Cops: Driver Deliberately Killed Professor Walking Dog

Des Moines man charged with murder
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2020 7:00 PM CDT
Cops: Driver Deliberately Killed Professor Walking Dog
Jason Robert Sassman.   (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

A college professor in Des Moines, Iowa was walking her dog Sunday morning when she was deliberately killed by a man driving a speeding pickup truck, police say. Lauren Rice, 38, who taught English and literature at Des Moines Area Community College, was pronounced dead at the scene along with her dog, Holiday, People reports. The alleged hit-and-run driver, 49-year-old Jason Robert Sassman, has been charged with first-degree murder and animal neglect. He is being held on $1 million bond. It's not clear why Sassman, who has a record of run-ins with the law and has been on probation at least five times since 2007, allegedly targeted Rice.

Police say Sassman was speeding when he left the road, striking and severing a utility pole before driving through several yards and onto the sidewalk, where he hit Rice and Holiday, the Des Moines Register reports. He drove off afterward and was captured after fleeing on foot when the truck became disabled, police say. "Lauren loved language and so often had just the right words, but we are simply at a loss to express how much she will be missed," said Joe DeHart, provost of the college's Newton campus. The college says days before the crash, Rice had completed a self-quarantine period after leading a student trip to London that was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic. (More Iowa stories.)

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