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Arson keeps frat from new home

By Bryon Wells
Arizona Daily Wildcat
August 24, 1998
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Dan Kampner
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Jeff Evans, UA electrical engineering sophomore, moves into the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house Friday. The fraternity members had hoped to occupy the old Alpha Tau Omega house this semester, but an arsonist destroyed any foundational plans.

Delta Tau Delta fraternity members are staying put while they decide whether to take over the burned Alpha Tau Omega fraternity house, which was razed in a July arson fire.

Delta Tau Delta members cleaned, painted and waited for electrical repairs to be made last week to their old house, 1550 N. Vine St., before the last of their brothers moved in over the weekend, said President Mark Eicher.

"We're still working on concentrating on the present," Eicher said, referring to the plan to live in the former Alpha Tau Omega house, before fire caused about $850,000 damage last month.

"Right now we've got to get this house ready," he added. "We've got (fall) Rush coming up, but more important than that, we have 40 guys that need to move back in."

Delta Tau Delta was negotiating to buy the house after the Alpha Tau Omega national organization stripped the fraternity's University of Arizona chapter of formal recognition May 14. The Alpha Tau Omega Board of Directors officially revoked the UA chapter's charter Aug. 12, said Wynn Smiley, a spokesman for the national organization.

Eicher said his fraternity is still awaiting a decision by insurance adjusters, who are conducting a feasibility study of the house, and could know this week whether his fraternity will continue with initial plans to take over the Alpha Tau Omega house at 1050 N. Cherry Ave.

University police still have no suspects in their investigation of the arson and are still interviewing "investigative leads" and compiling evidence needed to establish probable cause for an arrest, said university police spokesman Cmdr. Brian Seastone.

"Arson is a very difficult case to investigate," he said. "It takes a lot of footwork and a lot of follow-up work, and that's what we're doing now."

Witnesses discovered smoke billowing from the roof of the 70-year-old fraternity house at about 5:30 a.m. July 12. Tucson firefighters extinguished flames from inside the building, but the roof reignited at about 12:30 a.m. July 13 and city officials later condemned the building.

Later that day, police arrested 19-year-old Christopher Eddy, a former Alpha Tau Omega member, on charges unrelated to the fire after the arson investigation led them to the house he shared with two other men on East Adams Street.

There, officers discovered a door decorated with the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity crest, three couches from the fraternity and group photographs of Alpha Tau Omega members.

Eddy was later released after interviews with police, and Seastone said last week that he is not a suspect. Seastone added that there are no plans to question Eddy again about the fire, but did not rule out the possibility.

Police are asking that anyone with information about the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity fire call 88-CRIME, and are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in connection with the crime.


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