The case in which a Central Michigan University student smeared peanut butter on the face of an unconscious student with a peanut allergy at a fraternity house near the college has been resolved.
Dale Merza, 20, pleaded guilty to assault and battery on August 11, 2017 at Isabella County Courthouse in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Merza was also charged with hazing, but that was dismissed as a result of the plea deal. The plea bargain also meant that a scheduled jury trial did not take place.
Allergic Living made several attempts to find out the sentencing details, but the county prosecuting attorney’s office has not responded to these requests.
The Seely family, whose son Andrew was the victim of the smearing in the fall of 2016, has spoken – and they are relieved that the criminal case is behind them.
“We hope that Andrew’s situation will serve as a reminder to everyone that food allergies are not to be taken lightly,” Teresa Seely, Andrew’s mother, told Allergic Living. “We hope that no one, child or adult, will ever have to go through what Andrew has experienced at the hands of someone else.”
The family’s lawyer shared similar sentiments. “I think [Merza] pleading guilty shows that he did something without Andrew’s consent,” said Dan Damman of Winston & Damman Attorneys in Port Huron. “I think it also opens the eyes of parents sending their children to school that this type of activity is still happening near college campuses.”
Police in Mt. Pleasant began investigating the incident after Andrew’s mother posted photos of her 19-year-old son’s badly swollen face to Facebook in March. When the incident took place last October, Andrew was a student at Central Michigan University.
He was in the process of pledging to an off-campus fraternity, and was passed out when the smearing occurred. In the morning, he awoke to find his face, especially his eyes and nose, extremely swollen. At first, “he actually thought he had been punched in the face,” his mother said.
In fact, he had suffered anaphylaxis as a result of the peanut butter smearing and sought medical help at the campus clinic.
The student didn’t tell his family about the frightening experience until the first week of March 2017. Andrew spent one semester at CMU before transferring to another college because of the incident.
“Unless you have a child with a peanut allergy or any allergy, you don’t really understand the concerns,” Seely told Allergic Living at the time. “We just want to bring awareness about the seriousness of life-threatening food allergies. It’s not a joke.”