GAINESVILLE, FLA., SEPT. 17 -- The jailed University of Florida freshman who is the most publicized suspect in the serial killings of five college students is confused about why he is jailed and is being treated inhumanely, his grandmother told the Gainesville Sun in an interview published today.

"I know he's getting very upset, and he doesn't know why," Elna Hlavaty said of her grandson, Edward Lewis Humphrey, 18. "They're treating him like he's ready for the gallows, and he hasn't even been charged." Hlavaty, 79, visited him last weekend in the Brevard County Jail.

Also today, a Montana high school senior was quoted in the Tampa Tribune as saying she spurned Humphrey's marriage proposal about a month before the slayings. The 17-year-old, named Rachel, asked that her last name be withheld.

She told the paper that she met Humphrey in 1985 while he was visiting an aunt and uncle. She said she did not see him again until July 18, after he traveled more than 1,000 miles to Hamilton, Mont., to propose, the Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, life has been returning to normal in this college town. The Chamber of Commerce dedicated this week to paying tribute to the slain students, asking residents to display white ribbons, fly flags at half-staff and attend a tree-planting ceremony.

Humphrey is reportedly one of eight suspects in the five stabbing deaths. He has been held on $1 million bond for nearly three weeks on unrelated charges, including one that he beat his grandmother Aug. 30.