Clifton, Tenn., was the president of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity until his term ended this month. Champion, 19, from Bartlett, Tenn., was listed on SAE's Web site as a pledge during the fall semester.
Calls to Pickett's cell phone seeking comment Monday were not immediately returned. There was no listing for a Thomas Cole Champion.
A Kappa Alpha member told police that someone broke into their house at 522 Lee St. in mid-December, spray painted walls, ripped bulletin boards off the walls, kicked in doors and took flags, trophies, photo composites of the fraternity's members and a framed edition of the fraternity's charter, all valued at nearly $700.
Alpha Tau Omega's Greek letters were written in gold spray paint on the wall of a room designated for parties, but police and university officials don't believe the ATO fraternity was involved in the vandalism.
"We really don't think it was that group," said Louis Ragsdale, director of the Office of Greek Life. "ATO was vandalized too."
An unknown person stole six trophies - valued at $200 - from the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house Jan 3, police said. ATO President Ben Hager told police that someone tried to use a drill to break the house's locks in late December.
A large Greek letter was stolen on Christmas Day from above the main entrance to the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house, which is situated next to the ATO house on Hannings Lane.
Police said the letter "Pi" was valued at $2,000.
Martin Police Chief David Moore would not comment Monday on whether the crimes were related or if any other arrests were anticipated.
UTM Public Safety Capt. Ray Coleman said his office is cooperating with Martin Police in the investigation.
Ragsdale said when the three vandalized fraternities' presidents called him, he referred them to police.
"It's weird that all three (vandalisms) happened at about the same time," Ragsdale said, suggesting the crimes might be related. "(UTM) Public Safety and Martin Police are really involved. When you get into this kind of damage and breaking and entering, the police need to get involved."
Pi Kappa Alpha's mailbox was spray painted last November, but no arrests have been made for that incident, police said.
The UTM Division of Student Affairs, which handles student discipline, would be in charge of any sanctions against those involved in the crimes, Ragsdale said, even though the crimes involve fraternity-owned properties.
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