Truman, AKL, former student named in lawsuit

A picture of Pickler Memorial Library in broad daylight

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated from its original publication.

Truman State University, the Alpha Kappa Lambda fraternity and a former Truman student are being sued by the parents of two students who committed suicide in the 2016-2017 school year.

Brandon Grossheim, the former student and AKL fraternity brother, is being sued for psychological manipulation that the plaintiffs say led to five deaths, four of which were students at the University. The lawsuit claims Grossheim was close to all five people who committed suicide in the 2016-2017 school year and was either the last person to see them alive or the first to find their body.

Nicole Gorovsky is the plaintiff’s attorney representing Melissa Bottorff-Arey, Suzanne Thomas and Michael Thomas — the parents of Alex Mullins and Joshua Thomas. Gorovsky accuses the University of failing to be transparent about the situation by not informing students, parents and the community of the alleged psychological manipulation occuring. The lawsuit additionally states the University and fraternity were aware some students had depression and were vulnerable, yet allowed Grossheim access to them anyway.

According to a press release from Gorovsky Law LLC, Alex Mullins’ mother said in a fraternity she expected her son to be safe and cared for. 

“Within just months there were four more young people gone,” Bottorff-Arey said. “There were too many similarities, one person in common and so many questions … it’s time for answers.”

Warren Wells, Truman’s general counsel, released a written statement July 31.

“We are aware that an attorney has announced the filing of litigation against the University pertaining to the deaths of two of our students,” Wells wrote in the statement. “We strongly disagree with the allegations as stated in the lawsuit and will defend the suit vigorously. 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.”

The AKL fraternity released a statement on its website Aug. 2. The statement said the fraternity is sympathetic towards the friends and family of the deceased students, and that the deaths of the students greatly impacted the local chapter and community.

“Like Truman State University, The Fraternity of Alpha Kappa Lambda, Inc., the National Fraternity, strongly disagrees with the allegations in the lawsuit to the extent those allegations are directed against it and will vigorously defend the lawsuit. The Fraternity of Alpha Kappa Lambda does not comment on pending litigation and therefore, will not comment further.”