Nineteen-year-old Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) student Justine Gross of New Jersey died after she fell 11 stories from a garbage chute in her apartment building, police say.

The incident occurred around 11:30 p.m. on November 10, and Justine was reported missing to the department around 5:15 p.m. on November 11, according to College State Police Department,

“Video evidence suggests she was alone in the 11th floor hallway and in the waste disposal room when she fell,” the police department stated in a November 19 release, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Prior to her being found, the waste receptacle was emptied by a Borough of State College refuse truck.”

Gross’s body was found by officers at the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority transfer station around 2:45 a.m. on November 12 and the county’s coroner office was brought in to begin its investigation, the release states. 

“At this point the incident still appears to be accidental in nature,” according to the statement.

Though law enforcement believes the incident was “accidental,” Gross’s mother Francoise believes foul play had a role in her daughter’s death. 

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

Francoise told the NJ Advance that Justine’s roommates say she met a young man in her apartment building and gave her a “smoke.”

Francoise spoke to the man in hopes of finding out what happened to her daughter. 

“I said to him, ‘you’re the last one to see my daughter, what happened?'” she told the NJ Advance. “He said, kind of casually, like ‘she came down and I gave her a smoke.'”

“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,” she added. 

The statement reportedly shocked Francoise as she did not believe her daughter used drugs, the outlet reports.

Toxicology results are expected to be finished in about six weeks, according to Centre News Daily.

Francoise reportedly obtained a Snapchat from Justine to one of her college friends that was time-stamped at 11:22, moments before the incident occurred, per NJ Advance.

The message simply says, “Something just happened.”

Francoise drove to Penn State on November 12 to help look for her missing daughter. The NJ Advance reports that once she arrived, she learned Justine’s body was found. She then met with police, who showed her surveillance footage from the incident and later recounted what she witnessed to the NJ Advance:

According to the mother, the video shows Justine leaving her 10th floor apartment and walking to meet at the man’s apartment on the seventh floor. She is later seen leaving the apartment with the man, walking unsteadily through the hallways.

Justine never made it back to her apartment, where her roommates were waiting for her. Instead the video sequence shows her running onto the 11th floor, seemingly alone, then rushing into the chute room, where she disappears and is not seen again.
Justine’s flip-flops and cell phone were reportedly discovered in one of the building’s stairwells, according to NJ Advance. Francoise explained police have twice interviewed the young man, “but he’s now got a lawyer and he’s not talking.”
Gross wants the university to provide more information to the public, but Penn State Spokeswoman Lisa Powers said that the State College police have authority over information regarding the incident as it took place off-campus.

“It would be inappropriate for he [sic] University to interfere with that investigation nor to address information that has not been publicly released,” Powers said in a prepared statement to NJ Advance. 

Justine will be laid to rest on Saturday. 

“I will bury her,” Francoise told NJ Advance. “But I want to know what happened to her.”

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