By Matthew Hendley
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By Jason P. Woodbury
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Jeff Theiler later told police that Bobby tacked a handwritten note on his dorm-room wall around this time. "Do not sit on my mutha-fuckin' bed," it read. "It's not a couch. Don't make me shoot you."
It seemed everyone in the ASU wrestling program but Coach Douglas knew that Bobby had a gun. Douglas was preparing for a run at his second NCAA team championship in four years. But it was clear to most of Bobby Douglas' staff that the team's wayward freshmen were running wild much of the time.
"I continually had to baby-sit those guys," says volunteer coach Rudy Isom. "They were pushing people off bikes and stealing stuff, and it was turning into a nightmare."
Isom says he saw the gun days before Bobby shot himself: "I told him, `You're going to kill yourself or hurt someone with it.' Obviously, we didn't think the kid was uncontrollable. But he was uncontrollable."
Assistants Keith Walton and Brad Penrith cornered Bobby a week before he shot himself. "I heard he had this gun," says Penrith, a world-class wrestler with a chance to make the 1992 Olympic team. "I told him, `What's going to end up happening to you?' He lied right to my face, he put up a front. He said he'd given the gun to someone else. I think maybe he just wanted to be a bad guy."
A few days before Bobby died, his old club coach and mentor, Roy Pittman, flew to Phoenix to attend a "Children at Risk" conference. Pittman didn't consider that his "son," as he calls Bobby, was at risk himself.
"We laughed and joked, like a father and son," Pittman says of their meeting at Sky Harbor Airport, one day before Bobby shot himself. "We talked about all the tough times--I knew he wasn't any goody two shoes--and the good times. I told him that all I wanted him to be was himself."
Being himself may have been part of Bobby's problem, Pittman says. "People in the majority take their cultural identity for granted, but black students in Arizona are isolated. Bobby was afraid, in a sense, down there and it worked on his self-esteem. He was on a pedestal as an athlete, but he still was a young black kid away from home for the first time. Things happen."
THE LAST DAY of Bobby Janisse's young life, March 9, 1991, began uneventfully. He worked out in the morning, then spoke on the telephone with his mom. "Everything was fine," she says. "There wasn't a cross word--absolutely nothing. I wish he had talked about what was in his head. We didn't hide stuff from each other."
That afternoon, Bobby went to a mall with some friends and made plans to go to a party that night. At about 7 p.m., according to Bobby's estranged girlfriend, she broke up with him again during a nasty telephone conversation. Bobby told Jeff Theiler after the call that he wanted to "get loco"--very drunk.
Bobby went to the party with the usual crew: Homer Moore, Bobby Young, and Theiler. His friends later told police they hadn't known he had taken his gun and a pocketful of bullets.
BOBBY DOUGLAS SPENT that Saturday night at home with his wife, Jackie, before the big trip to Iowa for the NCAA wrestling championships.
His telephone rang at about 11 p.m. Assistant Rudy Isom was calling with the news of Bobby Janisse's self-inflicted death. "I wanted to believe it was a bad dream--it wasn't true," Douglas says. He tried to call ASU athletic director Charles Harris, but Harris was out celebrating an NCAA-tournament-clinching basketball win for the resurgent Sun Devils.
"My next concern was to call Bobby's parents," Douglas says, "but the police wanted me to hold off. I felt very uncomfortable in that I'd told them I'd take care of their son like he was my son. I was confused about what to do."
Bobby Janisse's stepfather, Jerome Polk, called Douglas around midnight. "I said I hadn't heard all the facts, but I'd been told that Bobby killed himself," Douglas says. "I heard this chilling scream in the background--it was his mom. I felt like I was hit with a ball bat. I hear that scream now. It's like a knife in my heart."
Douglas stayed awake all night, then went to practice as scheduled. "I wanted to tell the guys one by one about Bobby as they came in," he says. "Guys would flinch or grab themselves in the head. It was terrible. I called it quits ten minutes after we started."
The pressures were immense: The coach had a flight to the NCAA wrestling tournament within hours, and the team was to join him in a few days. "I wanted somebody to tell me it wasn't my fault," he says. "I was very, very angry. That's a natural reaction, but I felt guilty for having it."
Bettie Julkes, Bobby's academic adviser and surrogate mom, flew to Portland for the funeral as a representative of ASU. Bobby Young, Homer Moore and his mother, and Bobby's ex-girlfriend also attended the services. "I had to go, to look at his things, his trophies, his room," Julkes says. "I know he would have done so well in life if he had survived and I felt the need to seek some sort of answers. I didn't really get any, but it was important to be with his family."