Police: Murder Suspect Troubled — (Syracuse Post-Standard)

SSRI Ed note: Man separates from wife, has troubles with parents, gets medication for depression, "snaps" one day and guns them down with BBQ dinner ready.

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The Syracuse Post-Standard,  (NY)

Saturday, May 25, 1991

Author: SCOTT SCANLON, The Post-Standard

State police are delving into the mental history of a 22-year-old Constantia man accused of gunning down his parents Thursday night in their home on state Route 49.

Steven Rowe was a loner — a quiet, troubled man who did not get along well with his parents and who split up with his wife, Lori, about two months ago, police said.

“The situation between Steven and his parents was somewhat volatile,” state police Investigator Joseph Loszynski said. Problems first arose about two years ago, he said, declining to elaborate.

Those difficulties exploded in an argument and then a hail of gunfire at 6:30 p.m. Thursday shortly before Steven and his parents, 45-year-old Harold Rowe Jr. and 43-year-old Linda Rowe, were to sit down for a chicken barbecue, police said.

Dan Redmond, a neighbor who car-pooled to Carrier Corp. in Syracuse with Harold Rowe for several years, said Steven Rowe had been diagnosed as being depressed at one time. He also said Rowe was hospitalized about a year ago and had been taking medication for depression.  “That was not a secret,” he said.

Redmond said police who were interviewing relatives and neighbors Thursday night were dwelling on questions about why Steven Rowe snapped.

“We all know Steve was depressed about certain things,” Redmond said.

Two months ago, Rowe separated from his wife — leaving her with their 8-month-old son, Matthew — and moved home with his parents, police said.

According to Loszynski, Steven Rowe loaded his father’s .30-.30 caliber rifle — which holds several bullets and has  “rapid-fire” pump action — and shot his parents near the bottom of the basement stairs in a family room.

He was arraigned in Constantia Town Court at 1:30 a.m. Friday by Justice Warren Bader on two counts of second-degree murder, and is being held without bail in the Oswego County Jail.

Both parents died from multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, Onondaga County Medical Examiner Erik Mitchell determined Friday afternoon.

Steven Rowe called state police to report the shooting and, when troopers arrived, calmly walked out the front door unarmed and offered no resistance, police said. He seemed docile and did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, police said.

One source close to the investigation, who asked not to be named, described the inside of the house as “quiet, almost serene.”

A Jim Belushi movie was still playing on the VCR. A freshly cooked barbecued chicken, still warm, sat on a kitchen counter. The kitchen table was set for four people, but 17-year-old Scott Rowe, Steven’s only brother, decided to leave before dinner. A rifle lay on the floor near a kitchen telephone.

“The question now is not who did this and how it was done, but why,” said the source.

“We are doing extensive background regarding … his mental stability,” Loszynski said. He said investigators were “relatively comfortable” with evidence from Rowe’s medical history, but declined to discuss his mental state until court proceedings continue.

A court official said Rowe had no criminal record in Oswego County.

Loszynski would not say what Rowe told police between the time he was arrested and the first time he met with his court-appointed lawyer, Paul Pelkey of Oswego, at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Judge Bader said a one-page arraignment report indicated Rowe admitted to the shootings, “but it doesn’t go into detail.”

Rowe asked state police for a lawyer shortly after they arrived at the house, according to Assistant District Attorney Sigmund Mazur, who was present at the shooting scene.

“Any statement he made (without a lawyer present) could not be used against him of course,” Pelkey said Friday afternoon.

Assistant District Attorney James T. Foody, who will handle the prosecution, said any statements made before Rowe asked for a lawyer could be used in court and he did not rule out using all of Rowe’s statements “if he takes the stand” in a trial.

Foody and state police said they would be ready to present evidence at a preliminary hearing in Constantia Town Court as early as Tuesday. Bader said a hearing is likely on Wednesday or Thursday to discuss new terms of bail.

Unless the district attorney’s office accepts a plea in the case, which is unlikely, a grand jury will convene as early as Friday to further examine the case. Should the grand jury hand up an indictment, Rowe would be re-arraigned in county court.

Family acquaintances said Friday that the Rowes were close-knit.

Harold Rowe Jr. was a football and wrestling star while at Paul V. Moore High School in Central Square, and his son Scott was following in his footsteps with recent successes in short-distance races on the high school track team.

“He’s the fastest kid on the track team,” said high school Assistant Athletic Director Hadwen Coughlin, adding that Steven Rowe tried out for some sports teams, but “didn’t stick with it.”

Harold and Linda Rowe also were known to brag about their 23-year-old daughter Sherri, who graduated from Syracuse University and is a nurse at House of the Good Samaritan hospital in Watertown.

Steven Rowe had less measurable success on both the school and job fronts, but neighbor Redmond said he still received the support of his parents. He was known as a hard worker while a student at the county Board of Cooperative Educational Services and went on from there to study automotive technology at SUNY Morrisville. He dropped out in May 1990, a school official said.

Six state police investigators on Friday continued to interview family members and others who knew the Rowes to glean a better picture of what went awry, state police Investigator Dennis Cooper said.

“Some questions we have,” he said,  “might never be answered.”

A community prayer service has been scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Constantia Congregational Church on Redfield Road.

Andrew Smith and J. Trout Lowen contributed to this report.

Record Number: 9105250030
Copyright, 1991, The Herald Company