Missing student found dead after police manhunt, campus evacuation

'We need to continue to be supportive of each other as we mourn individually and as a community'

The Washington College student whose disappearance led to a two-week campus evacuation was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police announced Saturday.

Six days after he went missing, Jacob Marberger, 19, was found in a picnic area at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

"This is a terrible blow to our community, and the outpouring of compassion and support we have shown each other will help us through this difficult time. We need to continue to be supportive of each other as we mourn individually and as a community," school officials said in a statement.

The school instructed its 1,450 students to shelter-in-place last Monday when Marberger's parents called and said their son had shown up at their home in Pennsylvania and left with a rifle case.

The decision to evacuate the campus on Maryland's Eastern Shore followed consultations with law enforcement on Tuesday, though officers say there was no evidence Marberger threatened anyone.

Administrators balance safety, learning amid string of threats

"He never made any threats to the students, so there's not any overt or tacit threat that we're aware of," says Adrian Baker, Chestertown police chief. "It really comes back to just a proactive, precautionary measure on the part of the college."

On Tuesday, police issued a warrant for his arrest on four charges: handgun on a person, possession of a firearm by a minor, illegal possession of ammunition, and dangerous weapon on school property.

Troubles at school

Jacob's father, Jon Marberger, says he believes his son's issues began in October when he started having trouble with his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and the Student Government Association (SGA) of which he was speaker of the senate. 

Jacob Marberger reported two SGA members for texting sexually inappropriate comments about a woman in the group. Both men lost their positions, upsetting some Phi Delta Thetas who were on a sports team with one of them.

After that, Marberger felt "very persecuted," according to one of his friends who spoke with NBC 10.

A prank last month upset him, says Jerry Roderick, the school's public safety director. Someone leaned a trashcan filled with water against his dorm room door—when he opened the door, water spilled in.

'We don't need more metal detectors, we need more kid detectors'

Two nights after that, Marberger allegedly brandished an antique pistol at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. He may have been intoxicated at the time, school officials say.

Students did not come forward about the gun, so it took three weeks for the school to learn of the incident. Following an investigation, Marberger was suspended from school and faced possible expulsion. He also was kicked out of his fraternity.  

He returned to campus and seemed to be handling the changes, a friend told NBC 10. Then, last Sunday, posts on Yik Yak started appearing discussing why Marberger had been absent from school.

"Nobody knew, I think 20 people knew and then suddenly in the span of two hours, the entire school found out," one student told NBC 10.

Shortly after, Marberger resigned his position from the SGA. Then early Monday morning, he drove to his parents' home in Pennsylvania to pick up one of his antique guns. He bought ammunition at a Walmart nearby and went to the nature sanctuary where he left a letter and shot himself (Witte, AP/U.S. News & World Report, 11/19; Svrluga/Shapiro, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/18; Araiza, NBC 10, 11/22; Weil, Washington Post, 11/21; Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/21).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

Next in Today's Briefing

Education Department failed three out of four cybersecurity checks

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague