Courtesy of the Tsialas Family

The body of freshman Antonio Tsialas '23 was found in Fall Creek Gorge on Oct. 26. His family is currently filing a lawsuit in connection with his death.

November 18, 2019

Family Hires Private Investigator, Posts $10,000 Award for New Information in Cornell Freshman Antonio Tsialas’ Death

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In the last two weeks, the family of Antonio Tsialas ’23 has amped up their push for answers after the first-year’s death last month. The family has taken out three days of full-page advertisements in The Sun publicizing an award for $10,000 and has hired an Ithaca-based private investigator in their search for information for the Cornell first-year who was found dead in an Ithaca gorge.

David Bianchi

David Bianchi

The award was posted to incentivize further information, but David Bianchi, a Miami-based lawyer representing the Tsialas family, said that in the dozens of calls received since the emotional advertisement was posted, not a single person has inquired after the reward.

“They want to be helpful,” Bianchi said, “and they pass on information.”

The family has also hired a private investigator in Ithaca in the last two weeks to help the investigation and pass on pertinent information to the Cornell University Police Department, Bianchi said.

President Martha Pollack

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

President Pollack

Tsialas was found dead on Oct. 26 after he was last reportedly seen at a Phi Kappa Psi fraternity party on Oct. 24. The Cornell first-year attended the party — which President Martha Pollack called an apparent unregistered, “dirty rush” party — after eating dinner with his mother, who was in town for First Year Family Weekend. When Tsialas failed to meet his mother the next day, the family reported him missing; he was found the next afternoon in Fall Creek gorge. The cause of death has not yet been shared.

“Had [the fraternity] not been having an unauthorized dirty rush,” the family’s attorney said, “Antonio would be here today.”

In the course of the investigation into Tsialas’ death, evidence of “significant misbehavior” by the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity ultimately led to the fraternity’s suspension on Nov. 8, the same day that Cornell’s Interfraternity Council also instituted a ban on most social events for the rest of the semester. The Cornell chapter of Phi Kappa Psi did not respond to requests for comment.

“Since the investigation is ongoing, we don’t yet know the facts surrounding Antonio’s disappearance and death,” executive director Ronald K. Ransom of the national Phi Kappa Psi organization previously wrote in an email to The Sun. “Our members continue to work with police as they investigate.”

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house on November 9th, 2019.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house.

In their investigation, CUPD has conducted more than 60 interviews and followed more than 150 leads. Police and University officials have maintained that they do not believe the death was the result of foul play, and that CUPD will turn over evidence to the New York State Police for analysis. In the course of the investigation into Tsialas’ death, Cornell Police have sought subpoenas and warrants to seize evidence, CUPD Chief David Honan previously told The Sun.

Flavia Tomasello, Tsialas’ mother, urged anyone with information to come forward in a Facebook post that has been shared more than one thousand times.

Tsialas’ death was one of five widely-publicized deaths across the country associated with fraternities this semester. Incidents like the deaths at Pennsylvania State University, San Diego University, Arizona State University and Washington State University have thrust fraternity culture into the limelight.

The National Interfraternity Council issued a blanket statement on “recent tragedies” last week, writing that the incidents were separate and that it was “inappropriate to attribute a singular cause.”

Cornell’s Interfraternity Council reacted differently, banning registered social events for the weekend following Tsialas’ death, ultimately barring most social events for the rest of the semester and developing proposed reforms. In the past, most fraternity houses did dirty rush, IFC president Cristian Gonzalez ’20 previously said.

“When you combine the unauthorized dirty rush party with the distribution of alcohol to these young freshmen,” Bianchi said, “you have the recipe for disaster.”

The hotline created by Tsialas’ parents can be used by calling or texting 607-280-5102. University officials also encouraged anyone with information to contact Cornell Police at 607-255-1111, [email protected] or by using the Silent Witness Program, an online form that allows respondents to report information anonymously.