New Jersey

NJ Mother Seeks Answers in Daughter's ‘Accidental' Trash Chute Death Near Penn State

Justine Gross, a sophomore from New Jersey, was reported missing Nov. 11 after not returning to her room the night before

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Francoise Gross wants answers. The New Jersey mother says there's too many outstanding questions surrounding the death of her 19-year-old daughter and Penn State student, Justine Gross.

The sophomore student had been reported missing Nov. 11 after she failed to return to her room the night before. State College Police said Justine Gross died after falling 11 stories down a trash chute in her campus apartment building.

Police said a municipal trash hauler had emptied a dumpster at the base of the chute early Nov. 11 and took the trash to a dump, where officers found her body early Nov. 12.

Officers reviewed surveillance recordings showing the woman was alone when she entered a trash room on the 11th floor of her building, campus police said. They believe her death was an accident but await toxicology and autopsy reports.

"It was horrific. Getting that call is... I couldn't believe, it's like the call you never want to receive," Francoise Gross said.

State college police have called Justine Gross' death accidental, but her mother isn't so sure. She spoke to a man in her daughter's building who claims Justine Gross took a "smoke" from him before freaking out on the night she died.

Francoise Gross says surveillance video shows her daughter visiting and leaving the man's apartment, walking unsteadily. She says the man has since gotten a lawyer and refuses to speak.

Friends say Justine Gross' last post to social media read: "Something just happened."

State college police have not responded to requests for comment on the case.

"There's absolutely more that they can do and much more questions," her mother said.

Friends and coaches say the honor student and former varsity cheerleading captain at Summit High was a bright light.

"She was always positive, she was a leader for her teammates. She was kinhearted, bubbly," her cheerleading coach, Erin Fogarty, says.

Her devastated mother says that's how she'll remember her daughter's life, even as she fights to find out how she died.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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