Wiant

Provided photo of Collin L. Wiant.

The Athens County Prosecutor's Office announced today (Tuesday) that nine people and one local business have been indicted in connection with the death of 18-year-old OU student Collin Wiant, who died last November while at the alleged annex of a then OU fraternity chapter.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said Tuesday that seven of the people indicted were affiliated "at one time or another" with the former OU fraternity chapter of the Sigma Pi fraternity, including the fraternity's former chapter president, Elijah Wahib, 22 of Westlake, Ohio. OU expelled the Sigma Pi chapter earlier this year due to numerous violations of the Student Code of Conduct.

Meanwhile, James Wanke, 25, general manager of the Silver Serpent stores in Athens, has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and improperly dispensing nitrous oxide (N2O), among other charges, in relation to Wiant’s death. Wanke pleaded not guilty Wednesday to those charges in Athens County Common Pleas Court, as did two of the other men accused in relation to the Wiant case. He was released on his own recognizance, so long as he abides by several restrictions, including that the Silver Serpent no longer sell nitrous oxide.

Wiant died after using nitrous oxide (aka “whippits”), and the Athens County coroner ruled that Wiant died of asphyxiation due to nitrous oxide ingestion. Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders confirmed Tuesday that the state is alleging that Silver Serpent is the business that sold the nitrous oxide in question, which came in a 50-pack of canisters. N2O at one time was parochially known as “laughing gas.”

Saunders explained that in Ohio, nitrous oxide can only be sold for “culinary purposes,” and said there’s a strict requirement that stores only sell it to people 21 years or older after being asked for their identification; and that stores document the person’s name, address and intent in how to use it. Saunders alleged that on two separate occasions, including the occasion when the Serpent sold the nitrous oxide related to the Wiant case, “none of that happened.”

Wiant was found unresponsive last November at an off-campus residence at 45 Mill St., just a half block down from uptown Athens (Wiant later died after being transported to the hospital). Blackburn's office is alleging that "multiple members of the Sigma Pi Fraternity lived in and used" that house for fraternity activities, while OU officials have previously alleged that the home was an unofficial annex of the fraternity.

Wiant's death is the subject of a lawsuit filed in Athens County Common Pleas Court earlier this year by Wiant's parents, alleging that the fraternity chapter caused Wiant's death through hazing activities. These are the first criminal charges filed related to Wiant's death.

Wiant allegedly was a pledge of the Sigma Pi chapter at the time. OU initiated a cease-and-desist order for all organizational activities for the fraternity chapter a day later.

The people indicted so far are listed below, along with their charges. The first seven people are those allegedly affiliated with the fraternity chapter, Blackburn said, while the final two allegedly worked at the Silver Serpent store on North Court Street in Athens. (The business has a second store on East State Street on the Far East Side.)

• Joshua Thomas Androsac, 20, of Lewis Center, Ohio, charged with permitting drug abuse, a felony of the fifth degree; hazing, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree; involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree; two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants, felonies of the fifth degree; and trafficking in cocaine, a felony of the fifth degree. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Wednesday morning and was released on his own recognizance.

• Saxon Angell-Perez, of Columbus, Ohio, charged with permitting drug abuse, a felony of the fifth degree; hazing, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree; and trafficking in cocaine, a felony of the fifth degree. He is a current OU student, according to Leatherwood. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance.

• Dominic A. Figliola, of Athens, Ohio, charged with permitting drug abuse, a felony of the fifth degree; hazing, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree; aggravated trafficking in drugs, a felony of the fourth degree; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unclassified misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance. He was an OU student up until spring 2019. 

• Corbin Michael Gustafson, 22, reckless homicide, a felony of the third degree. Gustafson was the one who called 911 on Nov. 12 last year about Wiant’s unresponsive condition, according to 911 call records obtained by The NEWS. He was an OU student from fall 2017 to fall 2018.

• Zachary Herskovitz, 22, of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, permitting drug abuse, a felony of the fifth degree; hazing, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. He was an OU student from fall 2016 to spring 2019.

• Cullen Willi McLaughlin, 20, two counts of trafficking in LSD, felonies of the fifth degree. He is a current OU student.

• Elijah Robert Wahib, 22, of Westlake, Ohio, charged with tampering with evidence, a felony of the third degree; permitting drug abuse, a felony of the fifth degree; hazing, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree; assault, a misdemeanor of the first degree; obstructing justice, a felony of the fifth degree; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unspecified misdemeanor.

• James Dylan Wanke/Silver Serpent, LLC, 25, charged with involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree; two counts of trafficking in harmful intoxicants, felonies of the fifth degree; involuntary manslaughter, a felony of the third degree; and improperly dispensing or distributing nitrous oxide, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. 

• Stephan Brent Lewis, 27, trafficking in harmful Intoxicants, a felony of the fifth degree; and improperly dispensing or distributing nitrous oxide, a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. Lewis worked at Silver Serpent (and may still). Brent also pleaded not guilty during his arraignment Wednesday morning in Athens County Common Pleas Court, and was released on his own recognizance.

Check out our Thursday paper tomorrow for more details on this case.

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