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Death takes toll on man's family

February 11, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Violet Rowland's eyes, which see only shadows, welled with tears Tuesday as she moved her fingers over the edges of a gold-framed photograph.

The 81-year-old woman, who is legally blind, knew the frame held a picture of her only son, Jeffrey Rowland, who was killed more than four years ago on the C&O Canal towpath near Sandy Hook.

Her son's body was found by a jogger on Nov. 15, 2002. No arrests have been made in connection with his death.

The Washington County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the homicide, still gets tips on the case, but no leads substantial enough to warrant charges, said Lt. Mark Knight, supervisor of the department's criminal investigations division.

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"We keep getting little tips here and there from West Virginia, but nothing really pans out," Knight said.

Knight would not release how Rowland was killed, saying he hopes that information, and other details of Rowland's death, might one day be revealed by his assailant.

Phone calls to Rowland's family from investigators in Washington County and in West Virginia began to wane about six months after Rowland died, his family said Tuesday.

His brother-in-law, Ronald Rodgers, said he was glad Rowland's body was discovered, only because it brought some closure, but said he doesn't expect anyone will be charged with his death.

"Sometimes, you just get a feeling," he explained.

'Those ornery things'

Jeffrey Rowland's sister, Faye Rodgers, said her brother's death has taken a toll on their mother, whose husband, Francis Rowland, died two years after his son.

"She's really aged since this happened," Faye Rodgers said. "She talks to herself about him. One day, I heard her say, 'I don't know why they had to go and kill him, those ornery things.'"

On another day, Violet Rowland questioned whether she had "a little boy," which nearly brought a sympathetic Faye Rodgers to tears.

The Rodgerses and Violet Rowland live together in Jeffrey Rowland's former home in Charles Town.

Jeffrey Rowland lived there while he cared for his ill father. He would stop by his parents' Bolivar, W.Va., house after walking the towpath after work.

On the night of Nov. 14, 2002, Rowland's worried father called his daughter about 8 p.m. and asked if Rodgers had seen him. Faye Rodgers recalled suggesting that maybe he had a teacher's meeting and was delayed, but when her father called again, more than an hour later, she began to worry.

The next morning, Rodgers went to a Jefferson County, W.Va., police department to file a missing person report, but as she waited, she was approached by a police officer. He told her they had found a body and needed her brother's description.

"I knew very well it was him," she said.

Rodgers said she was overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy that followed her brother's death.

A line of Jeffrey Rowland's Wright Denny Elementary School students formed for his funeral service, she said. Rodgers said Rowland's attic is filled with his collectibles: Albums, namely of The Monkees and The Carpenters, and presents from the countless schoolchildren he taught.

"Everybody loved him except one person, whoever the hell that was," she said.

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