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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Student’s last night weighs on loved ones’ minds

Kaitlyn Gex | Courtesy Photo
Dane Knight

When Dane Knight came to Mississippi State University in the fall of 2012, he thought his size 13 foot would look ridiculous in a Chaco sandal. He defied his fraternity brothers when they told him he “had to have them.”

Eventually, though, he realized Chacos were comfortable and perfect for hiking across campus, and while he might have looked goofy, he just didn’t care.

“Conformity — my way,” Knight said in a text to his mom, Michelle Knight, alongside a picture of his lengthy foot inside the large, strappy sandal. To her, that meant if he was going to be influenced by his surroundings, it was going to be on his time and on his terms.

Knight experienced a push and pull with Greek life during his time at MSU: All of his friends were Greek, but “whenever he realized that maybe Greek life wasn’t for him, he realized that he was going to have to change his plans,” said Kaitlyn Gex, Knight’s childhood friend and roommate.

On Friday, Nov. 8, Knight, 19, took his life after returning home from a night of drinkingwith some friends and acquaintances at an apartment in the Highlands, where members of MSU’s Delta Delta Delta sorority threw a pre-party for the fall Tri Delta formal. 

Knight, sophomore biological sciences major, never made it to the function. His family and close friends have questioned how Knight’s Greek experience and the events of the night leading up to his death affected his decision. 


Gex, a sophomore, drove with Knight to school earlier on Nov. 8. They discussed the upcoming party and Knight told Gex he was nervous. 

“He just doesn’t like being around a lot of people he doesn’t know, and he wasn’t going to know a lot of people there,” Gex said.

He decided to go despite his nerves because he didn’t want to let down his date, who he had promised to accompany to the function. That afternoon Knight and Gex went shoe shopping for the event and, to Gex, nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

According to text messages in the days prior to Nov. 8 between Knight and his Tri Delta formal date, Rachel Bramlett, Knight looked forward to attending the party.

Knight got ready that Friday evening at his apartment with Gex, who helped him put his outfit together. Their other friend from high school, sophomore Christy Parnell, arrived shortly before Knight left. The girls took pictures of Knight beaming behind his red bow tie.

Bramlett and Chandler Godfrey, the sober driver for the night, picked up Knight from his apartment in the Highlands at 6:30 p.m. The pre-party involved mostly underage students and was also held in the Highlands at a Tri Delta member’s apartment.

An anonymous source said that when he arrived at the apartment, Knight had a drink in his hand, and while he looked a little drunk, nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

“He seemed completely fine,” the anonymous source said. “He seemed like regular Dane.”

The last thing the source remembers is seeing Knight on a couch, laughing. He said he left the party before Knight did.

Another party attendee told Gex that some guys at the party encouraged Knight to take advantage of his date. Knight refused, saying “‘I’m not going to do that,’ and they were like, ‘What, are you gay?’” Gex said.

Clint Vancourt, Knight’s friend from high school and sophomore, talked to another MSU student who was at the party. 

“We were just talking about everything that had happened and he said, ‘Yeah, I remember him (Knight) saying how this group of people,’ who I assume were at the party, ‘were being a——s,’” Vancourt said.

The anonymous source said that if Knight had been harassed by party attendees he wishes he would have been present when it happened.

 “You almost wish you would have seen it so you could have helped,” he said.

Godfrey text-messaged Knight’s hometown friend and sophomore an account of the night.

Godfrey, sophomore biological sciences major, said in a text message when she came to pick Knight, Bramlett, and another couple up at 8:30 p.m., he looked uneasy. 

The four rode with Godfrey to Sorority Row to board the bus that would take them to the formal function at the Ritz in West Point. 

On the way to the Tri Delta sorority house, Godfrey said, in the text, Knight became even more restless. He didn’t want to go, so Godfrey said she would “take him back after I got everyone there on time,” Godfrey wrote.

Once they reached Sorority Row, Knight was “set off” when the other Tri Delta member in the car called him a “frat whore.”

“He pulled on my sweatshirt and was like ‘let me out now, get me out of the f—ing car,’ and so I could tell he was really upset so I pulled over by DG (Delta Gamma) and let him out,” Godfrey wrote in the text message.

