Hazing prank likely cause of fire

(Houston Chronicle, Oct 31, 1998)

MURRAY, Ky. - A dormitory fire that killed a student at Murray State University was apparently set as part of a hazing prank by members of a rugby club, authorities say.

"In my opinion, this was a pretty sorry prank that went bad," Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Ward told The Paducah Sun for a story published Friday. "Obviously, setting a fire is not what a normal person would call a prank, but these aren't normal people . . . I believe there was hazing involved."

Ward did not return calls Friday seeking further comment.

Seven people were indicted this week, including the five Murray State rugby players and another student, on charges related to the Sept. 18 fire in Hester Hall.

Michael H. Minger, 19, of Niceville, Fla., died in the fire, which authorities said was set on the fourth floor of the eight-story dorm. Another student, Michael Priddy, 21, of Paducah, was badly burned but survived.

The fire had caused a great deal of fear and concern at the pastoral campus in rural western Kentucky. Dozens of students moved out of the school's nine dormitories and security was tightened.

Authorities accused Fredrick F. McGrath II, 23, of Murray of setting the fire and charged him with capital murder and other felony counts. The former Murray State student has pleaded innocent to the charges. He remained in the county jail on a $100,000 cash bond.

The other six defendants all pleaded innocent Friday. They remained in jail under cash bonds ranging from $10,000 to $75,000, said Vicki Wilson, a court clerk.

Kentucky State Police said five men were members of the rugby team, which is registered with the university but is not a varsity sport.

There is more to this story but I don't have the details. Some of those involved may have been acquitted. - Wes