THURSDAY, midnight – The body reported to have been found at Tullytown landfill in Pennsylvania Tuesday was confirmed Wednesday morning as that of missing freshman John Fiocco Jr. at a press conference at the College.
“(Tuesday) … at 1:53 p.m., an intact body was located at the landfill,” Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes of the New Jersey State Police said. Police have been searching the landfill since the beginning of the month. They were led to the landfill after finding what Fuentes called, “a voluminous amount” of Fiocco’s blood in and around a dumpster in Wolfe Hall.
Fiocco had been missing since 3 a.m. on March 25 when he was last seen after returning from an off-campus party. He was reported missing 36 hours later by his roommate.
Fuentes said the Bucks County Medical Examiner’s Office made a death pronouncement on site at 3:40 p.m. The body was then transferred to the Mercer County Medical Examiner’s Office. At 7 p.m. an autopsy began and “at 10:30 p.m., it was determined that the body was that of Fiocco,” Fuentes said.
“While many of us had resigned ourselves to the possibility of this outcome, we hoped beyond hope that it would not come to be,” College President R. Barbara Gitenstein said. She expressed the “shared sorrow” of the campus community and offered condolences to the Fiocco family.
The body was identified using dental records, but DNA test samples were submitted and results are pending. A toxicology test will also be conducted; results are expected within the next four to six weeks.
“Injuries to the body, including fractures, are something you have to understand would have happened to Fiocco’s body as a result of being manipulated through the trash system,” Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini said. He noted that on the autopsy report, the cause of death is still pending.
“An autopsy report will be finalized within the next few weeks,” Bocchini said. However, even after the autopsy results come in, investigators will not be able to pinpoint an exact time of death.
“To date, there continues to be no evidence of foul play,” Fuentes said, citing the ongoing investigation as a “suspicious death investigation . not a homicide investigation.”
Gitenstein said that campus security has been commended by many of the police forces involved in the investigation. “But that does not take away from the importance of the feelings of (students and parents),” she said.
“We have surfaced no persons of interest,” Bocchini added. Fuentes noted that, to date, 1,000 students and faculty have been “canvassed,” and 150 interviews have been conducted.
Meanwhile, the reward for information that might shed light on the situation has increased to $8,110 after a recent addition of private donations, at least one of which was given by a professor at the College. Other contributions also came from members of the College community, according to Jim Carlucci, secretary for CrimeStoppers of Greater Trenton.
CrimeStoppers continues to urge anyone with information regarding the case to come forward.
“Somebody knows something,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci added that callers are granted “total anonymity.” He said it is important for anyone with information to call, “because otherwise we’ll never know (what happened to Fiocco).”
Previously, the reward for information had been $7,500. The College and CrimeStoppers each donated $1,000. Mike Lord, a friend of the Fiocco family, offered $500, and $5,000 was given to CrimeStoppers by a single anonymous donor.
According to Carlucci, normally the reward money would be used for information leading to an arrest. However, in this case, the reward may be used for “anything that solves the mystery of how (Fiocco’s death) came about.”
Investigators did not find any blood in the Wolfe Hall trash chute after conducting a search with a camera. “We don’t know that (Fiocco) went down the trash chute,” Bocchini said. Police also conducted a search of common areas in Wolfe Hall as well as the woods, lakes and rooftops, all of which yielded “negative results,” Fuentes said.
New Jersey State Police officers searched Tullytown landfill for “23 days, rain or shine,” Fuentes said, beginning on April 1. The search centered on a 1-acre, 25-foot-deep area where the College’s garbage was deposited. According to Fuentes, 15,000 tons of debris had to be removed before officers reached the specified area.
Fuentes said Waste Management employees and 35 officers sifted through 3,450 tons of debris.
According to State Police Lieutenant William Robb, the waste was put into a truck and transferred to a different location at the site where it was spread out by a machine to be searched by hand. Robb said that a machine operator first saw the body as garbage was being spread out on the ground.
“No words, no expressions of sympathy, no descriptions of emotion feel adequate at this moment,” Gitenstein said. “I only know that there is tremendous sorrow on campus, expressed in many ways and felt deeply, and that our community has been shaken.”