Maxwell Gruver-- a name and story that took the nation by storm. Sept. 14, 2018 makes one year since Gruver passed away.
Not even a month into his freshman year at Louisiana State University, the 18-year-old was rushing the Phi Delta Theta fraternity when the unthinkable happened.
The Georgia native lost his life in what authorities call, "an alcohol related hazing incident."
“It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life,” Stephen Gruver, Max’s father said. “I can’t imagine anything worse.”
Gruver wanted to be a journalist, and he had a passion for sports. Combine that with his love for writing. He published close to 400 sports articles while he was in high school. Gruver’s parents say he was excited to attend LSU.
“When he decided [LSU] was where he was going, we put both feet in with him and we were excited for him,” his mom, Rae Ann Gruver, said.
“Max brought his LSU bound sign back with him and planted it in the front yard,” Stephen said.
All of their enthusiasm and hope came to a crashing end when authorities say several Phi Delta Theta fraternity members forced Gruver to participate in hazing ritual, “Bible Study.” A game making the pledges drink high proof alcohol if they answer trivia questions incorrectly.
The 18-year-old had a 0.495 blood alcohol level, more than six times the legal drinking limit in Louisiana.
Gruver was taken to the hospital the following morning where he later died. His parents were informed of his death over the phone.
“I was at work,” Rae Ann said. "I was about to leave for work and my phone rang. It was a Baton Rouge number and I just answered it and it ended up being the hospital."
Stephen was also at work. “I had a feeling that something was wrong, but I didn’t expect that,” he said.
The house where Max was last seen alive, once guarded with law enforcement and caution tape, no longer bears the Greek letters that spelled out Phi Delta Theta. The fraternity is banned from LSU’s campus until 2033.
“[Max] had a lot of different fraternities looking at him that he was looking at, and for whatever reasons, however it worked out, he settled on [Phi Delta Theta],” Rae Ann said.
“He liked that it was a small fraternity, and he thought that maybe he would be able to do some leadership things in it later on.”
Growing up in Georgia, Max’s parents describe him as lovable, funny and kind. They say that he had a close relationship with his two younger siblings, Alex and Lily.
“Alex lost his best friend,” Stephen said. “They did everything together, they were inseparable.”
Rae Ann recalls how hard it was to tell her other children about what happened to Max.
The Gruvers say that because of what happened to Max, neither children are comfortable or interested in joining Greek life once they attend college.
Despite the heartache of losing their oldest child, the Gruvers are doing everything in their power to make sure what happened to their son, doesn’t happen again.
Traveling from Georgia to the Louisiana State Capitol, the Gruvers made it their mission to change the hazing laws.
The Max Gruver Act makes hazing a felony in Louisiana and allows judges to sentence those convicted to up to six months in jail with a $1000 fine, unless a death occurs. Previously, hazing was a misdemeanor that carried a maximum 30-day jail sentence and a fine of up to $100.
The Gruvers are spreading their anti-hazing message across the nation. They travel to universities and high schools to educate students on hazing and share Max’s story.
A son, brother and forever an LSU Tiger, Max Gruver’s parents vowed to keep Max’s memory alive.
“Max’s life was completely 100% worth it, and he did not deserve this and it should not have happened,” Rae Ann said.
On Aug. 16, the Gruver’s filed a lawsuit against LSU.