Liquor Control investigating Tempe bar where missing ASU student disappeared - East Valley Tribune: Public Safety

Liquor Control investigating Tempe bar where missing ASU student disappeared

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Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012 3:54 pm | Updated: 2:35 pm, Tue Dec 11, 2012.

The Arizona Department of Liquor Licensing and Control is investigating a Tempe bar where Arizona State University student Jack Culolias was last seen during a fraternity-sponsored pledge event attended by dozens of university underclassmen.

Lee Hill, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Liquor Licensing and Control said on Monday that the state agency is reviewing information from Cadillac Ranch at Tempe Marketplace to determine whether any violations were committed the evening of Nov. 30 under its Title IV statutes involving underage drinking and serving alcohol to minors.

Culolias, 19, an ASU freshman, was last seen being escorted by a bouncer off the grounds of Cadillac Ranch at Tempe Marketplace during a Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity-sponsored event at about 11 p.m. Friday, according to police.

Police said Culolias used a fake ID to get into Cadillac Ranch to drink where about 200 other people were inside at the time, and that he had expressed concerns to his stepmother and twin brother about being “scared” about his initiation into the SAE fraternity going into pledge week, which also is known as “hell week.”

Police are continuing to question people who were there that night and seek information in connection to the case after initially receiving conflicting information from people questioned at the bar.

It is not known at this time whether Culolias was served alcohol at the bar, but in what could be a lengthy but revealing process, Liquor Licensing and Control investigators will review the credit card purchases made at the bar and compare them to the ages of the customers prior to considering whether any fines could be levied against the establishment.

The agency’s announcement comes at the same time the city announced it is working with the university to crack down on fraternity-related incidents.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at ASU has been placed on probation twice since 2006, according to Sharon Keeler, a ASU spokeswoman.

The SAE fraternity was on probation for more than a year and a half following the 2006 complaint involving a hazing incident in which new members were forced to drink alcohol, including a member who was taken to the hospital for intoxication, according to Keeler.

The SAE fraternity also was disciplined for having alcohol in a classroom during a meeting in 2011. The probation term associated with that incident lasted only a few months, and the group was required to change its meeting locations to a more public venue, Keeler said.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Dive and Rescue and canine teams also have conducted searches with underwater cameras and radar equipment in the Salt River north of Tempe Marketplace looking for Culolias, but those searches have been inconclusive. The U.S. Marshal’s Service of Phoenix also is assisting in the case.

Culolias’ stepmother, Renae Culolias, had not heard from Jack the weekend of Nov. 30, and had called ASU police on Dec. 2 to conduct a welfare check on him. Campus police were unable to locate Culolias and the following evening, called Tempe police to report him missing.

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, a day after Jack's mother Grace Culolias arrived from Yorba Linda, Calif., to begin searching for any clues to his disappearance, she found one of his red Vans tennis shoes near the shore of the Salt River north of Tempe Marketplace. After DNA testing was conducted on the shoe last week, results came back positive that the shoe indeed belonged to Culolias.

Culolias was escorted out of Cadillac Ranch for urinating off a balcony amid chants from fraternity members, according to his twin brother, Alex.

If Cadillac Ranch is found to be in violation of serving alcohol to minors or other offenses, it could receive a fine for each incident.

In a statement issued by the Arizona Liquor Licensing and Control on Monday, Hill said, “Yes, the Department of Liquor will investigate Cadillac Ranch for violations of Title 4 (Arizona liquor law) and A.A.C. Title 19 (rules which clarify and support law). In general (not specific to Cadillac Ranch), when liquor violations on liquor-licensed premises are found, one or more citations such as criminal, civil or administrative can be written for each violation.”

If violations are found at Cadillac Ranch, the case will be forwarded to the Compliance Unit and the agency’s compliance officer will meet with the licensee and clearly review the violations to prevent a reoccurrence. After that meeting, the parties would agree to a fine amount and/or other action required to reach adjudication, according to Arizona Liquor Licensing and Control.

A manager at Cadillac Ranch who answered the phone on Monday said, “Everything we said, we’ve said to Tempe police.”

Authorities also are continuing to search the area for any additional clues to Culolias’ disappearance.

“This search has not only been very physically challenging, but also emotionally draining,” said Sgt. Michael Pooley, a Tempe police spokesman. “We are committed to finding Jack and investigating this to the fullest extent.”

If anyone has any information about the case, they can call Tempe police at (480) 350-8311 or Silent Witness at (480) 948-6377.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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