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A Committed Life--a Mysterious Death : Crime: Marilyn and Gregory Rains tried to balance the demands of careers and Christianity. But something went terribly wrong. Now he's accused of killing her near their Redding home.

September 27, 1992|VICKI TORRES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

GLENDORA — Outgoing, compassionate, a deeply committed Christian missionary and a devoted mother to her 12-year-old daughter, Marilyn Rains led a balanced life, friends said.

She combined a 20-year marriage to her college sweetheart with a grueling work schedule as assistant director of the Glendora Public Library and head of two library associations.

The skillful juggling act got her a job offer in Redding, a promotion she eagerly accepted a year ago.

But something apparently went terribly askew after the family moved to Northern California. Finally, early on the morning of Sept. 8, Rains, 42, was found slain a few blocks from her new home in an upscale Redding neighborhood.

Residents had notified police after hearing screams and gunfire shortly before 2 a.m. Officers found the librarian sprawled face down outside her 1984 maroon Buick Regal, its motor running and its headlights blazing into the night. She had been shot and her head was crushed.

Nine days later, her husband, Gregory, 44, was arrested. He pleaded not guilty to one count of murder Wednesday in Shasta County Municipal Court and faces a preliminary hearing next month.

The slaying, and the accusations against Marilyn Rains' quiet and equally religious husband, mystify friends and colleagues in Glendora and Redding--as well as detectives.

"We can't figure it out," said Redding Police Lt. Chuck Byard. "We know he killed her; it's just a matter of why that we're wondering about."

Connie Tiffany, Glendora library director and a friend, said Marilyn never mentioned any marital troubles to friends, family or colleagues.

"They were not a warm, lovey-dovey couple, but they seemed to be mutually supportive," Tiffany said. "They did a lot together. They were always entertaining people. . . . They just seemed to be on the same track.

"It's just a total mystery," she added. "It's real frustrating to not have the answers."

Born in Colorado Springs, Marilyn Adams was raised a devout Christian, graduating from Whittier Christian High School and attending Azusa Pacific University, a Christian college. It was there that she met Gregory Rains, a psychology major who had been raised by foster parents, all of whom were very religious.

Money was tight during college, so Marilyn worked part time at the Glendora library as a page, shelving books and running errands for the librarians.

"We took her to our hearts," said Marjorie Diener, a retired reference librarian and Glendora resident. "For the older women, Marilyn was kind of our daughter."

After Marilyn graduated in 1972 with a bachelor's degree in speech, she and Rains were married and got a post in a West Covina residential care home for troubled youths. They served as surrogate parents for as many as six children, Diener said.

But shortly afterward, Marilyn moved out, leaving her new husband to run the home by himself, Diener said. The young woman never told her library mentor what had happened and the couple reconciled, she said.

In 1980, the couple's daughter, Ronda, was born.

At Marilyn's urging, Rains went back to school and completed his psychology degree in 1981. In 1986, he joined World Radio Missionary Fellowship, a radio ministry based at that time in Florida and headed by Ron Cline, the son of foster parents who had raised Rains.

As western regional representative, Rains informed Christians in California, Arizona and Nevada about the shortwave radio ministry, which does most of its work in Ecuador, where Rains wanted to work.

Although Marilyn Rains initially opposed the idea of making such a move, she agreed to go to Florida for an orientation on missionary work, Diener said. The idea fell through, however, because the couple lacked the money pledges needed to support themselves in the South American country.

Once back in the Southland, Marilyn renewed her commitment to work here, getting a master's degree at Cal State Fullerton and assuming growing responsibilities at the Glendora library. She moved from children's librarian to coordinator of the new computerized book filing system installed in 1988.

Marilyn also taught classes at Azusa Pacific and nearby Citrus Community College, and headed two Southern California library organizations specializing in computer support services.

She and her husband were active in Lorraine Avenue Baptist Church in Glendora.

Marilyn also found the time to be a confidante to the younger library workers who sought her guidance and to take her daughter on short skiing trips.

"She was a very well-balanced person with a strong professional background and with a lot of involvement in her personal life," Tiffany said.

When her husband's work took him increasingly to Northern California, Marilyn sought a job there. In the summer of 1991, she was named co-director of the library at Simpson College, a Christian institution in Redding.

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