Missouri College Student Allegedly Encouraged Five Suicides, Lawsuit Says
- Parents of two suicide victims are suing former Truman State University student Brandon Grossheim for encouraging five people struggling with depression to take their own lives.
- In the suit, Grossheim was described as “fascinated with death,” and was allegedly seen wearing one of the victim’s clothes and dating another’s girlfriend after their deaths.
- The lawsuit also seeks to hold the university and the fraternity house, where several of the deaths occurred, accountable for not taking precautions to keep the victims away from the “suspicious fraternity brother.”
A former Truman State University student and fraternity member is facing a lawsuit that claims he “encouraged” and “aided” five people struggling with depression to commit suicide.
The suit accuses 22-years-old Brandon Grossheim of the wrongful deaths of three students who were fraternity brothers with him, along with others living near the university in Kirksville, Missouri. All five deaths occurred between August 2016 to April 2017.
During that time, Grossheim acted as house manager for Alpha Kappa Lambda and counseled depressed individuals because he saw himself as a “superhero,” going by the nickname “peacemaker.”
According to BuzzFeed News, Truman State students Alex Mullins, Joshua Thomas, and Jake Allen Hughes all committed suicide in the AKL house.
Another friend, who was not associated with the university, killed himself in his apartment, where Grossheim worked as a building manager. The final victim, a female listed as Jane Doe, was not identified as a student and the location of her death was not revealed.
Grossheim does not currently have any pending criminal charges against him. Kirksville police said investigations into each of the deaths have been closed without any charges filed.
Grossheim is no longer a student at Truman State, having withdrawn in December 2016. The last suicide associated with him took place in April 2017.
Alleged Odd Activity
The suit states that all five individuals battled depression and had expressed suicidal thoughts to Grossheim after they quit taking medication for depression.
The attorney representing the families of the victims, Nicole Gorovsky, said Grossheim “counseled people and gave advice and step-by-step directions to people on how to ‘deal with depression and do their own free will.’” Part of that advice included information about how to commit suicide.
The suit goes on to cite statements by Grossheim’s fraternity brothers, who claim he was known to cause problems and possessed a “fascination with death.”
After their deaths, Grossheim was seen wearing the clothes of one of the victims, dating the girlfriend of another, and carrying significant amounts of money and drugs the fraternity brothers speculated might have belonged to the victims.
Gorovsky said a police investigation found Grossheim possessed keys to all five victim’s living spaces. It claims he “handled” Mullins’ body before the police arrived, and that he attempted CPR after Hughes’ death.
Police also found a note with Grossheim’s name and contact information in the same closet where Thomas killed himself.
“There were too many similarities, one person in common, and so many questions… it’s time for answers,” Mullins’ mother, Melissa Bottorff-Arey, said in a statement.
The series of deaths have drawn comparisons to the 2017 involuntary-manslaughter conviction of Michelle Carter, who repeatedly encouraged her boyfriend to commit suicide. In July, Carter filed an appeal to the United States Supreme Court to overturn her conviction.
“I love you, bud,” Grossheim said in a Facebook post about Joshua Thomas following his death. “I know I told you that a lot, and it made me happy to know that you knew I meant it. We’ve been through a lot, together, and we grew very close. It really upsets me to lose you.”
Grossheim also made similar posts about Hughes and Mullins after their deaths.
Lawsuit Against Truman State and Kappa Alpha Lambda
The parents of Mullins and Thomas also lodged suits against Truman State University and AKL for permitting the “suspicious fraternity brother to be alone and have unfettered access to the victims,” despite concerns raised by Grossheim’s fraternity brothers.
Truman State University has denied any involvement in the deaths of the three victims who were students.
“We strongly disagree with the allegations as stated in the lawsuit and will defend the suit vigorously,” the statement said. “As the litigation proceeds, it will become clear that the University is not responsible for the deaths of these students. We will not comment further on this pending litigation.”
“There was clear foreseeability to the university that there was somebody dangerous on this campus and they didn’t do anything about it,” Gorovsky said in an interview with KTVI.
Alpha Kappa Lambda is still active on the Truman State campus but has declined to comment on the suit.
Family and Friends Remember Victims
Following the death of Alex Mullins, the Xi chapter of AKL posted a tribute on Facebook.
“Although gone, Alex Mullins is a friend, a son, and most of all an incredible brother,” the post read. “Wherever he went he brought smiles and good times with him, whether that be in Kansas City, Kirksville, or while on a run to deliver Chinese food to some lucky soul that has no idea the incredible man they are about to meet. He can never be replaced and we pray that he has found peace in the afterlife.”
In an obituary from the Truman Media Network, Karen Hughes said many people reached out to her after her son’s death to tell her about their memories of his kindness.
“It was kind of a gift that he could reach out to people so easily,” she said. “It didn’t matter if it was adults or kids. He has always been able to speak with people, even when he was younger.”
In another obituary from TMN, a friend remembered getting to know Thomas from the beginning of his first year at Truman State to the night of his death.
“We didn’t talk much on the way back, but I wish we had,” Danielle Nahm said. “We got back at around 2 a.m. and as we headed upstairs to our rooms I told him I’d see him later, not knowing that that was the last time I would ever, or anyone would ever, see or talk to him.”
“I’ll never be able to forget his personality and how full of life he always was,” she continued. “He was truly like no other and if you knew him, you know exactly what I’m talking about.”
See what others are saying: (KTVI) (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) (The Kansas City Star)
Survey and Census Data Shows Record Number of Americans are Struggling Financially
Americans are choosing not to pursue medical treatment more and more frequently as they encounter money troubles.
A recent federal survey shows that a record number of Americans were worse off financially in 2022 than a year prior.
