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Penn State Student Died Following 11-Story Fall, Police Say

Update, November 19: In a statement on Friday, State College police confirmed that 19-year-old Penn State student Justine Gross died on November 10 following an 11-story fall down a Beaver Terrace trash chute.

Gross’s body was located by police officers at the Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority transfer station at 2:45 a.m. on November 12, one day after she was reported missing.

For now, police say the incident still appears “accidental in nature.” A final lab report, expected in a few weeks, will help the Centre County Coroner’s Office determine the cause of death.

Original Story: Penn State student Justine Gross, who was found dead last week after previously being reported missing, reportedly died following a fall, according to a new report from NJ.com published Thursday night.

Francoise Gross, the 19-year-old student’s mother, told NJ.com that her daughter died last week after falling into an 11-story trash chute at Beaver Terrace apartments in downtown State College. Her body was reportedly discovered by a trash hauler at a Pennsylvania landfill on Friday, November 12 — one day after she was reported missing.

Gross disappeared on Wednesday, November 10, and was reported missing by friends and family the next day. Her last words, a message sent to a friend and timestamped at 11:22 p.m. on November 10, reportedly read, “Something just happened.”

Gross’s mother said she spoke with a man who allegedly offered Justine a blunt on November 10. He said she later “freaked out” after taking the drug, ran to the building’s top floor, and jumped into the chute. Francoise said she was “shocked” by the man’s claim and noted that, to her knowledge, her daughter didn’t use drugs.

Since reporting her death last Friday, State College police have referred to the incident as “accidental in nature” but have continued an ongoing investigation. Toxicology results and a full report from the Centre County Coroner’s Office, which should be available in four to six weeks, should paint a clearer picture.

According to NJ.com, police met with Gross’s mother last week when she traveled up to Penn State and showed her a video sequence of her daughter’s final moments. Footage allegedly showed Justine leaving her 10th-floor apartment, meeting with the man on the seventh floor, and later walking “unsteadily” through the halls. Video also allegedly showed Justine running into the chute room “where she disappears and is not seen again.”

“That’s just not Justine. She would never do something like that, go down a chute,” Gross told NJ.com. “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.”

Thursday night, community members gathered at Beaver Terrace to hold a candlelight vigil in honor of Gross’s life. Community members in her hometown of Summit, New Jersey, will host their own vigil before Gross’s funeral on Saturday, November 20.

Penn State, meanwhile, said only State College police would provide specifics on Gross’s death and the investigation surrounding it. A university spokesperson said Penn State is providing counseling resources to anyone affected by the “tragic incident.”

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact State College police by calling the department at (814) 234-7150, sending an email, or submitting an anonymous tip online.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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