Hopkins slaying yields innocent plea Man is charged in shooting death of fellow student

Trial set for Oct. 2

'No leniency' asked by mother of victim's girlfriend

June 14, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Robert John Harwood Jr., accused of killing a fellow Johns Hopkins University student outside the campus library this spring, pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder yesterday as the mother of the victim's girlfriend said he should receive "no leniency."

Wearing a white striped shirt, khaki pants and glasses, Harwood appeared downcast as he walked into Judge John C. Themelis' courtroom yesterday, looking as if he were headed for the chemistry lab instead of facing serious criminal charges.

Harwood, 22, is charged with shooting his former friend Rex Chao, 19, twice with a .357 magnum as Chao's girlfriend watched in horror after a college Republican club meeting April 10.

Harwood and Chao had forged an intense friendship at Hopkins that deteriorated last winter, when Chao, who had become involved with Hopkins student Suzanne Hubbard, tried to break off communication. In the weeks leading up to the killing, Chao and Hubbard had a series of meetings with Susan K. Boswell, the Hopkins dean of students, expressing concern that Harwood was obsessively contacting Chao by electronic mail and telephone and that he had a gun.

The two men, who were devoted to Republican politics, at one point were so close that they called each other "Big Brother" and "Little Brother."

In an e-mail message last year, Chao wrote to Harwood: "I am forever grateful and indebted to you, and my pride in knowing you and my support and love for you transcend the written word."

Yesterday, Harwood adjusted his glasses and swallowed several times as an indictment against him was read and his lawyer, Michael E. Kaminkow, entered a plea of not guilty. His trial was set for Oct. 2.

Linda Hubbard, Suzanne Hubbard's mother, watched Harwood's brief appearance intently yesterday, as did two of Chao's college roommates and a lawyer who said she was monitoring the proceedings on behalf of Chao's parents, who live in Port Washington, N.Y.

Linda Hubbard said she would like to see Hopkins take the lead nationally in telling students they cannot settle disputes with guns.

She said she would like to see Hopkins require students to sign a form as they enroll saying they will not bring guns to campus.

"I'm hoping that they really focus on dealing with harassment so that when students do come [forward], like Suzanne and Rex did, that they listen and take more action," Hubbard said. "Harassment and gun control are something that the universities think they don't have to deal with."

University officials have said that after the trial, they plan to review how conflicts between students are handled.

Kaminkow said his client was keeping busy in the Baltimore City Detention Center, where he is being held without bail, teaching math and helping other detainees write letters.

"He's surviving in there," Kaminkow said.

The lawyer said Harwood, who is from Bradford, R.I., had been evaluated by a psychologist and a psychiatrist but had not received the results of the evaluations.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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