SUN CITY SHOOTING: Couple bonded by love, plagued by pain

sbowman@islandpacket.comAugust 3, 2013 


    Preliminary autopsy results show Robert Jacobson died from a gunshot wound that appears to be self-inflicted, Capt. Bob Bromage of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office said Saturday. Bromage said Roslyn Jacobson also had a gunshot wound. She remains in critical condition at Savannah's Memorial University Medical Center, said spokesman Dale Hooks.

    The investigation continues. An analysis of DNA samples and gunshot residue should tell investigators more, Bromage said.

Editor's note: The investigation into the shooting death of Robert Jacobson, 85, of Sun City, and the serious wounding of his wife, Roslyn, continued Saturday. The couple was found in their General Hardee Way home around 3 p.m. Friday afternoon after Beaufort County Sheriff's deputies responded to a call for a health and welfare check. Robert Jacobson, a one-time president of the Hemlock Society of South Carolina and a supporter of the "death with dignity" movement, was dead at the scene. A revolver was found near his body. Roslyn Jacobson remains in Savannah's Memorial University Medical Center in serious condition.

What follows is a look at the Jacobsons based on interviews Saturday with their neighbors and friends

Roslyn Jacobson celebrated her 80th birthday in April, surrounded by friends at an area restaurant.

It was by all accounts a joyful occasion, despite the fact that she had suffered from lung cancer for years and had recently taken a turn for the worse.

Some of those who gathered to celebrate remember that she seemed at peace, almost serene.

At one point, she said this birthday would likely be her last.

At the time, neighbor Patrick O'Brien thought she was referring to her continuing battle against cancer.

But now he doesn't know if she meant something else altogether.


She met her husband, Robert, more than 60 years ago, O'Brien's wife, Doris, said Saturday. They would eventually have two children, a son and a daughter.

"She has told me that when she first saw Robert walk into that USO club, she knew in her heart this was the man she would marry," Doris O'Brien, 65, said. "And they just enjoyed life, enjoyed each other and were proud of their family."

They moved to Sun City in the early 2000s. Both were very involved in the community. They helped create the Sun City theater program, were frequent visitors to the community's gym -- he liked to swim laps, she favored walking the treadmill -- and talked often to other community residents.

"They are the kind of neighbors you always hope you have: kind, outgoing, generous, considerate and welcoming," Doris O'Brien said. "They really were just wonderful people."

Both began to have health issues about five years ago.

Roslyn Jacobson, a retired nurse, was diagnosed with lung cancer, neighbors said. A Hospice Care representative visited their home to discuss the possibility of such care a week before Friday's incident.

Robert Jacobson, who worked in the jewelry business before he retired, also was very ill, though neighbors were unsure of the nature of that illness.

Then, 10 months ago, his condition worsened. His health since that time has been touch-and-go, neighbors said.

But knowing all that did not make what happened Friday any less devastating.

"People are just really shocked and even a little dismayed at what happened," said one neighbor who asked that his name not be used.

"But I think it also just shows that there was a lot of love there."


Robert Jacobson was a one-time president of the Hemlock Society of South Carolina, a group that advocated for the "right to die." The movement favors allowing terminally ill patients who are in pain to hasten their death.

His letters supporting that cause appeared often on The Island Packet's Editorial Page. He advocated death with dignity before those with a terminal illness "lost themselves" and their quality of life.

Not everyone who knew him agreed with those beliefs, but no one questioned what the couple felt for one another.

"I have never met more gentle people than he was or she was," Patrick O'Brien, 66, said. "The sun didn't shine or set without each other."

O'Brien paused a moment.

"I have never seen a couple more devoted to each other," he said finally.

"This is just my supposition, but I don't think they could exist without each other, and I think he couldn't see her in any more pain."

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