No charges in OWU student’s death


The investigation into the Feb. 6 death of a 19-year-old Ohio Wesleyan University student has formally been concluded by police and prosecutors will not be recommending any charges be filed in the case.

City of Delaware Police Captain Adam Moore reported Friday that police, Delaware County Prosecutors and Delaware Municipal Prosecutors had all concluded their investigation into the Feb. 6 death of OWU freshman Luke Gabbert and said that no charges will be filed.

According to official police report Gabbert, a Lewis Center resident and graduate of Olentangy Orange High School, was found in the area of Delaware Run creek off South Franklin Street by a man out for a walk on the morning of Feb. 6.

Detectives from the Delaware police department report after the body was discovered and identified they spoke to Gabbert’s roommates, teammates on the OWU soccer team and members of the Phi Kappa Psi (Phi Psi) fraternity that Gabbert had joined the day before he was found dead.

The detectives learned that Gabbert had been inducted to the Phi Psi fraternity and had been drinking at a celebration party for several hours the night of Feb. 5 before he and another recent inductee decided to join other fraternity members at a downtown bar.

Police report Gabbert used a fake ID to gain entrance to the bar but was asked to leave minutes later after he vomited on himself. Police report that Gabbert and a friend began to make their way back to OWU but spotted a police car conducting a traffic stop and got out of sight of the road.

Gabbert’s friend told police that Gabbert “disappeared” and wasn’t answering his cell phone. The friend searched the area but was unable to find Gabbert assumed he had safely made it back to campus.

In fact, police believe Gabbert, who was stumbling due to intoxication, fell into Delaware Run creek off South Franklin Street and “suffered an injury that created enough force to compress the spinal column.”

Police speculate the injury essentially paralyzed Gabbert as he lay in the creek bed, and made it difficult for him to call for help or reach his phone. Investigators speculate that Gabbert lay in the creek until he succumbed to hypothermia.

The Delaware County Coroner’s Office reports Gabbert’s cause of death was “blunt force injury of (the) upper cervical spine and hypothermia as a result of a fall from (a) height into a creek.” The autopsy states Gabbert suffered from “gastric mucosa petechial hemorrhages” which are bursting of minute blood vessels in the stomach lining that occur in cases of hypothermia.

The coroner’s report also stated that Gabbert’s blood-alcohol level was .21 at the time of his death, more than twice Ohio’s legal driving limit of .08.

On April 13, OWU officials announced that they would be closing the OWU chapter of Phi Psi for violating university rules. OWU officials declined to say if the closing of the chapter was related to Gabbert’s death.

The investigation was formally concluded on Dec. 5.


By Glenn Battishill

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Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

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