Hopkins pauses to remember slain student Suspect denied bail

buses are chartered for funeral in N.Y.

April 13, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Michael James, Joan Jacobson and James Bock contributed to this article.

The shaded spot under the gnarled magnolia tree was covered with wilting bouquets of tulips, carnations and daisies yesterday, a subdued remembrance of the student shot to death in a few seconds of mayhem Wednesday night.

Quietly, the Johns Hopkins University students and faculty paid their respects, pausing at the roped off area along a student pathway near the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, where Rex T. Chao was killed shortly after being elected chairman of a college Republican club.

Students planned a private memorial service for next week. Buses were chartered to take the grieving to Long Island, N.Y., where the student leader is to be buried on Monday. University leaders, trying to ease the impact of the slaying, postponed exams and put off papers.

"A tragedy of this magnitude can lead to widespread grief, anger and depression within the Hopkins community," said Hopkins' president, Dr. Daniel Nathans, in a letter to students, faculty and staff.

Family and friends of the victim and the suspect, Robert J. Harwood Jr. of Bradford, R.I., tried to comprehend what happened that chilly night.

"It is a tragedy that a deranged person had to strike down such a wonderful young man," said the Rev. Kurt Von Roeschlaub, rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Port Washington, N.Y., where the Chao family is devoutly active.

Beverly Harwood, Mr. Harwood's grandmother, said her

family's "hearts go out to the Chao family. I always said there is nothing in God's world that can be worse than losing a child. They've lost a son, and, basically, we've lost, too."

Earlier yesterday, Mr. Harwood, a 22-year-old chemistry major who had tried to thwart the election of his estranged friend to lead the Hopkins College Republicans, lost his bid to be released from jail pending his trial.

Appearing calm at his afternoon court appearance, wearing an Oxford cloth shirt with a button-down collar, the Rhode Island native asked through his lawyer to be released on $250,000 bail. He is charged with first-degree murder and a handgun violation. "I'm not saying that the charge isn't serious, judge. It's extremely serious," attorney Michael E. Kaminkow said. "But I do not consider [Mr. Harwood] to be a risk of flight."

District Court Judge Keith E. Mathews was unswayed. "The charge involves laying in wait and premeditation. . . . I see no reason to change the bail status," he said.

The hearing capped a day of questioning for college students and friends and family members of the dead man. Most troubling among them was how the close friendship between Mr. Chao and Mr. Harwood could have inexplicably dissolved.

"They were good friends and something snapped," said Amy Claire Brusch, 20, a sophomore and political science major who was friends with the victim and the suspect.

Mr. Chao's father, Robert Chao, said Thursday that his son had tried to end the friendship once Mr. Harwood became too controlling and possessive. But then, Mr. Harwood began harassing him by phone and electronic mail, Robert Chao said.

The dispute came to the attention of university officials, who had brokered an agreement that required Mr. Harwood -- who had completed his course work in December and was to graduate in May -- to notify them when he returned to campus.

Yesterday, university spokesman Dennis O'Shea refused to comment further, but he said there had been no indication of violence. He would not say whether school officials had told Mr. Chao of Mr. Harwood's impending visit.

Mr. Harwood, who lived with his grandparents in Rhode Island, came to Maryland on Wednesday to attend the Republican club meeting at Shriver Hall. Participants said his arrival was not unexpected.

Police said Mr. Harwood distributed literature at the meeting that "maliciously attacked the character of Mr. Chao."

Mr. Chao, 19, was fatally shot in the head and chest just off a well-traveled student path overlooking Charles Street after he walked out of the meeting with his girlfriend, Suzanne Hubbard, a 20-year-old Hopkins sophomore.

Police had said that Ms. Hubbard, who witnessed the slaying but was not harmed, had dated Mr. Harwood. But Ms. Hubbard's mother, Linda, said yesterday that her daughter "was not ever a friend of his and had not met him until the night of the murder."

Ms. Brusch, secretary for the Hopkins College Republicans, said the dispute had nothing to do with Mr. Chao's girlfriend.

"There were a bunch of things that led up to it," said Ms. Brusch, adding that the suspect might have sought a relationship with Mr. Chao that went beyond friendship. "Rex never made any reference to specific advances," she said. "He alluded to it. I think he kind of thought it, but he didn't say anything."

A student who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the victim and the suspect "were very close, and then all of a sudden Rex distanced himself from Bob and didn't give a reason."

Mr. Harwood's lawyer refused to be interviewed yesterday, but he said through his secretary that he would make a statement later.

A viewing will take place at Knowles Funeral Home, 128 Main St., in Port Washington, N.Y., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church at 9 Carlton Ave. in Port Washington.

The Chao family has asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be sent to either Applehill Center for Chamber Music, P.O. Box 217, East Sullivan, N.H. 03445, or to St. Stephen's Music Fund at the Port Washington church.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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