Penn State student dies after falling down trash chute

A 19-year-old Pennsylvania State University student from New Jersey was found dead after falling down an 11-story trash cute at an off-campus apartment building. Justine Gross, who entered the semester as a sophomore, was reported missing Nov. 10. Her body was found the next day. 

Gross reportedly fell into the chute after experiencing a reaction to smoking marijuana. 

Her body was later found by a trash hauler at a Pennsylvania landfill. While the tragedy was initially reported as an accident, Gross’ mother, Francoise Gross, questions what reportedly led to her daughter’s fall. NJ.com reported that Justine’s Penn State roommates told Francoise that she met a man at an apartment on campus. 

Campus view of Penn State University in State College, Pa. 

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They added that she was given “a smoke” from the man, which caused her reaction. Francoise confronted the young man for his side of the story as the last person in contact with Justine.

Francoise was surprised to learn her daughter may have smoked marijuana. 

She spoke with more of her daughter’s friends. One shared the final words Justine sent on Nov. 10 on Snapchat: “Something just happened.”

When Francoise received word of her daughter’s death, she left her home in Summit, New Jersey, to drive to Penn State. Upon arrival, she met with police, who showed her surveillance video of Justine’s last whereabouts. 

Old Main building on the main campus of Pennsylvania State University

Old Main building on the main campus of Pennsylvania State University

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According to NJ.com, the video shows Justine leaving her apartment alone to meet the unidentified man. She was later seen coming out of his apartment with him. From there, she is shown running alone on the 11th floor, where the trash chute was located. 

The 19-year-old’s flip-flops and cellphone were found in the 11th-floor stairwell. Police have questioned the man last seen with Justine. He has hired a lawyer and refuses to speak. 

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The first candlelight vigil for Justine was held at her Beaver Terrace apartment, while her hometown, Summit, plans to memorialize her with a vigil at her high school football field Friday evening. 

Justine was an honors student and high school cheerleader who studied communications while at Penn State. She is survived by her mother, Francoise, her brother, Joseph, and sister, Jasmine. 

Justine’s family will gather for her funeral Saturday, but her mother remains on a hunt to learn the cause of her daughter’s death.                                                        

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