Kathleen and Wade Wiant were present on Thursday for the arraignments of three men who were charged related to their son’s death.
Cullen McLaughlin, Elijah Wahib and Zachary Herskovitz pleaded not guilty to the charges related to Collin Wiant’s death from November 2018.
Kathleen Wiant said being in the courtroom to see the men indicted was surreal.
“It always feels like Collin's only been gone a week, even though it's been a year and a week,” Kathleen Wiant said.
Kathleen and Wade Wiant’s lives have been entwined in Ohio University since they attended in the 1980s and were both involved in Greek life. Their oldest son graduated from OU, and their daughter is in medical school at the university. Wade said their drive to OU is usually a joyous occasion for special weekends, but that is not the case anymore.
“Unfortunately, it's not pleasant anymore, and that was probably the saddest part,” Wade Wiant said.
The Wiants are working to make changes across the state and at OU in regards to hazing.
With the support of Sen. Jay Edwards (R-OH), Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-OH) and Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-OH), they are working on creating Collin’s Law. The law would allow more transparency about reports at universities and make hazing a felony instead of a misdemeanor.
Kathleen Wiant said it would make universities look back every six months on reported violations of the student code of conduct. When students join organizations, the students and their parents can make an educated decision about what organizations to join.
“We strongly feel if that was available that Collin would be alive today,” Katheen Wiant said.
Prior to Collin Wiant joining Sigma Pi, there were reports of a Sigma Pi’s member having his head cut open in spring 2018. A few years prior, Sigma Pi was suspended for having pledges stand in a front yard in the middle of the night, blindfolded and wearing nothing but underwear.
“If they're doing that publicly, I can only imagine what they must have been doing privately,” Kathleen Wiant said. “Those would have been red flags where we said ‘You know that's not an organization you're going to join.’”
McLaughlin, 20, pleaded not guilty to two counts of trafficking in LSD, a fifth-degree felony. He is currently enrolled at OU and has been since fall 2017. He was represented by Zach Swisher.
McLaughlin was released on a recognizance bond, which means he has to appear at all court hearings and can be incarcerated with new charges if he fails to appear in court. McLaughlin is allowed to reside in Pennsylvania since that is where his family lives.
McLaughlin will be screened for a drug and alcohol assessment and will also be subject to random substance abuse checks. He cannot be in contact with the other co-defendants in the case. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 28.
Wahib, 22, of Westlake, pleaded not guilty to tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony; permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony; hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; assault, a first-degree misdemeanor; obstructing justice, a fifth-degree felony; and failure to comply with underage alcohol laws, an unclassified misdemeanor. He was represented by Paul Wolf, a Cleveland attorney.
He was enrolled at OU from fall 2016 to spring 2019 and was the president of Sigma Pi.
Wahib was released on his own recognizance. He is not allowed to consume drugs or alcohol unless it is it prescribed to him. He will have to undergo a health evaluation. He cannot be in contact with the other co-defendants in the case or with Kathleen and Wade Wiant.
Herskovitz, 22, of Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, pleaded not guilty to permitting drug abuse, a fifth-degree felony, and hazing, a fourth-degree misdemeanor. He was enrolled at OU from fall 2016 to spring 2019. He was released on his own recognizance and is allowed to reside in Pennsylvania, where he is from. He was represented by Michael DeRiso, a Pennsylvania lawyer.
Assistant Prosecutor Meg Saunders said it was found that substances were abused by Herskovitz during the time of the investigation. He is not allowed to use drugs or alcohol, has to get a health evaluation and is subject to random substance abuse checks. He is not allowed to be in contact with other co-defendants or in contact with Kathleen and Wade Wiant.
McLaughlin, Wahib and Herskovitz have trial dates set for Jan. 28.
Wade and Kathleen Wiant would like the truth about everything that happened to their son.
“Nobody wins,” Wade Wiant said. “This is a somber moment. This isn't a moment we're excited or happy that potential justice will be done.”