4 convicted in deaths of 2 VSU students who drowned during social club initiation ritual

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RICHMOND, Virginia — Four men were convicted Thursday in the April 2013 deaths of two Virginia State University students who drowned during a club initiation ritual.

The defendants entered pleas in Chesterfield County Circuit Court on charges related to the deaths of Marvell Edmondson of Portsmouth and Jauwan Holmes of Newport News, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1J3CU4o).

Both 19, the freshmen were swept away while attempting to cross the rain-swollen Appomattox River. They were taking part in an initiation ceremony to join the group "Men of Honor." Several other students were able to escape the rapids.

The four entering pleas were:

— James A. Mackey Sr., 36, who pleaded no contest to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and one count of hazing. He was sentenced to serve one year, two months.

— Charles E. Zollicoffer III, 30, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing. He was sentenced to one year.

— Cory D. Baytop, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing. He was sentenced to five months.

— Eriq Q. Benson, 20, pleaded guilty to one count of manslaughter and one count of hazing. He was sentenced to 5 ½ months.

In exchange for their pleas, additional charges were dropped.

Benson and Baytop had been students at VSU, a historically black college in Ettrick about 25 miles south of Richmond.

Police investigators described Men of Honor as a social club whose mission was to build the character of young men.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, http://www.timesdispatch.com

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