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'Suspect' in slaying is missing

November 18, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Police investigating the shooting death of Wright Denny Intermediate School teacher Jeffrey L. Rowland say they have a "primary suspect" who was a close friend of the teacher.

Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober declined to offer more specifics about the person, other than to say he cannot be found.

"It appears the primary suspect has disappeared," Boober said. "It's a pretty interesting investigation so far."

Rowland, 43, of Charles Town, was found by a jogger Friday morning at the Weverton access, which is near the parking area at the end of Keep Tryst Road in the Sandy Hook area.

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He was shot once in the neck and probably died at the scene, Boober said.

Boober also released more information about the final moments that Rowland was seen alive.

Investigators were able to speak to a witness who saw Rowland at an area 7-Eleven store Thursday, the day police believe the teacher was killed near the C&O Canal Towpath near Sandy Hook, Boober said.

At about 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Rowland was seen at the 7-Eleven store at the intersection of W.Va. 115 and Jefferson Avenue, which is east of Charles Town, Boober said.

The witness said Rowland appeared to be waiting for someone, Boober said.

If Rowland was able to meet with someone at the convenience store, Boober believes it had something to do with Rowland's death, which occurred later Thursday.

Boober, as well as Washington County investigators, encouraged anyone who may know any information about Rowland's death to call them.

Boober said he is interested in knowing any information "no matter how trivial it is. Of course, if anyone is aware of that (7-Eleven) meeting, it would be very helpful if we can find out who these people are," Boober said.

Boober believes robbery was a likely motive for the slaying.

Rowland's wallet was missing from the scene, and he was found wearing the clothes he typically dresses in for work: a shirt, tie and slacks, Boober said.

Rowland, who taught at Wright Denny for 22 years, was described by colleagues as a dedicated teacher who went out of his way to make sure his students were happy and healthy. Rowland also spent a lot of time with students with special needs, colleagues said.

Fellow teachers have been stunned at the news and Cheryl Huff, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, described everyone at Wright Denny as being "in a fog" Friday.

Huff said Sunday that many people remained "so shocked" over Rowland's death and are finding it hard to accept.

The school's Crisis Intervention Team is expected to be at Wright Denny this week to help faculty and children who may be having trouble coping with Rowland's death, school officials said.

School officials said Sunday that Wright Denny will be closed Tuesday in observance of Rowland's death. School will be held today and Wednesday.

Investigators have spoken with about a dozen of Rowland's friends in an attempt determine why he was killed, Boober said.

"We have been going nonstop since Friday," Boober said.

A blue van with a broken passenger-side window found at the scene belonged to the victim, said lead investigator Greg Alton of the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"We don't believe he was killed inside his van," Alton said Sunday evening.

The damage to the van may be related to the homicide, Alton said. It was possible someone else may have broken into the van after Rowland was killed.

As to motive, Alton said investigators haven't ruled out anything yet.

"We are still interviewing friends and colleagues," Alton said. "We're urging people to come forward with information, no matter how small it might seem. It could be the key piece we have been looking for."

Anyone with information about Rowland's death can call the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department at 304-728-3205 or the Washington County Sheriff's Department at 301-791-3020.

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