A murder mystery that gripped one of the nation's safest cities ended when police determined that an ex-lover stabbed a retired teacher to death in her home. But police are not pursuing the man. He died of a heart attack while fleeing the scene.
Paul Porter, 66, was driving a truck that matched a witness's description of a vehicle leaving Janice Somple's Simi Valley, Calif., house on the afternoon of May 31 when he crashed it into two cars and a wall just a mile and a half away.
The cause of the crash was a fatal heart attack at the wheel, according to traffic investigators and the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office.
At 8 p.m. that evening, Somple's current boyfriend discovered her body.
Simi Valley Police Lt. Stephanie Shannon said today that Somple, 65, and Porter, who are both divorced, ended their relationship amicably 15 years ago, and detectives are seeking the "community's help" in determining Porter's motive in the homicide.
"We're asking for anyone who knew them and may offer insight into their individual personalities or their relationship," Shannon said.
A resident of Simi Valley for nearly 40 years, Somple was a "bubbly, eccentric, fun person," neighbor Kelly Nogy said.
Somple, who had taught English at Westlake and Newbury High Schools in Ventura County, wrote a piece for the Los Angeles Times in 1999 urging parents to read to their children.
Somple's murder was only the second Simi Valley has seen in two years. The city of 126,000 repeatedly appears on lists of the 10 safest cities in the country.
"We leave our screen doors open," Nogy said. "Suddenly we were terrified – we didn't know if it was a crazy nut on the loose who was going to invade all of our homes, so it's a relief knowing it was someone she knew."
Nogy called Porter's death "poetic justice."
Somple's memorial will be held at Simi Valley United Methodist Church this Saturday at 1 p.m.