FRIDAY, 4:10 p.m. – As the search for clues into the disappearance of College freshman John Fiocco Jr. continues, authorities held a press conference this morning and confirmed that blood found in and around the dumpster behind Wolfe Hall earlier this week belongs to Fiocco.
“At this point in the investigation, we are able to confirm blood evidence that has been collected is that of John Fiocco,” Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., Mercer County Prosecutor, said at the press conference. He would not comment on the quantity of blood found in the dumpster.
Lt. Col. Frank Rodgers, State Police deputy superintendent in charge of Investigations, said police were searching two landfills in Bucks County, Pa., and that the Pennsylvania State Police are involved. But Bocchini stressed that the case is still a missing persons case and not a homicide investigation.
“You have no body, you have no person, you have blood . anyone that draws conclusions from that is speculating on your own,” Bocchini said.
Yesterday, the police searched the trash chute in Wolfe with a camera in an attempt to piece together the events of early Saturday morning, when Fiocco disappeared from a friend’s room in Wolfe. Police did not comment on whether the search yielded any new evidence.
Law enforcement officials have executed six search warrants around the College campus over the past three days. Yesterday, one of the Wolfe dumpsters was hauled away in a truck by the State Police for further investigation.
Rodgers said that no one is in custody at this time, and Bocchini added that there is no evidence that any off-campus or non-College students were involved in Fiocco’s disappearance.
The blood was discovered during the search earlier this week and was analyzed for a DNA match at the State Police Forensics Lab in Hamilton. The blood was confirmed to be Fiocco’s on Thursday night, but the information was not released to the public in order to give officers a chance to notify Fiocco’s family.
“We’ve delayed in the release of this information to present this information to the Fiocco family and for the family to have the opportunity to process this information,” Bocchini said.
Rodgers said the evidence found in the dumpster was a result of a general search by police. He confirmed that there were multiple trash pick-ups between the time of Fiocco’s disappearance and the start of the investigation.
He said that trash pickups are taken to a transfer station in Trenton, where the trash is compacted before being sent off to local landfills.
According to Sgt. Stephen Jones of the New Jersey State Police, “the search will be beginning its preliminary stages today” at GROWS Landfill in Falls Township, Pa., and Tullytown Landfill in Tullytown, Pa.
This afternoon, investigators and a search dog examined Lakes Ceva and Sylva at the College for potential evidence.
“(Searching the lakes) is a continuation of our full-scale canvassing and search,” New Jersey State Police Capt. Al DellaFave said. He added that investigators will continue searching the peripheral area until they have conclusive evidence.
Before the press conference this morning, Bocchini reminded the media that the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police are the official sources of information relating to the missing persons investigation. He encouraged them “to refrain from speculation and innuendo,” which he said doesn’t “help the family with the pain they’re going through.”
College President R. Barbara Gitenstein praised members of the campus community for their courage this week.
“Our students, parents, faculty and staff members, alumni and friends are wonderful and caring people who will sustain one another with compassion and strength,” Gitenstein said.
She also addressed campus safety and the feelings of the community.
“It’s one thing to say this campus is safe – and I believe that – and we have had that kind of confirmation from these agencies, but the feelings are another thing and that’s a reality,” Gitenstein said.
As the press conference went on, Gitenstein became noticeably emotional.
“I met with the students last night. I’m a mother,” she said, fighting back tears. “It was awful.”
The College administration held a meeting last night in Travers/Wolfe lounge to discuss student fears in the wake of a growing police investigation. “We are all in this together,” Elizabeth Paul, vice president of Student Life, said.
Gitenstein stressed that students are under no obligation to speak with the press. “(The students) are empowered to say ‘I don’t want to talk about it,'” she said.
Access to Travers and Wolfe has been restricted since the search concluded Wednesday night. According to a Residence Life staff member, the buildings are on 24-hour swipe access for residents. There is an around-the-clock police presence throughout the building, but the link between Travers and Wolfe remains open.
Authorities have also started interviewing the residents of Travers as part of the ongoing investigation.
Students who are not residents of the towers and choose to eat in the Travers/Wolfe Dining Hall should speak with a Residence Life security staff member at the entrance of the building between 6 p.m. and midnight, when the dining hall is open.
Once again, authorities urged anyone with information regarding Fiocco’s disappearance to notify police immediately. The New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit can be reached at 800-709-7090, while the tipline is 877-748-6577. The tipline for Campus Police is 609-538-8180.
Crimestoppers and the College are offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the resolution of this investigation.
Gitenstein was the first to note the surreal atmosphere that has pervaded the College as the investigation continues, concisely summing up what seems to be on the collective mind of the campus community: “This is a horrific event, whatever the outcome.”