Johns Hopkins Gazette: July 21, 1997

Rex Chao Murderer
Sentenced to 35

On July 16, Robert J. Harwood Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and a handgun violation in the April 10, 1996, killing of Rex Chao.

As part of the plea agreement, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

"Our thoughts at this time are with Rex's family and his many friends," said Steve Libowitz, director of News and Information. "We hope they are comforted by not having to endure a trial."

Chao, a sophomore in Arts and Sciences, and Harwood, a senior, who had completed his course work toward a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, had been close friends until several months before the shooting. When Chao tried to end their friendship, Harwood pressed him to maintain contact.

The night before a scheduled meeting with the dean of students, Susan Boswell, Harwood returned to campus from his Rhode Island home. Outside a meeting of the College Republicans, in which both he and Chao were very active, Harwood passed out leaflets questioning Chao's moral character. After the meeting, Chao refused to speak with Harwood, who then followed him and his friend Suzanne Hubbard across campus. Harwood then shot Chao in the back of the head, rolled him over and shot him again in the chest.

Chao's parents, who were not present when Harwood entered his guilty plea, said in a statement:

"Robert Harwood has taken more than Rex's life; he has taken from us our hope, our pride and our future. Our lives are shattered forever and will never again be whole.

"We appreciate the consideration extended to us by the prosecutors throughout the process and concur with the plea-bargain large part because a trial would be too painful and devastating to our entire family. We also know that no trial could bring our son back."

With the criminal case resolved, Boswell has informed Harwood she will now proceed with the university's disciplinary case against him. She said she will decide by Aug. 1 if he will be expelled.

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