Friends, family of trooper are exhausted, relieved


ELLICOTT CITY -- Like the state troopers around her, Virginia Wolf did not smile or show any signs of exultation as her husband's killer was convicted of first-degree murder.

And just as she showed no sign of relief, Eric Joseph Tirado showed no sign of remorse upon hearing the guilty verdict. He remained expressionless and calm, as though he had heard nothing at all.

"I expected some remorse out of him. Something to show he felt bad," said Sgt. Tom Coppinger, one of Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf's best friends, who watched in the courtroom. "He showed none."

The trial was to be a catharsis for the Maryland State Police and for Mrs. Wolf, who sat through five weeks of testimony illustrating how and when Corporal Wolf was shot in the face on March 29, 1990. But in the aftermath, she and the slain trooper's friends were as quiet as on the day they had entered the courtroom.

One of about 15 reporters outside the Howard County Circuit Court asked the widow whether Tirado's conviction and the culmination of the trial meant "a resolution" for her and her family.

With tears faintly evident in her eyes, she said, "I hope so. I don't know."

Her statements were brief and she seemed exhausted as she was escorted by troopers, most of whom had little to say about the verdict.

Even Chuck Jackson, state police spokesman, refused to talk about the trial and the verdict, saying only, "Obviously we're pleased, but I don't want to say anything about it at all."

Sgt. Robert Scruggs, who had been stationed for a time at the Waterloo barracks with Corporal Wolf and assisted in the investigation of his slaying, said the conviction was good news for state troopers everywhere. But revenge against his killer held no answers, he said.

"Feeling that way is not going to bring Ted Wolf back to life," Sergeant Scruggs said.

But Sergeant Coppinger, the lead investigator on the case, said no trooper will feel that the ordeal is over unless Tirado receives the death penalty.

"It's a real big relief to get a conviction," said Sergeant Coppinger, who knew Corporal Wolf for eight years. "But we're still feeling some stress about what's yet to come."

About 8:45 p.m., four police cars roared down U.S. 1 south past the Waterloo barracks, where Corporal Wolf had been stationed, their lights flashing and sirens blaring. One of those cars was taking Tirado back to the County Detention Center.

Lt. Douglas Deleaber has been the commander in charge of the transport team for Tirado since the trial began May 3. He said Tirado showed no emotion on the trip back after the verdict. "I've been with him since May 3, and that's been it," he said. "No emotion."

Corporal Paros, the barracks' public information officer, said that when he heard about the verdict over his radio, he was on a traffic stop -- on Interstate 95, "about 25 yards from where he [Corporal Wolf] was killed."

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