CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — The family of late Penn State University student Justine Gross is searching for answers to what they say are gaps in the account of her last night alive.
“She really did light up the room, all the time,” said Justine’s sister Jasmine Owarish-Gross.
Justine grew up in Summit, New Jersey with her two parents, brother, and sister.
“She was probably the goofball out of the three,” said Owarish-Gross.
She was the high school cheer captain and a tutor for young learners.
“She also is someone who had so much promise for her future,” said Owarish-Gross.
Justine was growing into who she would become and was still undecided on her major at Penn State.
“Communications was the last thing that we talked about,” said Owarish-Gross.
Her sister said she often reflects on their final messages.
“You just replay everything in your mind over and over again,” said Owarish-Gross. “Probably one of things that also was hard to think about when playing everything back in November is…. she was so excited to come home for Thanksgiving.”
In early November 2021, Justine was reported missing.
“When we got the call very early in the morning about her body being found, it was just sort of processing that being the conclusion,” said Owarish-Gross. “It was a lot of just, kind of, shock, and feeling very numb.”
Three months later, the Centre County Coroner would rule Justine’s death as “accidental”, “caused by multiple acute blunt force trauma.” Justine had fallen eleven stories down a trash chute at the Beaver Terrace apartments.
Toxicology reports showed marijuana and an elevated level of alcohol in her liver.
Despite having more details, the Gross family said a lot of unanswered questions remained.
“Did they test her for other substances,” asked Owarish-Gross.
With no camera in the trash room, other surveillance videos pieced together a timeline of the accident.
“There’s four minutes between Justine entering the trash room and being seen on camera, falling down like a sack of potatoes, into the trash bin,” said Owarish-Gross. “Your mind can’t help but say, what happened in those four minutes in that room?”
Justine’s family said they also want to know what happened with the male Penn State student Justine was seen with last night.
“Why has there been, one, no public response from him,” asked Owarish-Gross. “Number two, no sense of responsibility in terms of what happened. That is still something we struggle with, daily, is just not understanding the silence.”
Owarish-Gross said the student admitted to giving Justine a blunt on the night of her death.
Owarish-Gross created a change.org petition asking for Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna to reopen her case for deeper investigation. It has gained about 3,000 signatures so far.
“I didn’t have any expectations upon creating it, per se, just wanted to feel like we had some sense of control with doing something,” said Owarish-Gross.
In a statement to WTAJ, District Attorney Cantorna said the investigation does not support criminal charges.
“At this point in time, our office is not aware of any new information that would change the conclusions of the original investigation,” said Cantorna.
Justine’s 20th birthday would have been Saturday, June 11.