Features

The last day in the life of Lissa Roche

National

Issue: "Cuban conundrum," Feb. 5, 2000

Sunday, Oct. 17, 1999; times are approximate:
1:00 a.m. George Roche III suffers insulin reaction, is taken to hospital. New wife Dean and son George Roche IV ("I.V.") accompany him. 3:00 a.m. I.V. returns home; wife Lissa visits Mr. Roche in treatment room; she argues with Mr. Roche and Dean, returns home. (Lissa, already under stress from strains in her own household, reportedly was upset by Mr. Roche's decision to reconcile with wife Dean following discord.) 10:00 a.m. I.V. conducts scheduled off-campus shooting class. Lissa telephones Mr. Roche in hospital. Threatens to kill herself. Mr. Roche asks secretary to locate his son and inform him of the suicide threat. 10:30 a.m. The secretary fetches I.V. and drives him home. He finds Lissa, still "upset," at the president's home a few doors away, checking on Mr. Roche's mother. 11:00 a.m. Lissa instructs I.V. to take her back to the hospital. Lissa again confronts Mr. Roche, and in the presence of her spouse and Dean Roche, accuses him of having carried on a 19-year-long affair with her. She again threatens suicide. (I.V. says he demanded to know if the allegation was true, but his father remained silent.) He and Lissa return home to talk further. 11:30 a.m. Mr. Roche is discharged; he and wife Dean return home. 12:00 noon. I.V. goes back to hospital and seeks medical counsel about Lissa's suicide threats. 12:45 p.m. After I.V. returns, Lissa asks him to run up the street and check on his grandmother. Finding his father and Dean there, he hurries home but discovers Lissa gone and the back gate unlatched. He finds her body down the hill in a gazebo in the campus arboretum, with a gunshot wound to the side of her head, and one of his handguns next to her. 1:14 p.m. I.V. calls 911 from his home; police respond within minutes. An investigation ensues, and the police and a coroner determine the death was a suicide. Days later, I.V. begins to confide to friends about Lissa's accusation regarding his father, something neither man had told police. Word spreads, and administrators hear about it. College provost Robert Blackstock and Ronald Trowbridge, vice president of external affairs and one of Lissa's closest co-workers, meet with I.V. and listen to his account. The administrators alert trustee chairman Donald Mossey, who confers with his executive committee by phone. The full board is summoned to campus to confront Mr. Roche, who maintains his innocence. The board places him on a leave of absence on Nov. 1 and accepts his retirement on Nov. 10 with a generous severance package. Not until Nov. 9 in an interview with Mr. Roche do police officially learn of Lissa's allegation about an affair. He denies an affair occurred. On Nov. 19, police ask I.V. why he omitted mention of the allegation when he was first interrogated. I.V. says that after conferring about his rights with Mr. Blackstock, a former lawyer, on the day of the suicide, he decided it was something he wasn't ready to reveal.

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Edward E. Plowman
Edward E. Plowman

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