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Charges filed in alcohol death of Moorhead student

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Lt. Bob Larson says the Kycia case is raising awareness of underage drinking in Fargo-Moorhead. (MPR Photo/Bob Reha)
Prosecutors charged six men Monday with felonies for selling liquor to an underaged student at Minnesota State University - Moorhead. Patrick Kycia, was found dead five days after a fraternity party. The men in their '20s, appeared in Clay County District Court. A seventh was expected to make his first court appearance later in the day or early Tuesday.

Moorhead, Minn. — The six men appeared individually before Judge William Walker, confined in handcuffs and wearing orange jail suits, their initial appearance in court was brief. Judge Walker released all the defendants on their promise to appear for their next court date. The judge ordered them to refrain from drinking, possessing or selling alcohol.

Walker told the men the charges against them constituted a public safety issue, and warned they would be subjected to random blood alcohol tests. The young men were charged with multiple counts -- selling liquor to a minor resulting in death, selling alcohol without a license and giving alcohol to a person under 21.

Clay County Attorney Lisa Borgen says the first charge is a felony, while the other two are gross misdemeanors. Borgen says, it's clear alcohol played a role in the death of Patrick Kycia.

"Clearly by the blood alcohol he was over the legal limit for driving which is a.08. We got a call from the medical examiner and the final is.17," says Borgen. "He was over twice the legal limit for driving which means he was intoxicated and that certainly played a factor in his death." The men appearing in court ranged in age from 20 to 26. Most were arrested in Moorhead Sunday, but one was apprehended in Pine County. Seven face felony charges while two of the men are charged with a gross misdemeanor count. All but one of the men are listed as Minnesota State Moorhead students.

Patrick Kycia, 19, of Stillwater, was last seen alive Sept. 22 at a party at the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity house. Eyewitnesses say Kycia was drinking heavily at the party. Court records say the men charged were selling beer at the fraternity house to minors. Kycia's body was found five days later in the Red River where he drowned.

Kycia's death is the second in 18 months linked to the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. Members of the fraternity and their national chapter have declined requests for interviews.

Moorhead city officials and the administration of Minnesota State University-Moorhead are investigating ways to close the fraternity.

If anything good comes out of Patrick's death, I don't want any other parents to feel the same feelings I'm feeling and hurt the same way I hurt.
- Julian Kycia

Moorhead Police Lt. Bob Larson says the arrests should serve as a warning to underage drinkers.

"Hopefully we are giving a message to people that this kind of conduct, partys, serving alcohol to minors, things like that, will be investigated thoroughly," says Larson. "If appropriate, charges will be filed against those individuals."

Larson says the case is raising awareness throughout Fargo-Moorhead about underage drinking. He says it's a problem for everyone, not just law enforcement.

Julian Kycia says he is still coming to grips with his son's death. He's pleased with the work that Moorhead police have done. Kycia's hopeful the investigation will help prevent future incidents.

"If anything good comes out of Patrick's death, I don't want any other parents to feel the same feelings I'm feeling and hurt the same way I hurt," says Kycia.

Officials involved with the case say no further charges are expected.

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