Durango resident Jacob Shepherd, 22, died Monday by suicide, according to La Plata County Coroner Jann Smith.
Shepherd is survived by a wife and young daughter, she said.
He was working as a dental assistant at Dental Associates of the Southwest at the time of his death.
“Jake meant a lot to me,” said Dr. Chris Wenburg, owner and associate of the dental practice. “His young daughter was the drive of his life.”
Shepherd attended Escalante Middle School, where he was an honor-roll student, and graduated from Durango High School, where he was a pitcher on the Demons’ varsity baseball team. He received a scholarship for his skills on the diamond at Trinidad State Junior College along with his twin brother, Kyle.
“He was a hard worker and excelled at school,” Wenburg said.
Shepherd was getting ready to start his final year at Fort Lewis College, where he was majoring in cellular and molecular biology. Wenburg said he had recently written recommendations for Shepherd for dental school.
“I didn’t have him in class,” FLC biology professor John Condie said, “but there were a lot of tears shed in the department when we got the news (Tuesday).”
Shepherd had decided to become a dentist after volunteering at the La Plata Community Clinic and working at Dental Associates since June 2014.
“When he was writing his letter about his intentions while applying to dental school,” Wenburg said, “he said he was changed when volunteering there, and with the birth of his daughter, he wanted to do everything he could for her.”
Shepherd is the fifth suicide in 2015 in La Plata County, Smith said.
In 2014, 10 people died by suicide in the county.
In 2012, Colorado reached a record high in suicides at 1,053, with 16 in La Plata County, Smith said. In 2013, Colorado had the sixth-highest suicide rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Several community groups are working on creating resources for people struggling with thoughts of suicide, family members and friends who are worried about someone who might be having suicidal thoughts and support for people who have lost someone to suicide.