Rebecca Griego called her ex-boyfriend Jonathan Rowan "a psycho from the past. " He wouldn't stop calling her office at the University of...
Rebecca Griego called her ex-boyfriend Jonathan Rowan “a psycho from the past.” He wouldn’t stop calling her office at the University of Washington. When she no longer would answer the phone, he harassed her sister and threatened to kidnap her dogs.
Griego, 26, did what she could to avoid her 41-year-old stalker, whom she described as a suicidal alcoholic who had grown increasingly menacing. She obtained a domestic-violence protection order March 6, changed addresses and phone numbers and asked co-workers to watch out for him.
On Monday morning, Rowan found Griego alone in her fourth-floor office in Gould Hall and fatally shot her before killing himself.
Griego was a program coordinator at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning and recently had shepherded a design team to victory in a regional competition.
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But for months she had lived in fear of Rowan, who was angry over her efforts to break off contact.
In police reports and court papers, Griego said she dated Rowan for four years starting in 2000. Although the relationship ended in 2004, they shared a home until earlier this year.
Rowan is described in court documents as a British immigrant who had lived in the United States for 10 years, telling friends he couldn’t go back to England. According to the documents, he wore tinted glasses, stuttered when nervous and had a pot belly. He sometimes went by the names Robert Richardson and Nathan Rowan.
He was an alcoholic, according to Griego, and police reports say he was arrested last June for drunken driving after ignoring a stop sign and trying to run from police. His blood-alcohol content was measured at more than three times the legal limit.
In January, Griego said, she came home to find Rowan drunk. Rowan threw candlesticks at her and tackled her to the floor, punching her, according to documents she filed seeking a protection order.
“I forgave him because he was drunk, but now I see that was wrong and he has threatened to hurt me again,” she said, according to the court papers filed in King County Superior Court. She also reported that he had hurt her in a fight more than a year earlier, shoving her and slamming her ankle in a door.
Griego and her sister, Rachel, both sought protection orders against Rowan last month. They called him “very dangerous,” citing his past violence, and said he left phone messages threatening to kill himself. Griego described him as “on the run” after he stole from his roommates.
In her March 6 plea for a protective order, Griego said, “Rowan called me to tell me I cannot find him but he can find me … and to look over my shoulder because I would see him again.”
UW police were notified that Rowan had left threatening messages for Griego on March 6 and March 14, said Assistant UW Police Chief Ray Wittmier. Officers were told about the threats but did not place Griego under surveillance or provide an escort.
Wittmier said Griego did not wish to press charges at the time. If she had, UW police might have been able to arrest Rowan for violating the protection order, he said.
Co-workers said Griego had taken steps to avoid Rowan, who called the office so often that she would no longer answer the phone. He then left messages including threats to kill her, one co-worker said.
Police had not been able to serve the protection order because they couldn’t find Rowan. The paperwork was left at Griego’s office in case he showed up there.
She described him as “a psycho from the past” and asked co-workers to watch out for him, said Lance Nguyen, who worked in the office.
Griego was so frightened of Rowan that she moved a couple of times, changed her phone number and worked from home for a month so he couldn’t find her at work, Nguyen said.
Nguyen was in the building at the time of the shooting, in a first-floor class. He heard the shots but didn’t realize it was gunfire at first. When he heard someone had been killed, he said, “I pretty much knew right away. I feel terrible.”
Meghan Pinch, a graduate student in the Urban Planning department, had heard that Griego had been having relationship troubles. But, she said, Griego always maintained a smile and cheerful demeanor.
“She didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” Pinch said. “She had a lot of friends; she was well-liked.”
Griego, who had helped launch a real-estate program in the department, helped students understand the technical details of mortgages and finance in real-estate courses, Pinch said. She said Griego was sometimes a guest lecturer.
The shooting occurred Monday as morning classes were under way. A witness saw a man fumbling with something in a bag before entering Griego’s fourth-floor office, police said.
At about 9:30 a.m., police received reports of six shots fired in Gould Hall, according to Wittmier. When police arrived, they found a man and a woman dead, and a six-shot revolver nearby.
About 300 students were in the building at the time.
Wittmier said he did not expect to see changes in campus security procedures after the shooting. “It’s a public building. You can’t protect everybody from everything,” he said.
The UW has about 65,000 students, faculty and staff on campus and about 200 buildings. About four or five officers are on patrol on a given weekday, Wittmier said. Police receive numerous reports of death threats on campus.
“Part of the situation on campus is that you have a number of students who are moving in and out of relationships and it can be very emotional, and so such threats and emotional situations are not uncommon,” Wittmier said.
“We’re looking at this as a tragic event, an isolated domestic situation not involving anyone [else] on campus.”
Seattle Times staff reporters Jonathan Martin, Mike Lindblom, Sanjay Bhatt, Susan Gilmore, Jennifer Sullivan, Alex Fryer, Sara Jean Green, Brian Alexander and Natalie Singer and news researchers Miyoko Wolf, Gene Balk and David Turim contributed to this report.