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Sex Case Psychiatrist Dead; Suicide Suspected

December 8, 1989

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) _ A doctor accused of soliciting college students to have sex with his wife in a phony research project was found dead Thursday in an apparent suicide, police said.

Police were called to the home of Rodney Thorp Wood, 60, at about 1 p.m., Southampton village police Sgt. Lars King said. King did not reveal any other information about the death, but a police source who declined to be identified said Wood apparently shot himself in the head.

Wood and his wife, Nancy Steffen Wood, 44, were arrested in September in Eugene, Ore., after allegedly conducting a phony research project that included a sex tour of West Coast college campuses.

Each pleaded guilty to prostitution Oct. 23 and was fined $2,500.

The couple allegedly visited the University of Oregon campus, telling male students they were ″evaluating the sexual potential of the mature female″ and would pay participants for taking part in research sessions, police said.

Mrs. Wood distributed ″letters of introduction″ to young men on campus, Gilliam said. Men were promised $10, Eugene police Sgt. Rick Gilliam said.

Police were tipped by two students, and an officer, posing as a student, contacted the couple at their hotel. They were charged Sept. 16.

A family spokesman, Ethan Geto, said he had been in contact with Wood earlier this week. He said Wood ″was very distressed throughout this whole episode, but I didn’t detect that he was any more distraught than he had been in the past.″

″When your name and reputation are dragged through the media and your character and conduct are called into question and your life’s work is threatened, then clearly this is distressing,″ Geto said.

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