HAMILTON (Mercer) — Search-and-rescue crews came close to finding Nick Pratico weeks before his body was discovered just steps from the Mercer County Community College campus where the teen was last seen alive.

But an overgrown cornfield blocked search attempts.

It was in that area where the 19-year-old was finally found Monday. Authorities believe he killed himself.  

The last known picture of Pratico was captured by security cameras in the student center of the West Windsor campus where he had signed up for classes and got his student ID picture taken. The ID was later found on the campus lawn.


Unnamed law enforcement sources told NJ.com said their investigation determined he went across the street to a cornfield bordered by woods and killed himself the same day.

Police Sgt. Brian Schroeder told New Jersey 101.5 the cornfield had been searched for the first time on Sept. 23, three days after his disappearance. At the time, the corn was tall and unharvested. But the corn had been cut within a week before the body was found Monday, Schroeder said.

State Police K9 were helping with a search on Monday when they detected Pratico's body.

Police have not yet released a cause of death. The Trentonian quoted unnamed police sources saying he was found hanging, though police have not formally released any details about the condition of his body upon discovery.  Norte Dame’s chaplain, Father Jason Parzynski, called Pratico's death a suicide.

Pratico's family in a post on the Find Nick Pratico Facebook page said they hoped for a different outcome and had been buoyed by their faith and the strength of their family, neighbors and the community at large.

Friends and family of Pratico had remained positive that Pratico would come home. His family last week posted a reward for information leading to his safe return. "Father Jason" said there was no outward indication Pratico was troubled by anything.

"The Notre Dame community prays along with the Pratico family for the peaceful repose of the soul of Nicholas Pratico, Class of 2017," the school posted on its website.

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

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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