For most folks in state and local government, State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh is the last person they want to hear from.
Just in the past six months, his corruption investigations have ensnared Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon for alleged perjury, theft, and receiving illegal gifts; developer Ronald Lipscomb and City Councilwoman Helen Holton on bribery charges; and Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth Oliver for alleged theft.
But Rohrbaugh, seen by many as being on a scalp hunt for Democrats since his appointment in 2004 by former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, has a painful, personal story of his own, one that the man behind the indictment machine is now willing to talk about.
Make no mistake, when it comes to the media, the intensely private 61-year-old prosecutor is not a chatty guy. His favorite response is still "no comment" to all questions about pending investigations. And he still won't respond to attacks on his motives.
Unlike Dixon, with her black belt in karate, or Gov. Martin O'Malley, who spent years playing in an Irish band, Rohrbaugh has no glamorous hobby that exposes a critical trait. Outside of work, his life has revolved around one thing: his family. And the centerpiece of the Rohrbaugh family was a 34-year marriage that made him and his wife, Linda, nearly inseparable.
"Everywhere he went, she went," says Gerard Martin, developer Lipscomb's attorney who worked with Rohrbaugh when the two were federal prosecutors in Maryland. "It's been that way since I've known him."
But three years into the Dixon probe, and only six months after Rohrbaugh blanketed City Hall with subpoenas in 2006, his world was shattered: His wife Linda was diagnosed with cancer. She died a month after his agents raided the mayor's home last summer.
"You can still tell how her death has affected him when you talk to him," says Martin. "With her gone, I'm not sure what life he has."
A Denver native, Rohrbaugh met Linda Beall while clerking for a law firm before graduation in 1972 from American University in Washington, D.C. The couple married two years later and eventually settled in Brinklow in Montgomery County, where they raised two daughters, now in their 20s.
In 1974, Rohrbaugh became a federal prosecutor and quickly earned a reputation for being aggressive on the job, yet quiet about his private life.
As Rohrbaugh's nephew Michael Huntt puts it, "He's a very private person. . . . He wasn't a lampshade-on-the-head uncle."
It was a trait he shared with his wife, Linda, the sister of Huntt's mother.
"Aunt Linda always put everyone before herself," says Huntt, who lives in West Virginia. "She was very generous."
Still, Martin calls Rohrbaugh "one of the most aggressive guys I ever saw." Martin says he and Rohrbaugh share the same explosive tempers. After one angry exchange during the Dixon investigation, Martin says he sent a terse, vulgar e-mail to Rohrbaugh that the state prosecutor playfully opened on a computer that sounds out messages. "Go f--- yourself," the computer voice intoned for all in the room to hear.
Rohrbaugh called Martin laughing afterward. "He's a good guy," Martin says. "He's never been one to back down from a fight."
In private practice, Rohrbaugh fought for children who suffered injuries in car accidents that defective safety seats failed to minimize. One company he sued discontinued use of the seat in question and NBC's Dateline featured one of Rohrbaugh's cases. Another case took him to Louisiana. And Linda accompanied him.
"It's unusual to see a lawyer bring his wife with him when he travels," says attorney Jerald P. Block, who worked with Rohrbaugh in the Louisiana case. "They were extremely close. As close as any couple I've ever seen."
The case with Block ended in early 2004 with a settlement. By August, Ehrlich appointed Rohrbaugh. That affilation to the Republican governor, his earlier legal work for the Republican-controlled Congress, and his role as president of the Montgomery County Republican Club all fueled cries of his political bias.
But in his new job, Rohrbaugh endeared himself by advising employees with children on car seats. At other times, Rohrbaugh would show photographs of the house he and his wife were having built in Lake County, FL. "We traveled a lot together," Rohrbaugh says.
With his appointment ending in 2010, the couple's retirement was not far off, and their Florida retirement home was nearly completed.
Linda was typically quite healthy. But when, in April 2006, she hadn't been feeling well, she decided to get a blood test.
"Then, on a Saturday morning, the doctor called and said, 'You have to get Linda to the hospital immediately; she needs a blood transfusion,'" Rohrbaugh says.
The diagnosis was cancer, a multiple myeloma. "It came out of the blue," he says.
On an online memorial website set up for his aunt, Huntt wrote: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Uncle Bob, Kara, Lindsay, and family. She fought so hard but she's in a much better place now. It's only the ones that she left behind that hurt."