EASTON, Pa. — A 19-year-old college freshman and lacrosse player who died last week from blunt-force head injuries had been drinking alcohol, fell in his dorm room and likely hit his head, a prosecutor said Tuesday, adding he doesn’t plan to file charges in the case.
Lacrosse recruit McCrae Williams, of Weston, Massachusetts, attended a beer party with other members of the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams on Sept. 9 before returning to his dorm room at Lafayette College in Easton and falling down on the way to the bathroom, District Attorney John Morganelli said.
No one saw Williams hit his head on the concrete floor, and friends assumed he just needed to sleep it off, Morganelli said. The friends became concerned the following day, a Sunday, when Williams refused to get up, and loaded him into a car intending to drive him to a medical facility, Morganelli said.
A lacrosse coach the friends called told them to dial 911 instead. Emergency workers found a semi-conscious Williams in the back seat and took him to a hospital, where he died on Sept. 11.
Morganelli said Williams’ case was different from one at Pennsylvania State University, where 14 fraternity brothers face criminal charges in the alcohol-related hazing death of a fraternity pledge who suffered severe head trauma.
“I have no evidence of any criminal conduct on the part of anyone at this time,” Morganelli said Tuesday. “I do not see this as a Penn State case.”
In the Penn State case, 19-year-old fraternity pledge Tim Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died in February after guzzling vodka and beer at a series of drinking stations at the now-closed Beta Theta Pi house and then falling head-first down the basement stairs. Fraternity members called 911 nearly 12 hours after his first fall, when he was unconscious.
Morganelli said there’s no evidence that Williams was taking part in a hazing ritual at Lafayette, nor that students knew Williams had hit his head.
“We’re dealing with 18- and 19-, 20-year-old kids who felt that their friend just needed some time to sleep off the effects of the alcohol,” he said. “I don’t think they were thinking about head injury. I think they were thinking more about intoxication.”
Video surveillance footage collected by Easton police shows Williams stumbling to a convenience store to buy food after the party Saturday afternoon. Williams then returned to his dorm room, where a friend who was with him said he vomited in the bathroom.
A little while later, Williams was on his way back to the bathroom when the witness told police she heard a crash, looked up and saw Williams on the floor.
“There is a strong likelihood that when Mr. Williams crashed to the floor in his room, this is a solid concrete floor, he may have sustained a head injury,” Morganelli said.
Williams remained conscious, and he told friends who woke him up later Saturday night to check on him that he just wanted to sleep, the prosecutor said.
An autopsy determined that Williams died of blunt-force head injuries. A coroner has yet to rule on the manner of death pending toxicology results.
A Lafayette spokesman said the campus was still in mourning and would not answer questions about whether the lacrosse team or anyone else would face discipline.
Williams, a goalie, was recruited by Lafayette his sophomore year at a boarding school in Dedham, Massachusetts.
“McCrae was a beloved member of our community,” a three-sport athlete, excellent student and admissions tour guide, Catherine J. Hall, headmaster at the Noble and Greenough School , wrote in a letter to members of the Class of 2017 last week.
In fifth grade, Williams was cast as a double for Adam Sandler’s son in the 2010 film “Grown Ups,” earning him the nickname Hollywood, according to an obituary published by his family.