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Arkansas professor, student found dead

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A University of Arkansas graduate student recently dropped from a doctoral program after a decade of study and the English professor overseeing his coursework were shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide.

Associate professor John Locke, 67, and James Easton Kelly, 36, were found dead in the professor's office Monday, the first day of the fall semester.

Police hadn't determined a motive for the shootings and were awaiting a medical examiner's report to determine who fired the shots, said university police Capt. Brad Bruns. The .38-caliber revolver found at the scene belonged to Kelly, he said.

Student Drew Terry said he was sitting outside Kimpel Hall with friends around noon when people began fleeing the building, frightened by shooting inside.

"People were scattering everywhere, the whole area was full of people running around out here," he said.

Bruns said police had a brief conversation with one of the men before the final shot was fired. The man told them he was injured and that he did not want them to enter the office, Bruns said. He said a police negotiator never got a chance to talk with anyone in the office on the second floor of Kimpel Hall, a classroom and office building near the heart of the 15,000-student campus in northwestern Arkansas.

"I heard one gunshot followed by a ... man's voice saying, 'No, I didn't do anything,"' said Bethany Edstrom, a graduate student who was in a nearby office. "Then I heard a second shot."

Kelly was dismissed from the doctoral program Aug. 21 because he habitually enrolled in and then dropped classes. The university said a committee of six professors voted to drop Kelly from the program. Locke was on the committee but abstained from the vote.

The committee allowed Kelly to continue his studies as a non-degree student.

Chancellor John White said Locke enrolled as a doctoral student in the university's English program in 1990 and later switched to comparative literature.

"All of us at the university are all deeply upset," White said.

Randall Woods, dean of the arts and science department who worked with Locke for 30 years, said he knew of no problems between Locke and any of his students, including Kelly.

Police said Kelly has no criminal record and there was no indication on his university record of discipline problems.

As students walked to classes Monday afternoon, they had to skirt police tape surrounding Kimpel Hall.

Locke was interested in oriental mythology and religions and studied Zen Buddhism, said James Whitehead, professor emeritus of creative writing. Whitehead and others said Locke's death was unfathomable.

"It's as if he was walking to school on a cloudless day and got struck by lightning," Whitehead said.

A forum was planned for Tuesday afternoon for students to discuss the shooting.


On the Net: University of Arkansas: www.uark.edu