The One Who Got Away

Dr. David Primeaux was beloved in Petersburg, Va. The computer science professor at Virginia Commonwealth University was an active member and past chairman of the Historic Petersburg Foundation, a country-club nonprofit that restores old buildings in this historic city of about 35,000, 23 miles south of the state capital, Richmond, where for nearly two decades he taught at VCU.

In addition to his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Tennessee, Primeaux held a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. His academic interests included non-traditional artificial intelligence — heady topics that, buttressed by his philosophy degree, threw smart, dreamy VCU undergrads into a swoon.

David Primeaux was a popular professor and civic leader. Until Dec. 27, 2012.

That’s the day Petersburg police got a call from Primeaux’s wife telling them he had left the house distraught. Cops made brief contact with the professor via cell phone, but he said his phone battery was about to die and ended the call. The next day in a rural neighboring county, a local resident found Primeaux dead inside his 1986 Mazda pickup parked beside a gravel pit. Cause of death, carbon monoxide poisoning; manner of death, suicide, according to the medical examiner’s office, which only recently released the results.


Petersburg and the VCU community were shocked and dismayed. Newspapers and TV stations reported less on Primeaux’s de...


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