MSU student from Madison found dead

MSU student from Madison found dead


STARKVILLE — A 19-year-old sophomore student at Mississippi State University from Madison died on campus over the weekend. 

MSU officials and law enforcement agencies, including Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt, are investigating the death in a parked vehicle in an on-campus parking lot – but foul play is not suspected.

The deceased student was identified as Maxwell Curtis Pennebaker, 19, a sophomore building construction science major from Madison. He was a member of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity.

Pennebaker was a member of the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church and was a 2022 graduate of Madison Central High School. An Eagle Scout, Pennebaker spent countless hours volunteering at Webster Animal Shelter, the site of his Eagle Scout project. 

“It is with a heavy heart as we write this but, we would like to extend our love and prayers to a great family, the Pennebakers,” Webster Animal Shelter wrote on its Facebook page. “A love like no other here at the shelter is our volunteers. Till next time Max with wet noses and sloppy kisses.”

MSU Police Chief Kenneth Rogers said MSU PD received a phone call reporting an unresponsive person in a parked vehicle at approximately 1:10 p.m. Sunday [Aug. 27]. Responding agencies included MSU PD, Starkville Fire Department and Med-Stat Ambulance. Oktibbeha County Coroner Michael Hunt pronounced the student dead at the scene, the university said.

President Mark E. Keenum and MSU First Lady Rhonda Keenum shared their condolences with the family and friends of the student and met Sunday with the men of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity to express their sympathies, encourage and pray with them. While the university asks for respect for the privacy of the family and friends of this student at this sad and difficult time, counseling services and other support for any students or staff impacted by the incident are available through the Division of Student Affairs, officials said.

In a statement Monday, MSU Vice President for Strategic Communications Sid Salter said the university community is “deeply saddened” by the death. 

“At this time, our community’s thoughts and prayers remain with the family and friends of the student who has died. The university is offering counseling and other appropriate services to those most closely impacted by this tragedy.”

He said that the safety of students is “of fundamental importance” and that the university is working to “review this tragic event” and provide mental health and well-being support.

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