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Family files wrongful death suit against College of New Jersey

It is hard to imagine much worse for a parent than receiving a call that their child has gone missing. Whether in Burlington County or anyplace in New Jersey, the immediate fear strikes the core of anyone's being. The first hope is that there was no personal injury, but when the agonizing hours turn into days, even the strongest hope can start to dwindle. And as a tragedy plays out, parents understandably want answers and fervently wish to hold the responsible parties accountable.

In 2006, a College of New Jersey (TCNJ) freshman went to a party and became intoxicated, then went back to his dormitory to sleep it off. What happened next is disputed, except that he went missing and police found his blood in the trash compacting system outside his dormitory. A month later his body was discovered in a Bucks County landfill. No one has yet been charged with his murder, though the parents have brought a wrongful death action against the College for negligence leading to the personal injury and death of their son. Located near Burlington County in Ewing, TCNJ has filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the state institution is protected from civil suits and also that TCNJ is not responsible for the student's death because it is not known how he died.

The parents counter that a TCNJ graduate on the campus that night admitted to the killing about a month later. The man has a history of mental illness and has no alibi for the late night hours during which the victim disappeared. He also was off his medication at the time, acting "manic and bizarre," and was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital two days later.

While it remains to be seen how the court will decide on the motion to dismiss, the case underscores the importance of wrongful death actions, both to recover damages for a fatal personal injury but also to spur authorities to solve the crime. Families who have suffered the death of a loved one that they suspect was caused by the negligent or intentional conduct of others may benefit from seeking experienced counsel in such difficult matters. When faced with a truly tragic event, families often need as much help as possible in order to achieve some measure of relief and justice.

Source:, "Fiocco parents: TCNJ graduate killed son 2006," Oct. 22, 2011

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