UC Davis veterinary student dead in suspected murder-suicide


UPDATE: The City of Davis Police “strongly suspect” Whitney Joypauline Engler was killed by Joseph Andrew Hein before Hein killed himself, Lt. Paul Doroshov tells dvm360. Autopsies reveal Engler was shot in the chest and head, and Hein shot himself in the head. Police are still investigating.

A female veterinary medicine student at the University of California, Davis, was shot and killed March 26 in an alleged murder-suicide.

The City of Davis Police found 27-year-old Whitney Joypauline Engler and her roommate, 23-year-old Joseph Andrew Hein, dead of gunshot wounds at approximately 2 a.m. March 27 in the duplex they shared on Glacier Drive in West Davis, according to The Davis Enterprise.

A handgun was near Hein's body, police told the newspaper, and the bodies were found in separate rooms. Hein is believed to be the shooter, but gunshot residue and fingerprints need to be examined, according to the Enterprise.


Posted by Rosie & Friends on Monday, March 30, 2015

“Although it is early in the investigation, preliminary evidence suggests this was a murder-suicide,” states an advisory message on the police department's website. “Therefore, investigators do not believe there is anyone else involved, and are not actively seeking any suspects at this time.”

The crime scene was discovered seven hours after a man called 911 and said two people were dead in the home, according to the Enterprise. The caller didn't provide more information and hung up.

Responding to the call was difficult because the home's location raised the possibility of officers being shot from the second story, according to the newspaper. “Suicide by cop” was another concern.

Assembling a SWAT team, mobilizing two Mine-Resistant-Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles, flying a helicopter with infrared cameras to scan the area and using a robot to enter the home delayed reaching the crime scene. 

“It's very unfortunate that the situation turned out like it did,” Darren Pytel, assistant police chief, told the Enterprise. “We could have gone in much earlier, but that wouldn't have been the safe or prudent thing to do, based on the information we were getting.”

Virginia Bigler, Engler's mother, told the Enterprise that UC Davis was her daughter's “dream school,” and she was expected to graduate in May. Engler had a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science from the University of Michigan, according to the Enterprise.

Lois Hall, Hein's mother, told the Enterprise that the incident could have been an accident, and her son panicked and killed himself. Hall said Hein owned guns for recreation, but she was not aware he had a semi-automatic assault rifle that he photographed and uploaded to Facebook with the caption, “Turns out shooting assault rifles is actually pretty fun. 'Murica.”

Engler and Hein had been friends for several years and moved in together in December.

Following the incident, it was discovered that three of Engler's pets had escaped. A Facebook group, Rosie & Friends, was created to help the effort.  Rosie, an Australian shepherd, Indiana, a Siamese cat, and another cat, Chique, were found safe by March 30.

Posted by Rosie & Friends on Monday, March 30, 2015




Michael D. Lairmore, DVM, PhD, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, spoke at the March 28 candlelight vigil, according to a UC Davis press release.

“While we will never understand the senseless tragedy that took Whitney's life, she is engrained in the collective soul of those that knew her best,” Lairmore said. “Our profound sympathies go out to Whitney's family, friends and classmates.”

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