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Wroten's death leaves many 'devastated'

January 29, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Some friends of Jeffery Alan Wroten said they are saddened about losing their friend, co-worker and church member, but are even more concerned about how his five children will deal with his death.

The 44-year-old Roxbury Correctional Institution correctional officer was shot in the face Thursday by an inmate he was guarding at Washington County Hospital, police allege. Wroten, who had been listed in critical condition at the same hospital, was pronounced dead Friday, but prison officials withheld announcing his death until Saturday so his children could be told by his ex-wife of his death.

"The world kind of rose and set on his children," said David Smith, who attended the Martinsburg, W.Va., ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with Wroten.

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Wroten, who lived in Martinsburg, is survived by five children, ages 5 to 15, Maryland Division of Correction Spokeswoman Maj. Priscilla Doggett said. Doggett has been asked to be the family's spokeswoman, she announced at a press conference Saturday.

Larry D. Kump also attended the church with Wroten. Kump also is a caseworker at Roxbury and Chapter 67 president of Public Safety, Non-Custody Employees of the Maryland Classified Employees Association.

Kump said emotions were "really raw" at the prison Saturday.

"Some of my co-workers have been devastated," he said.

Wroten, whom he described as a "gentle giant," was very security conscious and a "true correctional officer," he said.

Kump said he talked to Wroten the morning before he died. He said the officer was not supposed to work the morning he was shot, but volunteered.

"With the nature of the wound he got, it's probably a blessing that he passed," Kump said. "His quality of life would have been questionable at best."

At this point, though, Kump said he turns his concern to Wroten's children.

Smith, the church's Young Mens' President, and Kump said Wroten had just gone through a divorce. Despite his hard times, "he was a very upbeat person," Smith said.

He said, "It's just very sad it ended the way it did."

Dorothy Keys was a nursery leader at the church and watched his children grow up, she said.

She said that once she learned Wroten was the correctional officer shot, she was shocked and saddened.

"I had been praying for him all day long and hoping," she said. Keys did not know Wroten died until she was called by The Herald-Mail Saturday.

She had trouble finding words.

"His family. All I can think about is his children, just ... just how devastating this will be for them," she said.

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