A professor at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, has resigned in the wake of a bizarre, gruesome report that accuses the now-former political science teacher of coercing students into aiding him with something called the “Sundance Ritual.” As part of the ritual, Professor Jeff William Justice reportedly pressured several students into hanging him from the trees at his house using hooks attached to nothing but the skin on his chest.
In the police report and accompanying nine-page witness statement (which have been provided to Gawker by Tarleton’s student newspaper and which you can read in full below), an unnamed student describes how Professor Justice tried repeatedly to invite a group of male students over to his home, only to eventually bombard them with the painful, Native American ritual.
Justice reportedly attempted to lure the witness and several other students to his house several times with offers of free scotch. After repeatedly turning the professor down, the students, according to the witness, finally conceded. That, of course, is when things got weird. From the campus police report:
They talked a lot of of small talk then Prof. Justice began to talk about the pain in his chest from hanging from a tree by spikes in his chest, praying to the sun god. Prof. Justice said that when he was around 13, a friend had shown him how to do this act and that he has been doing this practice since then.
The kids, when asked if they’d like to have a go at hanging themselves from the trees by their their chests, reportedly declined and said “they had to think about it.” The students surely did plenty of thinking later that evening, when they reportedly helped Justice hang himself from a tree twice. From the witness statement:
He went to the bathroom and came back and took his shirt off. He had the stakes through his chest with blood dripping down and rope tied to them. He turned off the lights and had us follow him out back. He hugged all of us and asked us what we need him to pray for us about...
Dr. Justice then climbed up a step ladder, tied the rope to the tree, and then hung off the ground from his chest. He told us to be on the lookout for cars and other people. I stood there in disbelief and speechless about what was happening. I was doing my best not to laugh. I at first though it was really weird, but kind of cool and selfless that he was sacrificing his body like that for God.
Whatever reverence the student might have been feeling quickly dropped away, though, “because [Justice] started asking us how blown away were we and how cool did we think it was. He said he knew we were religious, but that he knew more of how Christ felt.”
After this, the students were apparently so “freaked out” that they decided they’d had enough of Professor Justice, his scotch, and his giant chest hooks, and all agreed to never return.
Some time later, the witness said he heard that Justice’s grandfather was in poor health and decided to return to the professor’s home (this time, unfortunately, alone, since none of his friends were willing to go back with him). Once at the house, the student was reportedly asked again to help put spikes in Justice’s chest so that he might pray to the sun god about his dying grandfather:
He then went on to say, well, even though the Sundance is stressful, I feel like I need to do it for my grandfather, but I’m not putting the stakes in myself again. I sat there awkwardly in silence for a bit and then realized he was staring at me and wanted me to do it. I quickly said “Well, I’m not putting them in,” and he replied with “well, you’re the only other person here.”
At that point, the student said he faked a call and bolted.
Justice reportedly tried to get the student to come back over to no avail, before finally texting him one last time “to come to his home and hang out so that [they] could moan and groan together.” That text, the student said, made him feel “more uncomfortable than he ever had before,” and he reported Professor Justice’s behavior to his father first, then school authorities.
Speaking to Texan News, Justice admitted that he had “attempted to harm myself in the presence of students. While I do not recall what initiated such action, I do know this incident was caused by the accumulation of events in my life that resulted in me entering a state of severe depression. As the result of those ongoing events in my life, I made the decision to resign from my position at Tarleton State University.”
Previously, Justice had been involved with the Boy Scouts of America, though the section he was associated with, the Order of the Arrow, is “no longer in service,” according to Texan News.
Tarleton’s official spokesperson, Cecilia Jacobs, has stated that, “Tarleton’s highest priority is the welfare of our students. This is a personnel matter regarding a former faculty member, and the university has no further comment at this time.” The statement, however, does not address the witness’s principal concern, which is that Justice may have tried to perform the ceremony on other students and “on younger kids.”