Posing for photo, student fell over roof ledge

Ali Fausnaught was visiting her boyfriend's apartment near Temple.
Ali Fausnaught was visiting her boyfriend's apartment near Temple.
Posted: April 20, 2013

Those who knew Ali Fausnaught described her as kind and well-liked, a sunny college freshman, a whiz on the tennis court.

Her death, they said, has left them reeling.

Fausnaught, 19, was killed Wednesday evening in an accidental fall from a rooftop party near Temple University. She had been visiting her boyfriend for the school's Spring Fling, police sources said.

Fausnaught was from Brownstown, Lancaster County, and had transferred to West Chester in December. She was majoring in psychology and previously attended the University of South Carolina for a semester.

Fausnaught's friend Dani Herr, 19, who has known her since elementary school, said Fausnaught transferred to West Chester to be closer to friends and family. She had been dating her boyfriend for 11 months.

"Everyone liked her. ... Everyone she met, she was kind to," said Herr.

"The whole world is at a loss," Herr said. "She was really going to make something of her life. She was going to help people."

Fausnaught's boyfriend was taking pictures of her on a third-story rooftop west of Temple's campus when she tripped and fell to her death Wednesday evening, officials said. Police sources identified her boyfriend as Alan Custer, 21, of Newmanstown, west of Reading. Custer identifies himself as a Temple student on his Facebook page.

Custer told police that Fausnaught had one or two cups of vodka at a nearby party off 17th Street before she went with him to meet friends at an apartment on the 1900 block of North 18th Street, police sources said. Many apartments in that area serve as off-campus housing for Temple students.

The friends used a ladder to access the rooftop through a skylight, police sources said. It was a regular flattop roof with no decking or guarded rails.

Once on the roof, Fausnaught asked Custer to take a picture of her. Backing up, she tripped at the ledge and fell over it, police sources said.

Officer Jillian Russell, a police spokeswoman, said Fausnaught fell off the roof at 5:14 p.m. and was pronounced dead at Temple University Hospital at 5:51 p.m. She said the incident was not suspicious.

Temple students who live near the apartment said Thursday that the death was clearly accidental. One student who declined to give her name said Fausnaught often visited her boyfriend. She described Fausnaught as "really friendly."

Fausnaught graduated in 2012 from Conestoga Valley High School. Principal Michael F. Thornton called her a "bright and positive student."

She was involved in the Future Business Leaders of America, served on the homecoming court, and was a tennis player. She was popular - photos on her Facebook profile show her invariably surrounded by smiling friends or grinning next to Custer - but "unpretentious and extremely pleasant to be around," Thornton said.

At West Chester, she was finishing her first psychology class and had expressed interest in studying speech pathology, said Loretta Riser-Danner, the chair of the university's psychology department, who met with Fausnaught just weeks before her death to help her schedule classes for the fall semester.

"She was a very sweet, very nice young lady, and excited about her major," Riser-Danner said.

Fausnaught's family declined to comment through a friend who answered the phone at the home.

Herr said she and Fausnaught's friends were shocked by her death.

"I'm going about my day and I just get these pangs where I remember that she's gone," she said. "I can't wrap my head around it."

Contact Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman at sabdur-rahman@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @sabdurr.

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