Family of man shot to death sues his killer Shooter's wife was victim's lover

May 19, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

The family of a Hampstead man who was shot to death by hi lover's husband two years ago is suing the killer for $1 million in Carroll Circuit Court.

In papers filed late Monday, Steven Edgar Rupp's mother, former wife, and two teen-age children are seeking damages from Charles Albert Rhodes, who is serving 15 years in state prison after pleading guilty to killing Mr. Rupp on April 6, 1991.

The killer's wife and Mr. Rupp's lover, Dorothy Jeanne Rhodes, also is named as a defendant in the three-count suit.

"The plaintiffs did suffer severe emotional trauma, resulting in their need for counseling, and do continue to experience emotional distress," the suit says.

Mary JoAnne Rupp, her sons Jacob Steven Rupp, 14, and Lucas Martin Rupp, 13, and Mr. Rupp's mother, Louella Rupp, claim that Rhodes shattered a "close, warm and loving relationship" with his sons when he killed Mr. Rupp in a heated argument. They also claim that Mrs. Rhodes should have warned Mr. Rupp about the possibility of being shot that night.

"Dorothy Jeanne Rhodes' failure to warn Steven Edgar Rupp of the latent danger of the defendant . . . lurking with a gun" resulted in the shooting, the suit says.

"This is crazy," Mrs. Rhodes said yesterday, when she learned of the lawsuit. "This is crazy, there's no sense in this. Steve's gone, and he's in a better place now. He hated it here."

She had not seen a copy of the suit.

"They want a million dollars? If I had that kind of money, I wouldn't be in Hampstead. I'd have left a long time ago," she said.

The suit claims "there were no acts on the part of Steven Edgar Rupp which contributed" to his death.

Rhodes, 44, shot Mr. Rupp twice in the face after an argument on April 6, 1991 that grew out of a love triangle involving the two men and Mrs. Rhodes.

For nearly six years, Mr. Rupp lived with Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes in the couple's Hampstead home. Mr. Rhodes' bedroom was in the basement, while Mr. Rupp and Mrs. Rhodes shared a room upstairs.

The night of the slaying, Mr. Rupp and Mrs. Rhodes were drinking beer and talking with Rhodes in the kitchen when Mr. Rupp and Mrs. Rhodes got into an argument. As it escalated, Mr. Rupp grabbed Mrs. Rhodes' hair and slammed her face on a kitchen table.

Rhodes and Mr. Rupp fought briefly, until Mr. Rupp left the kitchen and went into a bedroom down the hall. Rhodes went to his bedroom, loaded his 20-gauge shotgun and went back to wait for Mr. Rupp.

When Mr. Rupp appeared in the hallway, Rhodes attempted to fire the gun but couldn't because the safety was on. He released the safety and shot Mr. Rupp twice in the face.

The three were drunk at the time of the argument, court records say. An autopsy report said Mr. Rupp's blood-alcohol level was between 0.29 percent and 0.37 percent.

Rhodes pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in October in exchange for a prison sentence of no more than 15 years.

According to testimony and court records, Rhodes -- who also is the father of two children -- had wanted to give Mr. Rupp a stable place to live where he could recover from his divorce. The two were best friends in high school, and their families were close. Mr. Rupp was Rhodes' best man at his and Dorothy Jean's wedding.

At Rhodes' sentencing hearing in December, he turned to Mr. Rupp's mother and, with tears streaming down his face, apologized to her and the entire Rupp family.

"I love you all, but you know that. I'm so sorry," he said.

Hampstead attorney Elwood E. Swam, who represents the plaintiffs in the civil suit, declined to comment on it yesterday. So did Carroll Public Defender Barbara M. Kreinar, who represented Rhodes during his criminal trial.

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