The man convicted in the sadomasochistic death in 1996 of a Carroll County woman he met in an Internet chat room has died in a North Carolina prison of an apparent heart attack, officials there said.
Robert Frederick Glass, 51, was found dead Sunday at the Avery Mitchell Correctional Facility at Spruce Pines, N.C., according to the prison records office and W. Andrew Jennings, an assistant district attorney for Caldwell County who prosecuted the case.
"I think it was the first Internet homicide that was filed, where a murder charge was filed," said Jennings.
In October 1996, Sharon Rena Lopatka, 35, of Hampstead told her family she was going to visit friends in Georgia but left a note for her husband, saying she would not be back and asking him not to go after Glass, according to court records and Maryland State Police. Investigators retrieved electronic mail about her fantasies of being sexually tortured to death after her husband reported her missing Oct. 20.
Five days later, North Carolina authorities found her body in a shallow grave at Glass' trailer. A computer programmer, Glass lived in the tiny community of Collettesville, about 15 miles from Lenoir.
Glass met Lopatka over the computer and picked her up at a train station Oct. 13, he later told investigators, saying she died accidentally three days later - strangled during intercourse as they pulled on a nylon cord that she had looped around her neck.
After Glass was jailed on first-degree murder charges, additional state and federal charges were filed after investigators found child pornography on his computer, Jennings said. Glass remained in the county jail until January 2000, when he entered guilty pleas to voluntary manslaughter and to state child-pornography charges.
Glass was at the low end of sentencing guidelines because he had no criminal record or other aggravating circumstances, except one: committing an especially heinous or atrocious act, the prosecutor said.
With credit for his pretrial incarceration, Glass was to complete his state sentences next month and to begin serving a consecutive 27-month sentence on the federal child-pornography conviction.
Victor Lopatka, the victim's husband, could not be reached yesterday. He had said at the time of the guilty pleas that the family wanted the matter ended, although they did not believe the account Glass gave.
Jennings said he had heard nothing from Glass in the two years since those pleas.
"He never filed any other court documents regarding the state convictions," the prosecutor said. "Here, he was a model prisoner at the Caldwell County Detention Facility. He had books that he read, he was very interested in computers - that was his job. From the information we had here, he was a very intelligent man.
"He never had any trouble in prison or custody, nothing that we heard about."