Coupled with recent census data showing pervasive poverty across much of the country, Americans are forced to make difficult decisions, like foregoing expensive healthcare.
According to a recent Federal Reserve Bureau survey, 35% of adults say they were worse off in 2022 than 2021, which is the highest share ever recorded since the question was raised in 2014.
Additionally, half of adults reported their budget was majorly affected by rising prices across the country, and that number is even higher among minority communities and parents living with their children.
According to recent census data, more than 10% of the counties in the U.S. are experiencing persistent poverty, meaning the area has had a poverty rate of 20% or higher between 1989 and 2019.
16 states report at least 10% of their population living in persistent poverty. But most of the suffering counties were found in the South — which accounts for over half the people living in persistent poverty, despite making up less than 40% of the population.
These financial realities have placed many Americans in the unfortunate situation of choosing between medical treatment and survival. The Federal Reserve study found that the share of Americans who skipped medical treatment because of the cost has drastically increased since 2020.
The reflection of this can be found in the overall health of households in different income brackets. 75% of households with an income of $25,000 or less report being in good health – compared to the 91% of households with $100,000 or more income.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (Federal Reserve)
Montana Governor Signs TikTok Ban
The ban will likely face legal challenges before it is officially enacted next year.
First Statewide Ban of TikTok
Montana became the first state to ban TikTok on Wednesday after Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed legislation aimed at protecting “Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party.”
The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024, though the law will likely face a handful of legal challenges before that date.
Under the law, citizens of the state will not be held liable for using the app, but companies that offer the app on their platforms, like Apple and Google, will face a $10,000 fine per day of violations. TikTok would also be subject to the hefty daily fine.
Questions remain about how tech companies will practically enforce this law. During a hearing earlier this year, a representative from TechNet said that these platforms don’t have the ability to “geofence” apps by state.
Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics, told the Associated Press that app stores could have the capability to enforce the restriction, but it would be difficult to carry out and there would be a variety of loopholes by tools like VPNs.
Montana’s law comes as U.S. politicians have taken aim at TikTok over its alleged ties to the CCP. Earlier this year, the White House directed federal agencies to remove TikTok from government devices. Conservatives, in particular, have been increasingly working to restrict the app.
“The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented,” Gov. Gianforte said in a Wednesday statement.
Criticism of Montana Law
TikTok, however, has repeatedly denied that it gives user data to the government. The company released a statement claiming Montana’s law “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people” in the state.
“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living, and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana,” the company said.
The American Civil Liberties Union condemned Montana’s law for similar reasons.
“This law tramples on our free speech rights under the guise of national security and lays the groundwork for excessive government control over the internet,” the ACLU tweeted. “Elected officials do not have the right to selectively censor entire social media apps based on their country of origin.”
Per the AP, there are 200,000 TikTok users in Montana, and another 6,000 businesses use the platform as well. Lawsuits are expected to be filed against the law in the near future.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Fast Company) (CBS News)
How a Disney-Loving Former Youth Pastor Landed on The FBI’s “Most Wanted” List
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Chris Burns’ 19-year-old son pleaded to his father via The Daily Beast.
Multi-Million Dollar Scheme
Former youth pastor turned financial advisor Chris Burns remains at large since going on the run in September of 2020 to avoid a Securities Exchange Commission investigation into his businesses.
Despite his fugitive status, the Justice Department recently indicted Burns with several more charges on top of the $12 million default judgment he received from the SEC.
Burns allegedly sold false promissory notes to investors across Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida. The SEC claims he told the investors they were participating in a “peer to peer” lending program where businesses that needed capital would borrow money and then repay it with interest as high as 20%. Burns allegedly also reassured investors that the businesses had collateral so the investment was low-risk.
The SEC says that Burns instead took that money for personal use.
Burns began his adult life as a youth pastor back in 2007 before transitioning into financial planning a few years later. By 2017, he launched his own radio show, The Chris Burns Show, which was funded by one of his companies, Dynamic Money – where every week Burns would “unpack how this week’s headlines practically impact your life, wallet, and future,” according to the description. He also frequently appeared on television and online, talking about finances and politics.
The SEC alleges that he used his public appearances to elevate his status as a financial advisor and maximize his reach to investors.
His family told The Daily Beast that he became obsessed with success and he reportedly bought hand-made clothes, a million-dollar lakehouse, a boat, several cars, and took his family on several trips to Disney World. His eldest son and wife said that Burns was paying thousands of dollars a day for VIP tours and once paid for the neighbors to come along.
Then in September 2020, he reportedly told his wife that he was being investigated by the Securities Exchange Commission but he told her not to worry.
The day that he was supposed to turn over his business documents to the SEC, he disappeared, telling his wife he was just going to take a trip to North Carolina to tell his parents about the investigation. Then, the car was found abandoned in a parking lot with several cashier’s checks totaling $78,000
FBI’s Most Wanted
The default judgment in the SEC complaint orders Burns, if he’s ever found, to pay $12 million to his victims, as well as over $650,000 in a civil penalty. Additionally, a federal criminal complaint charged him with mail fraud. Burns is currently on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
Last week, the Justice Department indicted him on several other charges including 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of mail fraud.
“Burns is charged for allegedly stealing millions of dollars from clients in an illegal investment fraud scheme,” Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Financial crimes of this nature can cause significant disruptions to the lives of those who are victimized, and the FBI is dedicated to holding these criminals accountable.”
His family maintains that they knew nothing of Burns’ schemes. His wife reportedly returned over $300,000 that he had given to her.
She and their eldest son, who is now 19, told The Daily Beast they just want Burns to turn himself in, take responsibility for his actions, and try to help the people he hurt.
“Do what is best, not for yourself, for once. Think about everyone else,” Burns’ son said in a message to his father via The Daily Beast.