Hazing Reconsidered in Tragic Death of WSU Student, Sam Martinez

KOMO News | November 22, 2019

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The parents of the 19-year-old Washington State University student found dead at his fraternity house Nov. 12 say they want to know what happened that night, as Pullman police say they are reconsidering hazing as a factor in the student’s death.

Sam Martinez reportedly died at the Alpha Tau Omega house at WSU in the early morning of Nov. 12.

Investigators believe alcohol played a role in his death. The county coroner says Sam died four hours before his friends found him. They have not released an official cause of death.

Sam’s parents, Jolayne Houtz and Hector Martinez, consider themselves blessed to have shared 19 incredible years with their son.

“Sam was an absolute spark of life and light,” Houtz told KOMO. “He had a special place in his heart for people who needed to be lifted up.”

Sam grew up in Bellevue and graduated from Newport High School. His parents say he was kindhearted, funny, and a gifted soccer player with a powerful left foot. He started college in the fall and was studying entrepreneurialism at WSU.

“We’re very proud of him,” Martinez said about his son. “And that’s probably why we want to know what happened.”

The day after Sam’s death, Pullman police publicly ruled out hazing. But on Friday they reversed that, telling KOMO new information put hazing back on the table as a possible factor in Sam’s death.

Sam’s parents want to keep their son’s story alive and are worried about the young people affected by what happened.

“We want them to know that they are loved, and there is help for them if they reach out,” Houtz said. “We want to protect young people. We can’t lose any more.”

His parents say they are encouraging people with information about Sam’s death to call Pullman police. They don’t think they will have peace until they know what happened.

“We feel that there is more to say and more to know about those hours before Sam died,” Houtz said. “We need to know the facts.”

Hector Martinez said his son was the joy of life.

“He was a very loving son and friend … he was a very kind, gentle soul,” he said.

Their family continues to grieve as they wait for answers. They want to thank the countless members of the community who have reached out with love and support and are helping them through this.

“I can’t help but think about all he would have done in the world and all that’s lost,” Houtz said.

See Jolayne Houtz and Hector Martinez speak about the death of their son, Sam Martinez here.