Wrong-way driver allegedly high on meth when he struck and killed Lynnwood woman

Rowland’s stolen vehicle came to rest on the freeway’s median. (Photo courtesy WSDOT)

Additional details have surfaced in the case of Robert “Bobby” Rowland, who allegedly caused a fatal collision April 11 when he drove the wrong way on State Route 525 in an attempt to flee police pursuit – killing 83-year-old Lynnwood resident Trudy Slanger. Believed to be high on meth at the time of the crash, Rowland also is accused of kidnapping his ex-girlfriend, who was in his vehicle at the time of the crash. 

Rowland is in Snohomish County Jail, where his bail has been set at $2 million. He is facing numerous charges, including first-degree murder, vehicular assault, kidnapping, misdemeanor assault and attempting to elude police. 

Probable cause documents filed by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office detail the 37-year-old Rowland’s conflicts with the law and a history of abusive behavior. Prior to April 11, several warrants had already been issued for his arrest on charges including felony assault with a weapon, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, DUI and two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm.

Rowland’s abusive behavior, as described by an acquaintance of his kidnapping victim.

According to sheriff’s office documents, Rowland’s 35-year old ex-girlfriend said that on April 10, Rowland “snapped” when she left him, throwing a metal canister. The canister struck the woman’s arm and caused an injury severe enough that she believed her arm was broken. Rowland then confiscated her money and cell phone.

Using a female acquaintance’s phone, the ex-girlfriend arranged a meeting with Rowland at Tulalip Resort Casino April 11 to reclaim her items. Rowland approached the woman and her friend from behind and struck the acquaintance on the head, causing her to become dazed. While the woman who was struck did not see her friend leave, she alerted police that she believed the woman had been abducted.

The acquaintance told sheriff’s deputies that Rowland had previously threatened to slit his ex-girlfriend throat and forcefully grabbed her by the back of the head. In probable cause documents, sheriff’s deputies asserted their belief that the ex-girlfriend’s fear and previous abuse led her to entering Rowland’s stolen vehicle. Video footage also shows him striking the woman.

During the next few hours, Rowland attempted to evade capture. Members of the Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force in Everett and Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deputies obtained a warrant to locate the woman’s phone. While pursuing Rowland in unmarked cars, police observed the man driving erratically. Police did not immediately move to arrest him because the areas where Rowland was driving were very congested. 

Rowland’s captive claims she pleaded with him to stop as his reckless driving endangered more and more people.

Rowland’s ex-girlfriend told deputies that Rowland knew he was being tracked and grew paranoid. He began driving aggressively in residential areas, nearly colliding with several pedestrians and other drivers.

Rowland’s captive describes the man’s behavior

Eventually, an open pursuit began. Deputies followed Rowland as entered the on-ramp from northbound Highway 99 to SR-525. After Rowland began driving south – the opposite of incoming traffic – the pursuing sheriff’s deputy terminated the pursuit. 

According to court documents, 44 seconds elapsed from the time of the deputy’s decision to end the pursuit and the fatal collision. Trudy Slanger was pronounced dead at the scene after Rowland collided head-on with her SUV. 

A description of the moment of impact in the collision that killed Slanger.

His vehicle rolled over and began to catch fire before coming to a stop on top of the barrier between the northbound and southbound lanes.

Rowland’s ex-girlfriend suffered a broken right foot during the collision, while Rowland sustained “multiple fractures,” documents said.

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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