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Spanish, Yoga Instructor Suspected In AU Professor's Homicide

Friends describe the strange, close-knit friendship between victim and suspect.

When Sue Marcum’s friends learned Friday morning that Marcum’s former yoga and Spanish instructor had been charged in her Oct. 25 murder, they weren’t surprised.

As first reported in the Washington Post, an international arrest warrant has been issued for Jorge Rueda Landeros, 41, of Juarez, Mexico, in the homicide case that shocked Marcum’s quiet Bethesda neighborhood. Montgomery County police believe Landeros is in his native Mexico and are working with Mexican and federal authorities to have Landeros arrested and transported back to the United States.

Marcum, a popular professor at American University, was found in what police initially characterized as a robbery gone wrong. But police told reporters Friday they believed that the victim and the suspect did in fact know each other; and people close to Marcum described a friendship that was much more than casual. The two shared a close-knit relationship and bonded over mutual interests in Spanish language and culture, yoga and meditation, they said. But the relationship sometimes bordered on the bizarre, said long-time friend Beverly Myers.

“Once it happened, he was the first person that came to our minds,” said Myers.

Marcum first met Landeros in 2005 at a conversational Spanish group that Landeros lead, according to Myers and another long-time friend of Marcum’s, Cathy Vincent-Smith. Marcum was known for her love of Spanish and was well advanced in the language, Smith said. The AU professor was known to travel frequently to Spain and Latin American countries, immersing herself in the language and culture. The class was one way to improve her already well-developed skills, according to Vincent-Smith.

The two began spending more time together outside of the classroom, and Landeros started tutoring Marcum privately in Spanish and in yoga – a practice for which he had chosen to pursue over his previous career as a stock broker, Myers said.

Before Marcum relocated to her Bethesda home, Marcum lived in a townhome in Tyson’s Corner, according to Myers. “He would go to her house in Tyson’s Corner every morning, at four or five in the morning, and they would do yoga together,” Myers said.

 The two also enjoyed cooking Spanish food together and practiced mediation, added Vincent-Smith, saying “I think he expanded her mind to things that she hadn’t been involved with before.” 

Myers recalled the first time she heard her friend Marcum mention Landeros. It was in 2005, and she, Vincent-Smith and Marcum had gone out for lunch. “She talked about him for two hours straight,” Myers said. “She just went on and on about him.”

Later, Landeros painted Marcum an abstract picture which she displayed prominently in her Tyson’s Corner home, Myers said. Landeros also gave Marcum numerous books in Spanish, according to Vincent-Smith.

“He was really mentoring her not only to learn to speak Spanish but to read poetry and novels in Spanish,” Vincent-Smith said. “She wanted to know every aspect of it. Her goal was to be able to think in Spanish.”

Several years ago, the two traveled to Argentina together. When Marcum was away, Landeros often stayed in her home to watch her cats, Myers said. When Landeros traveled back to his hometown of Juarez, Mexico, Marcum worried about his safety in the violent city,Vincent-Smith said. Soon, it seemed as though everywhere Marcum was, Landeros was with her, according to Myers.

While Vincent-Smith and Myers believe the relationship between the two was never a romantic one, “It was no secret that she was very close to him, she was very attached to him,” Myers said.

But Myers said that Landeros was known for his unstable behavior. He often flitted quickly from one interest to the next, whether it was poetry or yoga, Myers said. 

“He was so unstable, and she was stable. She was a normal, functioning person,” Myers said. “But if you get so sucked in with someone who is unstable, it becomes your reality. If someone’s acting crazy and you’re with them all the time, it becomes your reality.”

In the months before her death, both Vincent-Smith and Marcum said they weren’t sure about the status of the relationship between Marcum and Landeros. Marcum was busy teaching at American University and settling into her new home. And Vincent-Smith and Myers both said Marcum may have intentionally stopped talking about her relationship with Landeros with her friends.

“Despite the fact that she got caught up with him, she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Myers said. “She was a wonderful person and was so beloved by her students.”

Myers and Vincent-Smith both said they were not surprised to learn police now believe the crime was not a random one – something both suspected from the beginning of the investigation.

“Some of us had said, if she had stayed in Tyson’s Corner in her townhouse, this wouldn’t have happened,” Myers said. “But now we know it would have happened, because he was in her life. I just hope they find him and can bring him back. I just want him to pay.”

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