HAMILTON (Mercer) — A campus is shocked, saddened and angry at word that the body of missing friend Nick Pratico was found on Monday.

The 19-year-old's body was found across the street from Mercer County Community College in West Windsor Monday morning, just over a month after he was last seen registering for classes and getting his student ID. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in June and was going to attend the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts on a scholarship for the spring semester.


Norte Dame's chaplain, Father Jason Parzynski, told New Jersey 101.5 a special memorial Mass for Pratico was held on Monday afternoon at the Lawrenceville school to bring students and friends together in prayer and to support each other.

He described Pratico's death as a suicide. The Trentonian quoted unnamed police sources saying he was found hanging, though police have not formally released any such details.

It also isn't clear from information released by police so far how long Pratico's body was at the site where he was found.

Photo journalist Brian McCarthy, from the scene, said that there was a high hedge row in front of the area where Pratico's body was found. Hamilton Police said the Middlesex County Medical Examiner would determine a cause of death.

"The reaction here at Notre Dame has been one of shock. I don't think anyone expected it turn out this way. I think most people had the thought that he ran away. It's definitely been one of shock, tremendous sadness and grief. A lot of students and faculty are struggling with how to respond to what they're feeling. It's a challenge because suicide never makes sense," Parzynski said.

Parzynski said that part of the frustration from the Notre Dame community is  there was no outward indication Pratico was troubled.

"It's very puzzling and it's difficult to come to terms with right now," he said.

Parzynski has acted as a family spokesman for Pratico's family thought the search and finds himself conflicted with feelings of anger and sadness.

"As I'm letting it sink in it just doesn't make sense that he would have gone in this direction. It's hard to make sense of it and that's part what suicide's challenge is that they never do make sense," the chaplain said.

“Nick is a really good kid,” his older sister told New Jersey 101.5 last month. Her family asked that her name not be published to protect her privacy.

She said Nick Pratico had already been offered a scholarship at the NY Conservatory and was going to start classes in the spring. She said he was starting his college career slowly by attending some classes at Mercer.

“It would be the first time he would be on his own doing something with that much responsibility,” his sister said.

His sister said the judges at his audition were impressed with his talent and his ability to accept criticism.

“He was preparing for his future and wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize his future. There was no reason to think he would run away,” she said.

The Pratico family had created a Facebook page to update friends, family and the media on the search for him. The family posted the offer of a reward for information leading to his safe return with a constant stream of positive comments.

"The family right now is kind of keeping to themselves understandably so. They're trying to make some sense of what they've learned. ... It's very difficult to make sense of it or to at least process it emotionally and the family is trying to do that right now privately," Parzynski said.

If you feel you or someone you know may be in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, or the NJ Hopeline, 1-855-654-6735.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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