Coroner: USC student Terreni died of ‘toxic’ blood alcohol level (+video)

Charlie Terreni Jr.
Charlie Terreni Jr.

The University of South Carolina freshman who was found dead last month at an off-campus residence had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal driving limit at the time of his death, a toxicology report showed.

Charles Terreni Jr., 18, had a blood alcohol level of 0.375 percent, according to the toxicology results released Wednesday by Richland County Coroner Gary Watts. That is a toxic level and is ultimately what caused Terreni’s death, Watts said.

There is no way for him to tell whether that amount of alcohol was ingested voluntarily or by force, given the circumstances, Watts said.

There were no other substances, including caffeine or illegal drugs, found in Terreni’s system, Watts said.

Terreni was found dead March 18 at 2319 Lee St., an off-campus house near USC’s campus that is commonly used by Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity members. Neighbors said there had been a party at the house the night before.

Terreni reportedly was a member of the fraternity.

Following news of the death, the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity issued a statement saying the USC chapter of the fraternity has been put on administrative suspension and the chapter has ceased operations.

Attempts to reach Pi Kappa Alpha International and USC representatives for comment were unsuccessful Wednesday following the release of the toxicology report.

Terreni was the son of well-known Columbia attorney Charlie Terreni Sr. He graduated in June 2014 from Cardinal Newman School, where he was captain of the soccer team his senior year.

The Terreni family does not wish to make any public statement at this time, according to Steedley Bogan, a local attorney who is a family friend and colleague of Charles Terreni Sr.

“They’re still grieving the loss of their son,” Bogan said.

Watts called Terreni’s death “tragic and totally preventable.”

“You don’t normally get to that point with just social drinking,” Watts said, adding that a blood alcohol level that high would often be the result of bingeing or chugging.

In a situation where everyone at an event is drinking heavily, no one is likely to act responsibly and take action when someone is in need of medical attention, he said.

“It is something that I think we see too often. Everybody’s drinking and having a good time, and somebody says, ‘Well, my friend passed out. We’ll let him sleep it off,’” Watts said. “They’re not going to sleep it off. They’re going to die. Some type of medical intervention needs to take place in a lot of these cases, and it didn’t.”

Watts estimated Terreni’s time of death as between 2:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. March 18. Columbia police and the coroner were called to the house around 10:30 a.m.

The investigation is being handled by the Columbia Police Department.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.