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Area where man slain said to be gay hangout

November 20, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Police and county officials said this week the area where a West Virginia teacher was found shot to death Friday was a known meeting place for homosexual men, but a West Virginia police official said he believes robbery was the motive.

Jeffrey L. Rowland, 43, of Charles Town, W.Va., was found dead from a gunshot wound to the neck just off the C&O Canal Weverton access at the end of Keep Tryst Road in the Sandy Hook area. Washington County police said they have arrested people for assault and loitering there over the last several years.

"At this point we still don't have a motive," Washington County Sheriff's Department investigator Greg Alton said Tuesday. "We're still looking at all different angles."

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Alton said the department took evidence from the scene and the autopsy to the Maryland State Police Crime Lab in Pikesville, Md., on Tuesday.

Jefferson County Sheriff Everett "Ed" Boober said Tuesday he believes robbery was the motive. Both police agencies are investigating.

Rowland taught fourth-grade at Wright Denny Intermediate School in Charles Town.

The site where Rowland's body was found is in Washington County, about 30 miles south of Hagerstown.

Maryland State Police Sgt. Mike Hegedus said the site has been a problem area for the last three to five years.

Men have been known to hang out in the area, Hegedus said.

He said state police have conducted undercover stings in response to residents' complaints.

"We've swamped that area with marked cars and unmarked cars" over the last several years, he said.

The Maryland State Highway Administration has put up no loitering signs in the area.

Hegedus said loiterers are known to visit the area at all hours of the day, but most show up during the daylight hours.

Washington County Commissioner William J. Wivell said he has heard concerns from residents that the site is a known hangout for homosexual men, and that the county has had problems with illegal dumping and drug use there.

He said he forwarded the concerns to the Washington County Sheriff's Department. "They're aware of the situation there," Wivell said.

Keep Tryst Road resident Helen Foster said Friday that residents have complained about the activity at the end of the road for several years.

She said a lack of lighting on the road makes it a target for vandals and makes it easy for people to meet there.

She claimed that state troopers and sheriff's deputies rarely patrol the area.

"We need attention here," Foster said. "We need police."

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said this week he wasn't aware of problems on Keep Tryst Road but said it would be difficult for deputies patrol it often.

"There's probably not a whole lot of high traffic in that area," he said. "I don't think we can keep an officer down there."

Snook referred questions about the site to Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades, who could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.

Hegedus said the area is patrolled by state police as often as possible, but with limited personnel, troopers usually focus on areas where more illegal activity occurs.

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