SUNY ONEONTA STUDENT DEAD FOLLOWING COLD WEATHER EXPOSURE DURING UNKNOWN INCIDENT

SUNY Oneonta President Alberto Cardelle, Ph.D., Talks About the Incident

UPDATE: 01/29/2022  1115   The investigation into the death of Tyler Lopresti-Castro, known by many as "T-Lo," continues.  Authorities are asking anyone with information to call the City of Oneonta Police Department at: (607) 432.1111 or the New York State University Police at Oneonta: (607) 436.3550. Anonymous tips may be left online by clicking on the following address: https://local.nixle.com/tip/city-of-oneonta/.

UPDATE: 01/29/2022  0404  SUNY Oneonta President Alberto J. F. Cardelle, Ph.D., MPH, spoke about the incident.

Cardelle, who was named the university's president in September of 2021, has an interesting perspective, having worked for more than a decade with the World Health Organization.  He says that they are giving police the space needed to do their job and his staff is focusing on healing.

"They're investigating the circumstances...We've really been focused on...first of all,  supporting the family of Tyler...and offering to help them in any way we can.

Tyler was a junior at SUNY Oneonta and, the administration believes, has been at the school since his freshman year.  It is not believed that he was a member of any specific clubs.

When asked specifically about the possibility - and yes, speculation, that Tyler was pledging a fraternity, Cardelle said, "We can say that our records indicate that he was not pledging."  The school has a form that students complete if they intend to pledge and there is not such completed form for Tyler.  While acknowledging that, at least in the initial phases, the completion of those forms is difficult to enforce, Cardelle said, "Our expectations are that our fraternities and sororities...alike follow our regulations and are guided by the protocols that are used for them to be able to operate a chapter here on campus."

Cardelle added that students on campus have been devastated not only by the passing of Tyler Lopresti-Castro but also, he says, by all of the speculation on social media.

Police, he says, have spoken with several students on campus who knew Tyler and says he believes they are cooperating with police.  Both the university and police continue to ask for anyone for information to step forward, even anonymously, in an effort to learn more about exactly why Tyler was walking in the middle of a relatively desolate area in the middle of the night.

There is no surveillance video from the school that captures when Tyler was last seen on campus.  Cardelle says they do know that Tyler attended class on Wednesday.

Police have not said whether Tyler had a telephone on him.

Cardelle says Tyler lived off campus in housing not affiliated with the school.  It is believed that Tyler had roommates, but the university has not yet confirmed that.

For the last 36 hours the university's emphasis has been on healing, Cardelle says, and the students, faculty, and staff are still focusing on that.

City of Oneonta Police Department Releases Statement

UPDATE: 01/28/2022  1620  The City of Oneonta Police Department has released the following information.  Because of the nature of the investigation we are publishing the release in its entirety:

"The City of Oneonta Police Department is investigating the tragic passing of a 20-year-old male SUNY Oneonta student, Tyler Lopresti-Castro. We ask that we regard the deceased and his family with the reverence that we ourselves would expect during this incredibly difficult time and refrain from sensationalizing or speculating in regard to the nature of this tragedy.

This is a death investigation and is being treated very seriously, however there has been no indication of criminality up to this point.

The facts that we are able to release without compromise of the investigation are as follows (all times are approximate).

On Thursday, January 27th, 2022 at about 6:50 am, City of Oneonta employees located a male, laying on the pavement near the Silas Lane Bus Garage near I-88 Exit 13.

Tyler Lopresti-Castro was initially identified by his SUNY Oneonta ID and was apparently suffering from extended exposure to extremely cold, subzero temperatures. Officers and Fire EMS were dispatched and began treatment on scene and the individual was transported to AO Fox Memorial Hospital.

Detectives reviewed bus garage video as well as video from the buses used the evening prior. There was no video of Tyler Lopresti-Castro being transported by a city bus. The video from the bus garage finds that Lopresti-Castro emerged from a wooded area behind the garage at about 2:15 am. A search of the surrounding area indicates Tyler may have walked off the roadway at the eastbound off-ramp for I-88 at the intersection of Route 205, climbing through the snow and crossing a drainage creek before emerging on Oneonta City property.

As Tyler was last seen around midnight on January 27th, we are seeking assistance from the public who may have additional information regarding Tyler’s whereabouts between the hours of 12:00 am and 2:15 am to complete the timeline. Tyler was last seen wearing a grey hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans, he is described as 5’10” and 170 lbs and could have been walking in the area of River Street-River Street Service Road, Oneida Street or Chestnut Street areas during that time frame.

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the City of Oneonta Police Department at: (607) 432-1111 or the New York State University Police at Oneonta at: (607) 436-3550. Anonymous tips may be left at https://local.nixle.com/tip/city-of-oneonta/."

