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Costa Rica Slayings Shock College

March 16, 2000

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio (AP) _ Word that two of their own had been slain in Central America left many at Antioch College numb, a jarring reminder of the dangerous world outside the campus of their liberal school.

The bodies of Emily Howell of Lexington, Ky., and Emily Eagen of Ann Arbor, Mich., were found Monday along a highway in Costa Rica. Authorities said the 19-year-old women had been shot to death.

``It was a shock,″ said Jesse Bacon, 22, of Spring Valley, Wis., his voice breaking. ``I’ve been thinking about how terrifying their last moments must have been.″

Howell had been in Costa Rica since January on a school-sponsored photography project. The program lets student study on campus one semester and work at an off-campus job or project the next.

Eagen, who left the school last summer after running out of tuition money, had been visiting Howell along with a third student, Shauna Sellers, 20.

In Costa Rica, Judicial Police spokesman Francisco Ruiz said today there were no arrests or definite suspects but preliminary leads point to ``a known person who was with them.″

He said two witnesses had come to police to report seeing the burning of the women’s rented car early Monday near the capital.

Ruiz also said investigators were ``80 percent sure″ that one of the women was sexually assaulted.

About 740 students attend Antioch, known for a progressive curriculum based in part on promoting social justice, open-mindedness and eliminating cultural barriers.

``People who knew the girls very closely are numb,″ said student Esther Sassaman, 20, of Rochester, N.Y., as she walked across the grassy center of campus Wednesday.

Adam Howard, an adviser to the slain women, said Howell was a dedicated student who had worked with migrant workers in Kentucky on her previous co-op project.

Her skills in Spanish coupled with a growing interest in photography led her to Costa Rica, where she had been documenting the people and culture on film.

Eagen was an education major who wanted to teach, Howard said. On her last co-op project, she worked for an agency that serves the developmentally disabled.

Two Antioch College officials left for Costa Rica on Wednesday to help the victims’ families and to bring Sellers home. A private memorial service was scheduled for today.

Susan Ecklund-Leen, Antioch’s director of cooperative education, said Howell knew about possible risks while in Costa Rica but felt she would be safe.

``This was a very random act. It could have happened in Dayton. It could have happened in Columbus,″ she said.

There were no plans to curtail the co-op program.

``We believe that it is very important for our students to become world citizens and to understand what it means to live in a shrinking world,″ she said.

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On the Net: Antioch College’s Web site: http://college.antioch.edu

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