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He was 'a family man'

Hundreds gather to remember slain correctional officer

Hundreds gather to remember slain correctional officer

February 01, 2006|By PEPPER BALLARD and ERIN CUNNINGHAM

INWOOD, W.VA.

pepperb@herald-mail.com

erinc@herald-mail.com

His fellow correctional officers respected him.

His supervisor was proud to know him.

And the inmates in his detail at Roxbury Correctional Institution cried when they heard he had been killed.

Hundreds gathered Tuesday at an Inwood, W.Va., funeral home to remember Roxbury Correctional Institution Officer Jeffery Alan Wroten, who was shot Thursday while guarding an inmate at Washington County Hospital. Wroten died Friday.

"I loved that man like a brother," said William Kirby, an RCI correctional officer who often worked with Wroten.

Kirby, 35, of Williamsport, was selected to be one of Wroten's pallbearers at today's funeral.

"He was a great man ... a family man," Kirby said.

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Wroten, 44, who lived in Martinsburg, W.Va., had five children.

"He was one of the most decent men to ever put on a uniform," Maj. Larry Miller said.

Miller was Wroten's supervisor at RCI. Wroten was well-known in the prison, by most because he checked their bags on their way into the prison. As they started their shifts, Wroten often was the first person they saw. Most said he always had a joke, a kind word and a smile.

Paul Shelton of Martinsburg, a retired correctional officer at RCI, said Wroten would say, "I've been waiting for you all day," as officers walked over to have their bags checked.

"He was one of the most respected officers there," Miller said. "He was a man of character."

Wroten worked the midnight shift with about 67 other correctional officers. Miller said inmates respected and cared for Wroten because he was a fair officer.

"His inmate detail, they cried alligator tears over this happening," Miller said.

Kirby last spoke with Wroten two days before his death. He will return to work Sunday for the first time without his friend.

"That's going to be hard," he said. "Knowing he's not going to be coming through that door."

Division of Correction Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr., who was at the funeral home, said correctional officers across the state will need time to recover from the sudden loss of one of their own.

"There is a healing process, and I will do whatever is necessary to support the staff because I understand what they're feeling," he said.

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich was at the funeral home for about 30 minutes but declined to comment.

Sgt. Gary Heerd of Martinsburg, who works at RCI, said he knows Wroten will be missed.

"He made it a lot easier to come to work," he said.

When Richard Dagenhart, 51, an RCI correctional officer, came to work most days, Wroten would tease him about the donuts he brought his fellow officers.

"He would say I didn't bring in the right kind of donuts," he said. "I think he wanted Krispy Kreme."

Now, Dagenhart said when someone mentions donuts, he things of Wroten.

"He was just really pleasant," he said. "He would just get your day started right."

Those who knew him said Wroten was committed to his family and often talked about his children. Miller said while Wroten was an excellent officer, it was obvious that he was always eager to return home to his children.

"All he could talk about was his kids," said Correctional Officer Dave Penwell of Martinsburg, who worked at RCI. "He was just a good man."

Two weeks ago, Ron Young, 78, saw Wroten at church, with two of his children by his side. Wroten was a devoted member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Martinsburg.

Young, who knew Wroten for about six years through church, will deliver his eulogy today. Funeral services at the church at 1050 Lovelace Way in Martinsburg begin at 10 a.m.

Kristin Motter, of Falling Waters, W.Va., said she attended church with Wroten and was a family friend. Motter said faith was very important to him and his family.

"I think their faith is really what is getting the family through this," she said.

Sizer said he ordered prisons across the state to be locked down from noon Tuesday until breakfast Thursday so officers from across the state could attend the funeral home gathering and Wroten's funeral.

The inmate who allegedly shot Wroten has not been charged in his death. Brandon Morris, 20, was being held Tuesday at the Maryland Correctional Adjustment Center in Baltimore.

Morris was serving an eight-year sentence for robbery, assault and weapons convictions.

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