The parents of John Fiocco Jr., a freshman who disappeared from his Wolfe Hall room last March, have filed a legal notice against the College, indicating their intent to sue.
The court claim, filed during the summer, outlines the Fiocco family’s grievances and their possible desire for further legal action, but is not a lawsuit in itself.
According to an Associated Press (AP) article, Fiocco’s parents plan to sue the College for over $5 million in damages.
Part of the reason for the notice, according to the article, is possible negligence on the part of the College.
According to an article in the South Jersey Courier-Post, “the College failed to enforce laws against underage drinking and didn’t train dormitory personnel properly to deal with ‘visibly intoxicated (College) students.'”
Fiocco’s parents have hired Glenn A. Zeitz, a civil attorney from Haddonfield, N.J., to plead their case.
Zeitz failed to respond to repeated phone calls and e-mail requests to comment on the case.
However, according to the AP article, Zeitz “questioned the (College’s) security and whether the College had done enough to combat underage drinking.”
“It’s a court claim, not a lawsuit,” Matt Golden, director of Communications and Media Relations, said of the legal notice.
While Golden could not definitively say whether or not the notice would lead to a lawsuit, he said, “(the College) has to work on the assumption that there will be a lawsuit.”
College president R. Barbara Gitenstein did not comment on the court claim, but said, “I would not presume to understand (the Fiocco’s) feelings, nor can I fathom what mine would be in similar circumstances.”
The Fiocco family has also hired Dr. Michael Baden, a forensic pathologist, according to an AP article. Baden is the host of HBO’s “Autopsy,” a documentary series highlighting homicide cases.
In the time after Fiocco disappeared last semester, students had to use their ID cards to swipe into Travers and Wolfe. The entrances to both halls were locked, including during the day, and police officers checked students’ keys at the hall desks.
As this semester began, the same 24-hour swipe access that had been in place during the Fiocco investigation was implemented as a campus-wide policy.
The investigation into how Fiocco died is still ongoing, according to Sgt. Stephen Jones of the New Jersey State Police.
Though Jones could not elaborate on the details of the investigation, he said that the results of an autopsy conducted immediately after the body was discovered in a Tullytown, Pa., landfill have been received by investigators.
The medical examiner investigating Fiocco’s death has left the case open, Jones said, and the cause and manner of death remain undetermined.
“This remains a criminal investigation,” Angelo Onofri, assistant prosecutor at the Mercer County Prosecutor Office, said.
Onofri confirmed that the Fiocco family has hired a civil attorney, but could not release any other information regarding the case.
“We’re in about the same place as we were after the body was found,” Golden said.
According to Jones, “actions” were taken over the summer, including interviewing, and “there will continue to be action” throughout the semester.
Fiocco was last seen at 3 a.m. on Saturday, March 26 after returning, intoxicated, from an off-campus party.
Fiocco entered Wolfe and fell asleep in the room of a floormate on the fourth floor. On Sunday, March 27, a friend on the floor reported him missing.
Campus Police then began the search for Fiocco on campus and notified local law enforcement and hospitals near the College.
On Monday, March 27, the New Jersey State Police Missing Persons Unit joined the investigation.
The following day, the parking lot directly behind Travers and Wolfe was blocked off by police so that dumpsters located behind the halls could be searched.
At a press conference held later that day, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. said investigators received warrants to search several areas on campus as a result of items which were found in or near the dumpsters.
Some of the search warrants were executed the following day.
Additionally, all residents of Travers and Wolfe were interviewed and the New Jersey State Police Major Crimes Unit was given control over releasing any information relating to the investigation.
The evening of that same day, both Travers and Wolfe were evacuated to allow police dogs to search the buildings.
That night, DNA test results from one of the dumpsters located behind Wolfe were returned to investigators. The following morning, Bocchini announced the results in a press conference.
According to an April 5 article in The Signal, “Bocchini announced that DNA tests had confirmed that blood found in and around one of the Wolfe dumpsters was Fiocco’s.”
During the press conference, Bocchini also announced investigators’ intention to begin searching two separate landfills for evidence – Tullytown Landfill and GROWS landfill in Falls Township, Pa.
That afternoon, search dogs were brought in to investigate lakes Ceva and Sylva on campus.
Between April 5 and April 27, the Crimestoppers of Greater Trenton’s reward for information relating to the investigation was raised from $2,000 to $7,500.
On Wednesday, April 26, a body found in the Tullytown Landfill on April 25 was confirmed in a press conference to be that of Fiocco.
The body was transferred to the Mercer County Medical Examiner’s Office, where an autopsy was performed.
The results of the autopsy, which was finalized a few weeks after the discovery of the body, have not been released to the public. However, dental records helped positively identify the body as Fiocco’s.
As of press time, the manner and cause of death remain undetermined.
According to Jones, “The investigation continues.”
– Additional reporting by Scott Kieffer, Nation & World Editor