Very few eyes were dry Wednesday night as the father of a 19-year-old college student who vanished days ago, possibly with a gun, spoke publicly for the first time since his son's disappearance.
"You have no reason not to come home," Dr. Jon Marberger said, addressing his missing son at a vigil Wednesday in Abington, Pennsylvania. "Please come home and show yourself. Jacob, wherever you are and whatever discretions you have done they are all recoverable."
Jacob Marberger has been missing since early Monday, when he made the two-hour drive from Washington College in Maryland, where he studies, 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 has prompted alerts at both Washington College, which will be closed through the week of Thanksgiving, and his former school, Cheltenham High School in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, which went into lockout mode Tuesday and remains on alert.
His father was one of about 75 people who gathered at the Beth Am Temple on Old York Road in Abington Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil. The attendees sang songs, prayed and pleaded for Jacob Marberger to come home.
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.
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"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 rifle 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. His cellphone has registered no activity since 7:30 a.m. Monday, investigators said.
During his interview with NBC10 Wednesday night, Jon Marberger insisted his son was not a threat even as his college remains on alert.
"He made no threats to anyone," Jon Marberger said. "I think he just wanted to climb into a hole. But he’s never made any threats to anyone, never hit anyone. He would never strike out to anyone."
Fighting back tears, Jon Marberger begged for his son to return.
"We want him back. We want to see him again. We love him. Everyone loves him," he pleaded.
If you have any information on Jacob Marberger’s whereabouts, call Washington College at 410-778-7810 or Chestertown police at 410-778-1800.