The first time the Monrovia School District's personnel director met Patty Elaine Higgins, she could not imagine how the quiet "frail-looking wisp of a woman" could possibly handle a roomful of aggressive special education students.
"But we found she had a confidence, inner spirit and strength that was amazing," the director said. "She spent a great deal of time, energy and dedication on her job."
Miss Higgins, 32, grew up in a small town near Pittsburgh. After graduating from college, she became a counselor for emotionally disturbed boys and later taught disabled students in Virginia.
She moved to California in 1979.
'Very Close Friends'
"Few people knew her well," one friend said. "She wasn't one that told life secrets the first time she met someone. But she had some very close friends who were very special to her."
On June 27, she worked late at Bradoaks School, decorating her room and getting ready for summer school.
She apparently arrived at mid-evening at the bungalow in Arcadia that she shared with her pet cocker spaniel. She had no next-door neighbors because her house stands between a real estate office and a construction site on a dimly lit street near Santa Anita Park. Higgins did not show up at school on July 2, and co-workers, concerned that she might be ill, asked a friend to check on her.
He found her partially clad body in the bathroom. Her throat had been slashed. Police believe that the murder occurred June 27 or 28.