Fraternity Courtship

In 2011, Knight made the decision to join the Bulldog family after attending MSU football games his junior year of high school. Even before he became a student, members of MSU’s Phi Delta Theta chapter showed an interest in Knight. They met with him weeks before school began and offered him an early bid. 

Michelle Knight said her son was mostly interested in Greek life for the contacts, but “when he got so courted by all of them, I think they did a number on his brain, honestly, on his mind.”

Michelle Knight said joining a fraternity was Knight’s way of maintaining the popular, involved status he had in high school. 

“It kept him being Dane Knight, who he had become comfortable with,” she said.

Knight connected with the active members of Phi Delta and accepted their invitation. However, once he arrived to MSU and met his pledge class, he found out they had little in common and decided not to continue pledging. 

Knight revisited Greek life in spring 2013, during the second semester of his freshman year. This time, he chose to pledge Sigma Phi Epsilon. 

Michelle Knight said her son “loved it. Had a great time. Until those things started happening.” 

One night in the spring of 2013, Knight’s fraternity brothers assigned him to the duty of designated sober driver, a task asked of many pledges. When he arrived at one location they sent him, he was met with another Sig Ep active, who gave him a box of alcohol wipes to return with.

He didn’t smell the strange odor until he was well on his way back to the fraternity house. Knight realized then that the box contained marijuana: His brothers had involved him in the transfer of illegal drugs without his knowledge. Knight called Gex while in the car.

“He was just like, ‘Oh my god. Do they not realize that if I were to get pulled over with this stuff I could never get into nursing school?’” Gex said.

While on driver duty on a second occasion, Knight refused to allow members of his fraternity who were in possession of marijuana into his vehicle. After reporting the second incident to a Sig Ep officer, Knight dropped the fraternity – just before initiation. 

Gex said Knight’s relationships with some of his former fraternity brothers suffered after the incidents and when he decided not to continue pledging.

“There was a couple times where there was a Sig Ep guy that would walk by, and Dane would really be like, ‘Oh God. Don’t let him see me,’ and then they would just kind of look at him and ignore him. So, there was a divide of who was still nice to him and who just kind of wanted to act like he didn’t exist,” Gex said.

All of the friends Knight had in high school were Greek. 

“I think it made him feel kind of left out,” Gex said.

“He really wanted to be part of a fraternity,” Vancourt said. “None of the places that he went were right for him.”

 ‘I Swear This Wasn’t Me’

On Nov. 8 after Knight became upset in Godfrey’s car and requested she pull over, Knight got out and walked to the entrance of the Delta Gamma sorority house. Knight called Gex and asked her to pick him up and take him home.

“I could just hear him yelling at people in the background saying how he was going to leave,” Gex said.

Around 8:30 p.m., Knight sent texts to his friend and DG formal date for the following weekend that indicated he was upset. He said he couldn’t wait for DG formal and for them to have a better time than he was having that night. He told her he was on the front steps of her sorority’s house.

“I swear this wasn’t me haha,” Knight wrote.

“This isn’t you?” she replied.

“Like I can actually hold my alcohol. This was all my date,” Knight wrote.

When Gex arrived at Delta Gamma, she “knew it was serious,”Gex said. “He had taken the tie off and his jacket and his shirt. He just had his undershirt on and he just threw them in my car. I could tell that he had been sitting on the steps and he was crying.”

Knight told Gex in the car he couldn’t wait to go back home and be away from MSU. When they returned to their apartment, Knight threw his clothing on the ground and slammed his bedroom door.

Shortly after 9 p.m., Knight’s friend and then Tri Delta member, sent a text to Knight asking him, “What happened???”

Knight replied, “Obviously I’m a frat whore Geed. So f— off it’s fine.”

(“Geed” refers to the acronym GDI, or “god-damn independent,” meaning not affiliated with a fraternity or sorority). 

Gex could hear Knight crying in his room. It was the most upset she had ever seen her best friend, so she decided the best thing she could do was give him some space.

Just before 10 p.m. the host of the pre-party, Alex Holloway, whose number was not saved in Knight’s phone, text messaged him with an apology.

“Hey it’s Alex Holloway. I just wanted to say that I am soooo sorry about tonight! I just don’t want you to be upset or think bad of us. I also wanted to make sure you made it home ok. Call me if you need anything!” she wrote. 

Knight never replied.

