|Who Killed Jake Bush?|
Jake Bush was a bright, outgoing student at my alma mater, Buena High School. He was, as I once was, a member of their track and field and cross country teams. He would have been a senior this 1997 school year and a captain of the track and field team. Jake spent three years in track, where he excelled in the triple jump, and two years in cross country .
"He had such a promising future, too, because of his athletic ability and intelligence and hard work ethic," said Jaron Wilde, a friend and teammate.
Bush was also a star in the classroom. "He was just an amazing computer programmer," teacher Steve Magoon said, "He and his calculator were inseparable." Jake was always showing up with new games he'd designed on a special graphing calculator.
Jake Bush, 16 years old, was stabbed to death by a burglar in his home. He died on a hospital operating room table almost three hours after the first police officer on the scene started CPR.
Jake and his mother arrived home around noon, and had been home about 5 minutes before it occured to them something was wrong in the house. Jake was sorting his laundry when he noticed his small radio-television near his bedroom window had been moved.
"Hey, mom, come look at this," he said.
He and his mother quickly realized someone had broken in and Gail dialed 911 on her portable phone. Jake checked the living room for the television, stereo and VCR and then went into the front bedroom which had been converted to a study.
Jake apparently ran into the burglar, who stabbed him several times. "From looking at the house and the bloodstains, it looks like Jake took one step into the study and then got it," his stepfather Bob Shirley said.
From the dining room, Gail heard him scream, "Oh my God, I've been stabbed!" The murderer fled, slamming the front door, and Jake collapsed in the doorway of the study.
With her only child bleeding, Gail told the 911 dispatcher, still on the phone: "My son's been stabbed, get somebody." Within a minute, while Gail tended to Jakes bleeding chest, a motorcycle officer arrived on the scene. He had to make a quick choice between hunting for the suspect and helping Jake.
It wasn't a difficult choice. He began administering CPR. Jake twice began breathing on his own. But he died a few hours later on the operating table at Ventura County Medical Center.
"So far, we're coming up empty," Sgt. George Morris of the Ventura Police said, "We're just taking long shots, hoping to come up with someone who saw something."
Neighbors reported that someone was knocking on doors in the neighborhood. The suspect was asking for someone residents had never heard of. Investigators believe the man was looking for an empty house to burglarize. He is described as a clean shaven, dark-haired Latino male in his teens.
Police believe the burglar slipped in through a back window. A screen had been removed from the window, but the glass was not broken.
When a gas company worker arrived to turn on the gas at a neighboring house, he was greeted by detectives within seconds. Down the street, they checked for clues at the home of a woman who filed a complaint two weeks prior that her window screens had been removed from her back window.
"I always keep my windows locked," she said. She put back the screens, but a few days later they were removed again.
"We're still on a fact-finding mission," Lt. Don Arth said, "It will be some time down the road before we are able to narrow the focus of the investigation."
A local resident in the area found the knife in his driveway the evening that Jake was murdered.
Sixteen-year-old Jake Bush was killed with a rare imported knife with a 7-inch serrated blade known as the "Intimidator". Detectives believe the Taiwan knife may have been obtained through a mail order catalog or bought at a swap meet. Similar knives sell for less than $50. The knife is described in a catalog with the following features: "A 420 stainless steel drop-point blade that opens easily with one hand. Has a 60/40 serration for incredible cutting ability and a liner-lock design that keeps the blade safely in a locked position." It is 13-inches long with a black, ventilated handle.
"I want this person found as soon as possible," said Glenn Wilson, a Ventura resident whose son, Colin, was a friend of Jake's. "The police are doing everything they can, but there must be a person out there who knows who this person is."
Police are asking that anyone with information about the knife or the attacker call Sgt. Gary McCaskill at 1-805-339-4482.
As Jake's parents prepared for his funeral, they reminded the community of its vulnerability.
"If I had any idea someone was in the house, I would have been out of there," Gail Shirley said, pausing often to collect herself. "I only wish I could have done more to save him...but I couldn't."
