Originally published in The Orion in February 2005
Matthew William Carrington’s family found his New Year’s resolutions on his desk.
He wanted to earn a 3.5 GPA, find fun activities that don’t involve alcohol and get back in shape.
Carrington, a 21-year-old Chico State junior, didn’t get a chance to fulfill his resolutions.
He died Feb. 2 during initiation week while pledging Chi Tau. He transferred in August to Chico State from Diablo Valley College.
But during his short time at Chico State, Carrington always looked out for his friends.
He took car keys from friends who were drinking alcohol and made sure they got home safely. When he played Xbox with his friends at his home in Pleasant Hill, he was the first to give up a controller to let someone else play.
Mike Quintana said he and Carrington spent every day together since they began pledging Chi Tau in September.
“He did so much for me and I was really appreciative. I was always looking for that chance to help him the way he helped me,” Quintana said. “I lost that chance. I should have been there.”
Quintana and Carrington had been drinking from a five-gallon jug of water and doing calisthenics as part of an initiation-week activity in the basement of the Chi Tau house when Carrington had a seizure and died.
“I just watched him leave me,” Quintana said. “You just want to grab him and shake him.”
Quintana said Carrington was the nicest, gentlest guy he has met.
“He should have never gotten taken away from me or the world,” Quintana said.
When Carrington transferred to Chico State, he joined the fraternity looking for loyalty, friendship and brotherhood, Chi Tau President Ken Dandy said.
“He was the guy that was always there anytime you needed anything,” Dandy said while wearing dark glasses and chain-smoking cigarettes the day Carrington died.
His Chi Tau big brother, Matt Price, said Carrington was the best pledge the fraternity ever had.
“He was friends with everyone,” Price said. “No one treated him like a pledge.”
Price said Carrington would have been a role model in the fraternity.
“School came first and the fraternity came second,” Price said. “He knew why he was here.”
But Price said Carrington was excited to wear the XT letters, which big brothers give their little brothers at initiation.
Price was planning to buy Carrington’s letters the day he died.
Price did buy them but gave them to Carrington’s mother instead.
Friday, Carrington’s mother, Debbie Smith, held the navy T-shirt with blue and white XT letters on it while she said Carrington joined the fraternity to make new friends.
“He really sincerely liked those boys,” she said.
But she said he wanted pledging to be over.
“He should have just told those guys he couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “But that wasn’t the kind of person he was.”
Smith said she asked her son if he would treat future pledges the way he was treated, and he told her he wouldn’t be as extreme.
“He was exhausted from it,” she said. “It wasn’t fun anymore.”
While Carrington was pledging, he went to Southern California and had to dress like a prostitute on camera.
“I still haven’t seen the tape,” she said.
He had to switch shirts with a homeless man, who had vomited on himself. When Carrington returned the homeless man’s shirt, Smith said he didn’t want his own shirt back.
“He goes, ‘Just keep it,’” she said laughing.
She said he often wore T-shirts with jokes on them. She said Carrington’s younger brother, Travis Smith, loved the T-shirts, but Smith didn’t know where to buy them. So Carrington gave him funny shirts for gifts.
“They were always funny sayings,” she said.
Carrington came to Chico to get an education, so he left his Xbox and television at home with his brother.
When Carrington put a comedy routine on his cell phone voice mail, Travis did the same.
“Matt was Travis’ idol,” Smith said. “He already said he’s not joining a fraternity.”
The last contact Smith had with Carrington was an e-mail.
“We told him how proud we were and how much we loved him,” she said. “And thank God we did.”
His brother, Travis, said Carrington always looked out for his friends.
“If something was going to happen, he would stop it.”
Lifetime friend Joey Hackett, 21, said Carrington was up for anything.
Hackett, along with about seven other neighborhood friends, came to Chico Friday night for a candlelight vigil at the Chi Tau house.
“We loved him like a brother,” Hackett said.
Aaron Martinsen, 20, said Carrington took every dare they gave him.
Hackett said once they were riding bikes to school and they dared him to down a quart of creamer at 7-Eleven.
“He drank the whole thing,” he said laughing.
All of them remembered playing sports with Carrington.
Martinsen said he was the neighborhood MVP at everything.
“He was magic at basketball,” Martinsen said.
Carrington left an impression on his friends by wearing inappropriate T-shirts and telling inappropriate jokes.
“He was the first kid to swear,” Martinsen said, “in second grade.”
At Friday’s candlelight vigil nearly 200 family, friends and acquaintances came to remember Carrington.
With votive candles lining the railing at the Chi Tau house and candles lighting the faces of the silent audience, Debbie Smith said “Everybody loved Matt.”
She said she hopes people learn from her son’s death.
“We’re going to work hard to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
After the speeches, Carrington’s stepfather, Greg Smith, said Carrington was a great person.
“We knew alcohol and drugs wouldn’t be an issue because he’s so smart,” Smith said. “But this water thing we never knew.”
He said he felt waves of hatred since Carrington died, but meeting the fraternity brothers helped.
“This is the first time my cheeks have been dry for two days,” Smith said.
He said the fraternity brothers loved Carrington.
“Once you met Matt, you absolutely wanted to love him,” Smith said.
Brea Jones can be reached at