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Editor slain in home robbery

January 12, 2007|Eric Bailey | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Police in a Bay Area suburb are investigating the slaying of a PC World magazine senior editor after four robbers stormed the family home, shot him to death and pistol-whipped his wife.

It remains unclear what lured the thieves to the Pittsburg home of Rex Farrance, 59, on Tuesday night, but an investigator said a large quantity of drugs was seized from the house. Detectives are trying to determine if narcotics were being dealt from the residence.

Police declined to say what was seized, but Farrance's son, 19-year-old Sterling, told investigators that his parents weren't involved in drug sales. The son said he had a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana, which he grew at his parents' home.

Colleagues at San Francisco-based PC World, where Farrance started in the mailroom and worked his way up to become senior technical editor, recalled him as a warm-spirited, socially conservative fitness buff -- hardly the profile of a drug dealer.

Harry McCracken, PC World's editor in chief, said Farrance stood out in the liberal Bay Area as a natty, proud Republican who wore an American flag lapel pin and demonstrated a tenacious allegiance to readers and to providing fair coverage of the high-tech industry.

"When I think of a gentleman, I think of Rex -- upbeat, considerate, polite," McCracken said. "When I think of a straight arrow, he comes to mind. When I think of the family man, he comes to mind. When I think of people who try to do the right thing, he comes to mind."

Pittsburg Police Inspector John Conaty said the attack occurred shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. Farrance's wife, Lenore, told investigators that she was at the rear of the family's home in a quiet cul-de-sac when she heard a commotion. Her husband scurried into the bedroom followed by four gunmen, all wearing masks and demanding money.

Lenore Farrance said she was hit by one of the handgun-wielding assailants. She told police she heard her husband trying to find cash to give them, then gunshots. At least one round hit Farrance before the robbers fled.

Police arrived to discover and impound a large stash of drugs.

"Based on the quantity, we're exploring whether there was the potential for sales," Conaty said. "Home invasion is a very unusual circumstance, and it puts a focus on why this particular residence was selected."

Farrance's wife, a registered nurse, is recovering from her injuries. She and her husband had no arrest records, officials said. The family did not return a phone call seeking comment.

eric.bailey@latimes.com

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