The parents a Cal State Northridge freshman who died in the Angeles National Forest during a hike with other fraternity pledges are speaking out about the hazing they say their son endured and calling on other students who know anything about his death to come forward.
Armando Villa’s family says they’re still grieving and angry, and feel like they haven’t been given the full story of what happened to him on the fatal hike nearly two months ago. They say no one who was with their son on that hike has come to them to explain what happened to him.
“My son’s gone and I don’t know what happened and I want to know what happened and I feel like we deserve to know what happened,” says Betty Serrato, Villa’s mother. “They ruined our life.”
Villa, a pledge to the Zeta Mu Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi at the school, died July 1 after losing consciousness in the Angeles National Forest after the group he was with ran out of water. Fellow pledges flagged down a ranger for help, but Villa died at a nearby hospital.
Betty Serrato fights back tears talking about her son.
“All I know is my son left Monday night and within 24 hours I got a call and my son was dead,” she says.
Serrato and her husband, Jose, are pleading for other students to come forward.
“There’s just a lot of things that don’t add up and what they’re telling us, it’s not enough. They know a lot more than they’re telling us,” says Jose Serrato, Villa’s stepfather.
The fraternity was suspended by the university in the wake of Villa’s death.
“It’s hard. I’m angry, I’m frustrated. I’m disgusted at how they can go on with their lives and here we are broken,” Betty Serrato says.
The Serratos say their son talked about quitting the fraternity after he came back from an earlier pledge outing to the Mojave desert.
“I noticed when he came back he had scrapes on his elbows, few scratches,” says Betty Serrato.
After his death, the Serratos found a note in his phone, talking about hazing and his desire to stop it. They believe he continued with the pledge process in an effort to change the fraternity’s rituals from within.
“He felt he couldn’t make those changes without being a member, that was one of the reasons he was going through with it,” says Jose Serrato.
Jose Serrato wears a wristband that says “Stop Hazing” and “Justice for Armando.” Villa’s parents say they plan to do both by continuing to speak out about what happened to him.
“They took my baby away and I know no matter what they say or what they do now, it’s never going to bring my son back,” Betty Serrato says.
Both the university and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are continuing to investigate Villa’s death.