Hazing law a memorial to student who drowned

Published June 6, 2005|Updated Aug. 25, 2005

After Chad Meredith drowned while trying to join a fraternity in 2001, his parents visited the University of Miami lake where he died, throwing a baseball into the water to commemorate the life of their son and his love of the sport.

Chad died while swimming with other Kappa Sigma pledges across the campus' Lake Osceola. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.13 percent; the law presumes impairment at 0.08.

The couple plans to return to the shore of Lake Osceola on Tuesday after winning their lengthy battle to make hazing a crime in Florida.

"It gives some meaning to his death," William Meredith said of the law to be signed Tuesday by Gov. Jeb Bush in Miami. "It gives us a feeling of comfort, in a lot of ways, that he really helped."

The Chad Meredith Act will make hazing that results in serious injury or death a felony punishable by up to five years in prison, even if the victim consents. Putting someone at risk of injury will become a first-degree misdemeanor.

Once the law takes effect, Florida will be one of eight states that consider some types of hazing a felony, according to an online database compiled by

"In this, he will still be helping people for a long time to come," Meredith said of his 18-year-old son. "And in that sense, we'll get some relief."

For the Indianapolis couple, solace has been rare. The day Chad died, Carol Meredith left the T-shirt factory where she worked and never felt able to return.

"I'd be afraid for her to work around the machinery," said her husband, a former truck driver. "It just destroyed me. And it did worse for my wife."

Nearly four years after Chad's death, they visit his grave four to five times a week, tending to the site and listening to a wind chime they hung nearby.

Every night, Carol places a figurine of an angel on its side before going to sleep.

They closely followed the progress of the legislation named for their son, monitoring daily developments in Tallahassee from their home computer. When they got the call last week that Bush had decided to sign the bill, they immediately made plans to head to Miami.

"It choked us up," William Meredith said by phone. "We've all been so anxious for this and wanting it so bad."