She recalled how excited Jake had been after passing his driver's license test in Santa Paula. That combined with his job at a local theatre, had put him on a high.
At the funeral, Jake was remembered as "a teacher's dream," a kind hearted leader and "our angel killed mistakenly".
"He was a renaissance man. He was a shining star becoming a mature adult in so many ways. He was a candle glowing," said the Rev. Jim Wells, a Ventura Unified School District trustee.
The chapel filled quickly, as did the seats outside in the courtyard. When more people arrived, seats were set up in a covered walkway, but they weren't even enough. Some of the 325 in attendance stood through the service.
Track coach Ray Seay described how Jake would practice so hard he was usually banged up. He was always told by another coach to "take a couple more jumps and then go home and take two aspirin.
"Jake was the best triple-jumper on the track team last year just through hard work," said Chuck Smith, who coached Jake his sophomore year.
Dozens of Jake's classmate and friends attended the memorial service. Some of them wrote final words for their friend, which were read by student Jaron Wilde.
Jake, they wrote was "the best of the best," the "real world's Superman" who inspired and cheered those who knew him.
"You brought peace and joy to us all," one friend wrote. "We are all in chaos down here...our angel killed mistakenly."
Gold block letters spelled out "JAKE" on a red ribbon draped over the small wreath friends placed near their lunchtime spot at Buena High School.
Under the wreath for James Kenneth "Jake" Bush were flowers, a Chinese puzzle he had chosen for a close friend, a can of Dr. Pepper and a can of Spam - because he liked to give gag gifts at Christmas.
They rested atop newspaper clippings describing how Jake was brutally stabbed.
Nearby, his friends gathered to mourn and remember the "heart and soul" of their group. They laughed. They cried. They drank Dr. Pepper - Jakes favorite - from a red cooler, and several jumped in the evergreen bushes, like Jake used to do in fun.
They weren't the most popular kids in the school, they said, but Jake was their leader.
"We march to a different beat," said Aaron Quigley, 16. "Jake was the drummer...he could fit in anywhere. He just chose to fit in with us."
He was a kid who liked all kinds of music from classic rock to Nine Inch Nails, created games on computers, already had finished one calculus course and was ready for a second one.
"All of a sudden it's not the same," said Debbie Radley, whose son Scott was a friend of Jake. "I feel my son had to grow up all in one day."
"You don't expect it to happen to a young man who is not out there asking for trouble," said Helena Torres-Reeves, principal of Balboa Middle School.
History teacher Roger Henggeller had pulled out his Buena High yearbook the day he received the news, hoping it was someone else and not Jake. But the photo staring back at him told him this was the same boy who had dropped by during lunchtime and after school to talk with him.
"He was so innocent in so many ways - so innocent - and yet he knew a lot of things," Henggeller said. "He was very deep."
While teaching world history during the summer session at Buena the next day, Henggeller took time to talk about Jake's death with his students.
"It's a part of life," he said. "It's the saddest part because he was such a wonderful kid."
Sitting in class, John Novickas cried and wrote a poem to his friend.
Even if he was the kid who would help teachers move equipment out of their classrooms and cheered his friends up, he was human. Friends said he had the normal teenage arguments with his parents. Mostly, his friends said, he was there for them.
"He was a really great guy, and now he's gone," said Scott Radley, 17, opening his arms wide into the air.
Jake was born July 30, 1980, in Wichita Falls, Texas, the son of Gail Shirley and oil field worker Ken Bush. The family moved to Ventura and then back to Texas, but finally returned to Ventura in 1988.
The couple divorced, and Gail met Bob Shirley at Balboa Middle School, where both were teachers and where Jake was once a student. Jake was Gail Shirley's only child.
Gail Shirley says she has been overwhelmed by the Ventura's response to this tragedy. "The outpouring of love and support has just been unbelievable," she said, "We're so blessed to be in a great place...this is just one of those senseless stupid things,"
"He was a good kid," she said simply.