Lauren Rice and her dog, Holiday, were killed after emerging from a self-quarantine

By Chris Harris
April 08, 2020 11:52 AM
Credit: Courtesy Emily Swartz

Police in Iowa believe that a college professor — killed Sunday morning by a hit-and-run driver while she was walking her dog — was intentionally targeted by a 49-year-old man who now faces first-degree murder and animal neglect charges.

PEOPLE confirms Jason Robert Sassman is being held on $1 million bond.

The Des Moines Register reports the victim, 38-year-old professor Lauren R. Rice, was run down by a pickup truck Sunday shortly after 8 a.m.

Rice was walking her dog when the speeding truck quickly veered off the road and hopped the curb, hitting a utility pole before crossing several residential yards and striking the woman and her dog.

According to WOI-DT, Sassman drove off and then fled on foot after his disabled truck came to a stop in the middle of a nearby intersection.

Rich and her dog, Holiday, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The station reports Sassman may have been intoxicated at the time of the incident.

Jason Robert Sassman
| Credit: Polk County

Police have yet to discuss a potential motive, according to the reports.

The Newton Daily News reports that Rice was killed after emerging from a self-quarantine following an overseas trip.

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Rice taught English and literature at Des Moines Area Community College’s Newton campus after teaching at the Ankeny campus earlier in her career. She also helped lead the college’s annual Celebration of Literary Arts Festival, hosting events with notable authors.

She had served as a coordinator of the college’s study abroad program, and recently returned from London — a trip interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe DeHart, provost of the school’s Newton campus, said in a news release Rice “worked hard to help students understand and appreciate the English language,” adding she “realized the value of literature and writing in helping students make connections with the world around them.”

Sassman has yet to enter pleas to the charges against him, and does not have an attorney of record who could comment on the allegations on his behalf.

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