Tips are continuing to come in about the events surrounding the death of Clemson student Tucker Hipps last fall, and investigators are “actively working the case,” Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw said Tuesday.
He declined to give details about what information has come during the weeks since early December when he said he was close to bringing the case to the solicitor, but he said the traditions of Sigma Phi Epsilon’s runs across the Lake Hartwell bridge west of campus are part of the investigation.
Hipps was a pledge for the fraternity when he died.
His body was found in the lake, between the State 93 twin bridges into Oconee, after an early morning run with fraternity members. An autopsy showed injuries consistent with hitting his head on rocks in the shallow water near shore below the bridge.
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Asked whether the fraternity had a tradition of jumping off the bridge into the lake, the sheriff said, “It has been part of our discussions.” But he added, “I think it would be inappropriate to discuss the details of our investigation for fear of jeopardizing, or planting any type of misinformation in the public’s eye or in this family’s eye.
“Those types of questions, once this investigation has been completed, will be addressed.”
Hipps died on Sept. 22, and fraternity members who took part in the pre-dawn run that morning told authorities they last saw him straggling behind the group coming back across the lake toward campus.
They discovered he wasn’t with the group at breakfast and went back to look for him, they told police. They called the campus police at 1:45 that afternoon to ask if they or any emergency officials had “picked up” anyone.
After initial interviews with all the fraternity members involved in the run gave no indication of hazing, CrimeStoppers of Oconee County put up a $2,000 reward for information leading to solving the case.
Tips have continued to come in since then, Crenshaw said. Hipps’ mother said recently that a new CrimeStoppers sign seeking tips in the case was going to be put up in Clemson.
The Sheriff's Office also is analyzing information from cell phones, laptops and social media that has moved the case forward, Crenshaw said.
He said again Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to release the results of toxicology tests until after the investigation is completed.
It’s “too early to speculate” on whether there will be criminal charges in the case, but Crenshaw said he is hopeful of closing it soon.
“We want to bring closure for his mother and his father, and for those who knew him at Clemson University,” he said. “But as long as we’re continuing to receive information on the case, then we’re bound to follow up on that information.”