SUNY Oneonta Releases Statement

UPDATE:  01/28/2022 1424   SUNY Oneonta is thanking the public for its patience.  Lisa Miller, the school's Interim Senior Communications Officer, has released the following statement, which is being posted in its entirety:

STATEMENT FROM SUNY ONEONTA ON STUDENT DEATH

 "The college was informed Thursday evening of the death of a SUNY Oneonta student.

The student was found unconscious at an off-campus location early Thursday morning and transported to a local hospital to be treated for exposure to extreme cold.  The student died at Bassett Medical Center on Thursday evening.

The cause of the student’s death and the circumstances that led up to it are under investigation by the Oneonta Police Department, and the college is cooperating fully with local authorities.

This is a very sad time for SUNY Oneonta. Our campus community is mourning the loss of one of our own, and we are focused on providing support to the student’s family and friends. Our hearts go out to them, and we are providing whatever assistance we can to help them during this difficult time. The college is offering grief and counseling services for students, faculty and staff and has been in touch with the student’s family to offer support."

UPDATE:  01/28/2022 1412   The City of Oneonta Police and SUNY Oneonta have not yet released any information about the alleged incident.

There is still no word on what led to the student being found where he was.  It is still unknown whether the event had anything to do with a school organization, i.e. a fraternity, or any sanctioned or unsanctioned event.

Messages left with an administrator at SUNY Oneonta before 9:27am have not been returned as of 2:12pm on January 28, 2022.

Original Story

Original Story:  A SUNY Oneonta student has died after being found on the street a distance away from campus.

Authorities are still investigating and have not yet released any information about the incident that took place on Thursday morning, January 27, 2022.

SUNY Oneonta Campus and Surrounding Area Photo Credit: Google Maps 2022
SUNY Oneonta Campus and Surrounding Area Photo Credit: Google Maps 2022
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School officials say they are still investigating as well and have not formally responded to WIBX's request for information, but have asked for patience as they work through their own processes.  SUNY Oneonta President Alberto J.F. Cardelle has not yet released a statement.  They say they are working diligently to provide information to the public.

Students and other pedestrians walk through the Main Quad and Library Quad of the SUNY Oneonta campus, seen from the roof of Milne Library on a snowy winter day. Photo Credit: SUNY Oneonta
Students and other pedestrians walk through the Main Quad and Library Quad of the SUNY Oneonta campus, seen from the roof of Milne Library on a snowy winter day. Photo Credit: SUNY Oneonta
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Chief Christopher J. Witzenburg of the City of Oneonta Police Department has confirmed that a male was found overnight on Thursday morning, away from the main campus suffering from injuries related to exposure to the cold weather.  The young man was brought to Bassett Hospital where authorities confirmed that he succumbed to his injuries.

Wednesday marked the first day of SUNY Oneonta's spring semester. Chief Witzenburg says his department is working with SUNY Oneonta and several other agencies.  They expect to have a press conference later today.

Multiple sources have told us that the incident was part of a fraternity hazing.  According to those sources, the student was allegedly brought by members of a fraternity to a location approximately five miles away from SUNY Oneonta's campus on Wednesday evening, January 26th.  He was then left to walk back to the campus in freezing temperatures.  It is unknown if the hazing involved the consumption of alcohol.  It is important to note that police have not confirmed this information.

The student is believed to have fallen at some point and - according to two sources - suffered a fractured skull.  Police say there are no initial signs of trauma and, when asked by WIBX, questioned whether the man suffered injuries from a fall and say there is no evidence at this time to support that.

SUNY Oneonta Campus Photo Credit: SUNY Oneonta
SUNY Oneonta Campus Photo Credit: SUNY Oneonta
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Police say they are searching for answers and are asking anyone with information that may be helpful to their investigation to place a step forward and call them.  Tips may be kept confidential as authorities work to learn exactly what happened.  The Oneonta Police Department may be reached at (607) 432-1111.

Another former college student tells WIBX that this particular hazing ritual is not uncommon and described undergoing the same thing as part of his initiation into another fraternity in Oneonta.  His experience, however, was not at SUNY.

This type of controversy is not, unfortunately, a new battleground for SUNY Oneonta.  In 2017 Daniel William Michaels, an 18-year-old student was, according to the Associated Press, found unconscious on a couch in the off-campus home of a fraternity.

According to the school's website, SUNY Oneonta has approximately 5,918 students, 37% of which are men.

This is a developing story and more information will be released as soon as it is available.

[AUTHORS' NOTE:  WIBX will not release the student's name at this time out of respect to the family and pending notification of same.]

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