“In the news, you hear about stuff like this happening all the time,” said Maurice Marsini, a chemistry graduate student. “You see it, and you’re like, ‘Oh man, that’s horrible. That sucks.’ But to know someone like Jarrod, to know how good a person he was, and then to have him leave the world in that fashion, it’s just really, really bad, it’s…”
Marsini trailed off and looked down at the laboratory floor. Six members of the Pettus Group, a biochemistry research organization on campus, sat in a vacant lab and stood along its walls Wednesday afternoon. Some remained silent, others couldn’t wait for their turn to speak, but their motivations for being in the room were the same. They were all taking this time out of the day to remember their former colleague Jarrod Davidson, a UCSB chemistry graduate student shot to death at his home July 9.
Davidson started at UCSB last fall and worked as a teacher’s assistant, mentor to a chemistry undergraduate student and member of the Pettus Group. Though he was at UCSB less than a year, his colleague Carolyn Selenski said, “The amount of time we all spent [together] is amazing.”
“We work 12 hours a day, six days a week, so none of us really spend time with other people,” Selenski said. “That one year we spent with him is more like four. We do everything together. We aren’t co-workers – we’re family.” At this last assertion, everyone in the room said “yeah” in unison.
Selenski continued after a pause in the conversation. “Should I make my comment?” she said. The others appeared to know the comment to which she was referring but they gave no response. Selenski shook her head and said, “No,” deciding against speaking further.
Marsini said Davidson came to UCSB for only one reason.
“His motivation was his daughter,” Marsini said. “He and his wife split up right after their daughter was born four years ago. At the time he was finishing his degree at San Diego State. After graduating, he worked at a pharmaceutical company for two years, [and] then his ex-wife moved to San Luis Obispo. He came to UCSB because it’s only an hour drive to visit her from here instead of six or seven from San Diego, and if you have a Ph.D then you can get a better job than with just a bachelor’s. He just wanted to make a better life for his daughter. Her picture was on the wall above his desk. Anytime he looked up from his work, he saw her.”
The conversation turned to the last Fourth of July weekend, when Davidson’s daughter visited him in Santa Barbara.
“It was ridiculous,” Selenski said. “He did everything imaginable with her. He went to the zoo, the playground, watched the fireworks.”
Dr. Jinsong Zhang further described Davidson’s devotion to his daughter.
“I asked what he did on the weekend, and he was like, ‘Jinsong, you should ask me what I didn’t do!’ He was so happy. That was the last time he saw his daughter.”
Chris Lindsey shared memories of drinking beer with Davidson. Zhang remembered how Davidson taught her about Elvis and how he kept things neat and tidy. Marsini recalled Davidson’s love of taking breaks from work to stare out of windows, and how the two used to skateboard to class together.
Asked if there were any final words the members of the group would like to share, all eyes went to Selenski. She looked around and made the comment she said she had suppressed before.
“When you approached Maurice to see if we wanted to say something about Jarrod, only one thing came to my mind,” Selenski said. “I hope whoever did this goes to hell. Straight up. I was wondering, ‘Should I say that to you? Will my professors… frown upon it?’ But that’s how I feel. We’re just hoping that whoever did this…”
“Yeah, we will be there at their court day,” Lindsey said.
“Yeah,” Marsini said. “We will be there, and we’ll be waiting for the worst punishment possible for this person. No one like Jarrod deserves to die like that. It’s unacceptable.”