Alex Holloway could not be reached for this story. Bramlett declined to comment on these events. The Delta Delta Delta national policy prohibits members of Tri Delta to speak to the press. 

Shortly after 11 p.m., Gex had the feeling she needed to check on Knight. She found him unconscious in his room and immediately called police.


Hysterical, Gex waited for the police outside. Once Knight was confirmed deceased, an officer asked Gex what happened and she told him about the party and that Knight had been upset that night.

“And he was like, ‘Okay, well, is this something that you expected to happen? Is he this type of guy that is depressed?’” Gex said. “And I was like, ‘No, he’s not like that at all.’ And he was like, ‘Well, if he wasn’t that type of person than we wouldn’t be here right now.”

The Oktibbeha Countycoroner notified Michelle Knight of her son’s death that night. She wanted to drive up to see her son then, but his body had already been transferred to the Hinds County coroner in Jackson. Michelle Knight came to Starkville that Sunday to meet with deputies and get answers.

“We were meeting with the deputy. He tells us that they believed he (Knight) planned it and that he was extremely depressed over some ex-girlfriend and also his parents going through a very ugly divorce,” Michelle Knight said. “Well right there I was like, ‘Really?’ A. He was not upset over the ex-girlfriend. B. The very ugly divorce happened years ago. And C. I know my son did not plan it. Had Dane planned it, there would have been a letter to everybody, and a reason, and probably a life insurance policy to take care of everything because that’s just how he was.”

Michelle Knight, who had a close friendship with Knight, her oldest son, said her marriage was rocky while her two boys were growing up. She divorced her sons’ father during Knight’s sophomore year of high school.

“He didn’t like his dad,” Gex said. “But that had nothing to do with this. We had talked about his dad and what his dad was to him and stuff. I don’t have a clue why people would be like, ‘Oh it’s because his parents were divorced.’ He was happy when his parents got divorced.”

“We threw a party,” Michelle Knight said of the divorce.

In September, Knight broke up with his longtime girlfriend, who was still in high school in his hometown. Michelle Knight and Gex both said Knight decided it would be best for them to be separated while at different stages in their lives. Knight encouraged his ex-girlfriend to take advantage of everything her senior year of high school had to offer.

It’s unclear to the family how the detectives determined Knight was depressed because of these events. 

The detective also took Knight’s calendar, which had “die” written in on Nov. 16, to conclude that Knight planned his suicide.

“Well, first of all if he had on the 16th, he’d have done it on the 16th,” Michelle Knight said.

Gex said she remembers when Dane wrote that. He had a hard week of school the week prior to Saturday the 16th — tests and assignments due nearly every day. Knight was going to be exhausted by the weekend.

“That was the day that he was going to lay in his bed and watch Grey’s Anatomy,” Gex said. “Dane was dramatic, and writing ‘die’ on a calendar doesn’t mean die.”

A few days after Knight’s death, Gex searched Facebook and other social media sites for pictures of the party to see who might have been present and knew what happened. She noted that Sig Ep and Phi Delt fraternity members were at the party.By the end of the week, however, all the photos of that night had been deleted. 

Further, Tri Delta members told Gex and Michelle Knight that a Tri Delta meeting was held in which members were told Knight was depressed, planned his suicide and that there was nothing the girls could have done. Tri Delta at MSU also received orders from Delta Delta Delta national offices to refrain from discussing Knight’s death.

After a request by Knight’s uncle Jason Chiniche, the university conducted an investigation into allegations regarding the Tri Delta pre-party and the drug transfer the previous spring.

A student who was interviewed for the report about Knight’s attendance at the Tri Delta pre-party said, “Dane seemed to be fine until a friend’s date asked if he was in a fraternity.”

“Dane replied, “No and I’m tired of this” (paraphrased),” the report stated.

Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Kibler, who wrote the findings report, said the document only detailed the elements pertaining to Knight, although the university was conducting a larger fraternity investigation of Sig Ep simultaneously. The conclusions made in the report were only based on interviews with various students.

“That document was directly responsive to some questions that she (Michelle Knight) had about things that we were able to conclude or not conclude about her son specifically,” Kibler said.

The report also addressed the drug transfer that took place in the spring, stating that the student who had Knight “unbeknown to him, pick up a box, allegedly containing marijuana, from another Sig Ep active” was suspended from MSU after meeting with Assistant Dean of Students Tabor Mullen on Dec. 10, 2013.

