The search for a missing Maryland college student ended in tragedy Saturday.
Police found the body of 19-year-old Jacob Marberger in Albany Township in Berks County. Marberger was found inside a green Land Rover parked in the picnic area of the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary on Hawk Mountain Road at 2:51 p.m. Officials say he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Marberger went missing early Monday after he made the two-hour drive from Washington College in Maryland, where he studied, to his parents' home in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania. He arrived after 3 a.m. Monday but was gone by 4 a.m., taking a rifle case with him. His parents said they were unsure whether a gun was inside.
His disappearance prompted alerts at both Washington College and his former school, Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, which went into lockdown mode Tuesday. School officials initially planned to resume classes the next day, but opted to keep the college campus closed until after the Thanksgiving break after receiving new information from law enforcement.
Jacob's father, Dr. Jon Marberger, told NBC10 the trouble began on Oct. 7 when his son was the victim of a prank that left him hurt and humiliated by his fellow students at Washington College.
"Someone had placed a trash can full of water against his dorm room door, so when he opened the door, the water came into his room,” said Washington College public safety director Jerry Roderick. "He felt very hurt by that and he saw this as (people) reaching out to ridicule him in some way. In speaking to Jacob, he did feel persecuted by several students on campus."
Two days later, Jacob Marberger, who began collecting unique guns about a year ago, brandished an unloaded, antique pistol in front of some other students while intoxicated, according to officials.
"He’s not a kid who got high or drank regularly and then you do foolish things when you’re drunk, especially the first time," Jon Marberger said.
About two weeks later, Jacob Marberger was suspended after police found the antique weapon at a house off campus. He returned to school only recently, after a forensic psychologist cleared him and determined he wasn’t a threat.
Jon Marberger said his son then spent a difficult week back on campus. He was kicked out of his fraternity, faced an Honor Board hearing and was confronted Sunday night by members of his student government group, according to his father. Jacob Marberger then resigned his elected position as speaker of the senate.
"Just because he’s made so few mistakes in his life, I don’t think he knows how to deal with that, the shame he feels when one lets themselves down," Jon Marberger said.
After his cellphone was pinged, Jacob Marberger was spotted on surveillance video around 7 a.m. Monday buying five rounds of ammunition at a Wal-Mart in Hamburg, Berks County. It was the last time anyone saw him alive, investigators said.
High school classmates described Jacob as honest, outspoken, intelligent and ethically conscious.
"He has a very goofy, individual sense of humor," Josiah Harmer said, remembering a conversation he had over the summer with Marberger, who "was really happy about his college experience and seemed to be doing really well."
Harmer said Marberger had different interests than most teens and in high school it took time for him to find a good group of friends.
"When kids are doing typical high school stuff and you're reading foreign policy journals, it can be hard to relate," Harmer said.
Washington College released a statement on Marberger's death Saturday night:
It is with great sorrow that we must inform you this evening of the passing of sophomore Jacob Marberger. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Marberger family in their time of unimaginable grief.
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.
We will have counseling services on-hand when students return to campus; more details will be forthcoming.
If you need to speak to someone to help you through this process immediately, please contact your local crisis services.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.