Two college students from Ventura were found dead in a San Francisco dorm room after a 22-year-old man shot a woman he once dated, then turned the gun on himself, authorities said Tuesday.
The bodies of Eric Michael Jones and Catherine Anne Copeland, 21, were found in her third-floor room at a San Francisco State University dormitory about 9:15 p.m. Monday after other students heard gunshots and called campus police.
The university officers, who used a master key to enter Copeland’s small room after phone calls and knocks on the door went unanswered, found a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol near Jones’ body. No notes were left.
Police and campus officials said Jones’ depression over his breakup with Copeland in October apparently led to the murder-suicide, though the couple had only dated a few months.
“I think everybody handles their rejection differently,” said Inspector Michael Byrne of the San Francisco police homicide unit. “I’ve seen other cases where you wouldn’t think things should end up this way, but they do when somebody can’t handle their depression.”
Copeland graduated in 1990 from Ventura High School, where she played in the band for four years and excelled as the school’s top flutist her senior year.
Jones attended Buena High School for 3 1/2 years before withdrawing to attend a school in Maryland. At Buena, he competed on the wrestling team. Outside school, he won trophies in table tennis tournaments, his sister said.
According to Copeland’s family, the pair met at Ventura College last year, where she took general courses before transferring to San Francisco State last spring.
She was majoring in film at the university and hoped to work in television or movie production. Jones had declared a major in dietetics.
Copeland’s father, Harry, said the pair’s relationship never seemed very serious. He said he met Jones only once or twice last summer when Jones stopped by to talk with Catherine at the family’s east Ventura home.
“I never had any suspicion he had anything on his mind--any obsession or feelings,” Harry Copeland said softly, standing in his doorway.
“If I’d have thought there was any guy stalking her, I would have been on the road and calling ahead to the police,” he said. “I’m a pretty protective father.”
Catherine Copeland last spoke with her parents Monday afternoon when she called to tell them she received an airline ticket to fly home for Easter, her father said.
“She said everything’s OK,” Harry Copeland said.
“It’s my only daughter and she’s gone,” he added. “I can’t believe it.”
Jones’ friends and roommate told university officials in San Francisco that Jones had shown no signs of being unusually depressed over the broken relationship.
“Of the people we’ve heard from so far, no one knew that Eric had these feelings or had a weapon,” said Ligeia Polidora, a university spokeswoman. “Everyone is very surprised by it.”
Jones’ 17-year-old sister also said she was at a loss to explain her brother’s actions. She said her parents had flown to San Francisco from Ventura.
Byrne said Copeland apparently had agreed to see Jones on Monday night after he had tried contacting her several times throughout the day. Copeland had not reported any incidents involving Jones to university or city police, authorities said.
Robert Hackett, the band director at Ventura High, said Copeland spent much of her spare time in high school practicing for the band and socializing with other students in the small music program.
He described Copeland as a gifted musician who played the piano and guitar in addition to the flute and piccolo. She was the only flutist in the marching band capable of playing a tricky passage in a parade march during her senior year.
“She was very level-headed. She was sweet, and she was intelligent,” he said. “This is going to be a great loss for those who were friends with her.”