State College police concluded their investigation Thursday into the death of the Penn State student who fell 11 stories in a garbage chute at her off-campus apartment, but her family is still forced to move on without the middle child who had a vibrant and infectious personality.
Justine Gross, her mother said, was a bright, top-notch woman destined to have a successful career on Wall Street.
“She comes from a home where we embrace academics, with a sense of growth, a sense of love, a sense of being all that you can be,” Francoise Gross said Friday. “She had all the support to become anything she wanted. She was awesome.
Francoise Gross continues to question how State College Police and the Center County Coroner’s Office conducted the investigation into her daughter’s death, and frustrations over Penn State’s largely mom-like reaction.
Justine, a former captain of her New Jersey high school cheerleading team and honorary student, only applied to Penn State. She flirted with the idea of applying to UCLA, but chose to come to Happy Valley because it felt like home.
The college’s “We Are” mantra and the revered football team were the “perfect combination,” her mother said. This union, she added, “meant everything” to Justine.
She was also looking forward to taking part in Thon, the 46-hour dance marathon that has raised tens of millions of dollars to fight childhood cancer and is set to begin Friday night.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends during this very difficult time,” university spokeswoman Lisa Powers wrote in an email Thursday.
The 19-year-old second was at the university’s College of Liberal Arts when she dove into a rubbish chute in Beaver Terrace. She died in November of blunt force trauma and her death was ruled accidental, the county coroner’s office said Thursday.
Neither the borough police department nor the county coroner’s office has gathered evidence that his death was “criminal in nature.” The group had a nearly hour-long teleconference Wednesday with Gross’ parents to go over their daughter’s autopsy.
The results showed THC – the compound that gives marijuana its peak – and a “high” alcohol level in his liver tissue at the time of his death.
Justine’s final hours were captured on surveillance video from inside the building at 456 E. Beaver Ave.
She left her 10th-floor apartment to visit a man in his seventh-floor apartment, where he offered her a blunt, her mother said. She left about 40 minutes later, walking unsteadily.
“She looked frantic, like she was looking for help,” Francoise said.
Video later showed Justine barefoot and alone on the 11th floor, rushing into the room with the garbage chute, her mother said. She was no longer seen on video.
His body was found about 27 hours later at the Center County Recycling and Refuse Authority transfer station. No charges have been filed in Justine’s death.
His mother declined to say whether the family planned to take legal action. Their only immediate plans, Francoise said, are to deal with the past three months, which she described as “dreadful” and “heartbreaking”.
“I wake up with a knot in the center of my heart. It’s like a terrible pain… that doesn’t want to go away. Every day it just hurts you,” she said. “…It’s just a big heartbreak. It’s something you’re just trying to figure out why. It didn’t have to end like this. It didn’t have to be like this.