Morning rush-hour traffic on Interstate 95 slowed to a crawl yesterday as motorists strained to read a homemade billboard in the median strip.
"Trooper Ted Wolf was murdered here. One of his killers will be eligible for parole in 15 years. Think about it."
The 4-by-6 white sign with red lettering was placed just south of the Route 175 overpass where state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf was shot twice in the head while sitting in his cruiser during a traffic stop March 29, 1990.
The killer referred to in the sign is Francisco Rodriguez, 21, who pleaded guilty in January to first-degree murder in Corporal Wolf's death, and was sentenced to life in prison. As part of the plea, his sentence will run concurrently with a 15-year federal sentence on unrelated drug charges. Rodriguez began serving that sentence in June 1991.
Under Maryland parole guidelines, he will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Eric Tirado, 27, was identified as the gunman in the killing and was convicted of first-degree murder. He is serving a sentence of life without parole.
No one is taking credit for placing the sign, but Corporal Wolf's widow said she approves of the gesture and would like to know who is responsible.
"I'd like to at least thank the person," Virginia Wolf said. She speculated that the sign might have been placed to commemorate her husband's birthday March 2.
Capt. Thomas Bosley, of the state police barracks in Waterloo where Corporal Wolf was assigned, said he didn't know who put up the sign.
"Trooper Wolf was a very popular individual here at the barracks and the sign tends to bring back old memories," Captain Bosley said.
State Highway Administration workers planned to remove the illegally placed sign, said Liz Ziemski, SHA public affairs director.
"We certainly understand the sentiment but we want to make sure something like that doesn't endanger motorists or cause a distraction," Ms. Ziemski said.
The plea in the Rodriguez case angered Mrs. Wolf, who has criticized the leniency of the sentence and the sealing of the plea at the request of the state.
The Sun unsuccessfully tried to have terms of the plea made public. Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr., who sealed the plea, denied the request, although he did unseal minor portions of it.
A court transcript of the plea hearing indicates that the plea was sealed to protect Rodriguez because he will be cooperating with law enforcement authorities.