A Penn State student and former high school cheerleader fell 11 stories to her death in a trash chute — after allegedly having a bad reaction to a “smoke.”
The body of 19-year-old Justine Gross of Summit, NJ, was discovered last week when a trash hauler emptied its load at a Pennsylvania landfill, her mother told NJ.com on Thursday.
Francoise Gross said her daughter, a communications sophomore at the school in State College, Pa., ended up plunging from the chute into a dumpster where she lived at the Beaver Terrace Apartments about a block from campus.
The shattered mom said Justine’s roommates told her that her daughter had met a young man two days earlier who gave her a “smoke” before the fatal fall.
The man, believed to also be a student who lives on the seventh floor of the building, told Justine’s mom that her daughter ran to the top floor and jumped into the chute after taking the unspecified drug.
“He said, kind of casually, ‘She came down and I gave her a smoke,’” Francoise said. “He said she had a really bad reaction, a panic or whatever, and he was trying to take her back to her apartment on the 10th floor.”
Police in State College have said Gross’ death appears to be accidental, but her mother isn’t entirely convinced, NJ.com reported.
The teen sent a Snapchat message just moments before her fateful plunge telling a friend, “Something just happened” late Nov. 10. Francoise Gross said she traveled to Penn State to meet with cops, who showed her video of her daughter’s final moments.
The footage shows Justine leaving her 10th-floor apartment and walking to meet the man on the seventh floor, where she later leaves while walking unsteadily. She never returned to her apartment — and instead ran into the 11th-floor trash chute room by herself and disappeared, NJ.com reported.
“That’s just not Justine,” her mom said. “She would never do something like that, go down a chute.
“They want me to believe she walked into that chute. I believe someone was chasing her, and she went into the chute, thinking it was a staircase.”
“I will bury her,” Francoise Gross told NJ.com. “But I want to know what happened to her.”
Francoise said cops have questioned the man twice but that “he’s not talking” after hiring a lawyer, according to the report.
State College police didn’t return phone calls Thursday, NJ.com reported. A Penn State spokeswoman said Justine’s death occurred off-campus and that it would be “inappropriate” for the university to interfere with the investigation.
“We are heartbroken for the family and friends of Justine Gross and offer our condolences to all who knew and loved her,” PSU spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.
Autopsy results for Gross — who was in her third semester in Penn State’s College of Liberal Arts — are expected to be completed in about six weeks, the Centre Daily Times reported.
A vigil for Gross is being held at Summit High School at 7 p.m. Friday. Her funeral will follow Saturday at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Summit, according to her obituary.