Michelle Knight believes the harassment Knight faced the night of his death might be connected to his fraternity experience in the spring of 2013.

“Technically, he ratted on people for drugs. I mean, it could’ve been ugly,” Michelle Knight said.

The Sigma Phi Epsilon National Office and MSU’s investigation into policy violations by the Sig Ep chapter included two years of issues regarding hazing, alcohol and deception toward the university according to Kibler. The chapter was consequently closed Dec. 17, 2013.

Reflecting, Finding Answers

Knight knew what he wanted to do with his life. His mother recalls him researching the salary curve of a nurse anesthetist so he could anticipate how much money he would be making. Knight even knew what he was going to do with his first paycheck: buy his own dog.

“…and his name will be Ace,” Knight said to his mom.

Along with the name of his future dog, Knight planned to spend his adult life close to his best friend, Gex. They talked of raising their children, who would be friends.

“He wanted the white picket fence with the golden retriever,” Gex said.

Gex and Knight often discussed their future, even on the afternoon of Nov. 8.

“I guess that’s why it was so shocking because it was like four hours before we were talking about 30 years from now,” Gex said.

Knight was also a dedicated student. While Knight put a lot of pressure on himself to do well in school, it was that determination that attributed to his success.

“It got results, and he liked the results. (He was) very proud of the results,” Michelle Knight said. “And it gave him the confidence to, God forbid, stand up to a fraternity twice.”

Gex said that the night of his death wasn’t the first time guys had picked on Knight. Boys were mean to him every now and then when he was younger, but it lessened as he got older.

“People would call him ‘gay’ and stuff, but I swear to God he was not. That stuff got to him,” Gex said. “It was just something he dealt with for a while.”

Knight had many female friends and was respectful to all women. “And you don’t meet a lot of 20-year-old college guys that are,” Gex said.

Knight was forced to overcome negativity in his early life, but he used his spirituality to turn his hardships into life lessons from which he could learn and grow into the man those closest to him knew. During high school Knight was a member and eventually leader for the Search and Kairos church retreat teams.

Knight spoke about the strained relationship he had with his father during a testimonial he delivered on a Search retreat his senior year. He discussed his difficulty growing up with parents who endured a rocky marriage. While Knight thought of his parent’s divorce as a “nightmare,” he soon began to heal.

“It is important to understand though, that I am not bitter and broken anymore. I have slowly but surely reassembled my puzzle pieces of life, the puzzle pieces that make up who I am. Not only did I reassemble my puzzle pieces, but I began to flip them over; one by one, and for the first time in years, I began to find myself again. These past two years of high school have been filled with excitement, joy, love, and most importantly growth. It’s always hard letting go of your old habits. After years of hiding behind this mask of shyness and doubt, I have quickly grown use to being outside of it, and I have never been more proud and blessed to be, me,” Knight wrote in his Kairo speech.

Knight went on to explain that he would not allow his relationship with his father to determine what kind of man he would be.

The song “Family Tree” by Matthew West played after his speech. “No, this is not your legacy. This is not your destiny. Yesterday does not define you,” West sings. Gex said the song illustrated Knight’s situation with his father.

“It’s almost like he took all of that growing up and filtered it to a positive role,” Michelle Knight said.

St. Stanislaus College recognized Knight’s positive personality his senior year of high school when he was given the Character Cup — one of the highest achievements the school awards. 

The night of his death, however, Knight seemed to be someone else. Gex doesn’t consider the person she picked up at DG that night to be the same person she calls her “other half.”

The text message he sent that night that read, “this wasn’t me,” gives a sort of closure.

“That makes me feel better knowing he wasn’t the Dane we all knew,” Michelle Knight said.


Michelle Knight said the secrecy she has encountered since her son’s death has been almost unbearable. She said every time she and her younger son Levi see someone wearing an MSU shirt, “We’re wondering: Did he say something to Dane?”

But one question weighs heavier on Michelle’s heart than that: What drove her son to take his life that night?

“What bothers me is that I don’t know what he was feeling and what hurt him so bad that he would go home and do that,” Michelle Knight said. “And as a mother, it kills me that I don’t know.” 

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Student’s last night weighs on loved ones’ minds