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No Suspects or Motive in Slaying of Professor

January 04, 2003|Julie Tamaki and Scott Gold | Times Staff Writers

RIVERSIDE — Police said they had no suspects or motive Friday in the killing of a retired college professor who was fatally wounded when someone shot him through a bedroom window at his isolated hilltop home.

Brian Johnson Jacques, 73, a communications professor at La Sierra University in Riverside from 1970 to 1996, died late Thursday during emergency surgery at Riverside Community Hospital.

Shocked neighbors said Jacques, a missionary in Bangladesh before he joined the faculty at the small Seventh-day Adventist college, was a well-liked and respected member of their close-knit community on the southwestern outskirts of Riverside.

The ranch-style home Jacques shared with his wife, Florence, stands alone on a hill at the end of Mountain High Road, about 200 yards from the nearest neighbor.

Police said that shortly before 9 p.m. Thursday, someone apparently approached the house on foot and fired several shots through a window at the professor, who was sitting alone on a bed, watching television.

Florence Jacques, who was ironing in an adjacent walk-in closet, heard a loud noise and saw several flashes of light, according to a neighbor, Ginger Robles, 48, who said she talked with the couple's daughter-in-law late Thursday night.

Robles said Florence Jacques reportedly asked her husband if the television set had exploded, and he replied, "No, I've been shot."

Police said they had few clues in the mysterious attack.

But one witness said he thought he had seen a small, dark-colored car on the road leading to the house not long before the shooting.

Neighbors described the couple as friendly and popular.

They were familiar figures who waved to everyone on their frequent strolls together through the community, known as La Sierra Heights.

"They were the type of couple you wish you could be some day," Robles said.

Sheryl Dixon, 48, who lives on Mountain High Road, said the couple were among the first to welcome her to the neighborhood when she moved in about eight months ago.

"They were the sweetest couple," she said. "Very pleasant."

At the college where Jacques had taught, about two miles from his home, officials said he had worked as a missionary and as a teacher at Andrews University in Michigan before joining the La Sierra faculty.

Jacques' tenure at the college in Riverside included a stint as chairman of the communications department, according to Carol Bradfield, the school's associate vice president for advancement and community relations.

About 1,400 students attend La Sierra. Founded in 1922, it is a private Christian institution. Like most members of the faculty, Jacques belonged to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bradfield said.

"We are all saddened and shocked by this senseless tragedy," said Ella S. Simmons, the college's provost and a vice president for academic administration.

"Many on our campus remember Brian as an individual of consistent faith and dedicated, unselfish service," she said.

"The effects of this loss will ripple around the world, because he taught so many students for so many years, and our graduates live and work in practically every part of the world."

In addition to his wife, Jacques leaves his sons, Daryl and Brian; a brother, Roy; a sister, Betty Vine; and two grandchildren.

*

Times staff writer Eric Malnic contributed to this report.

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