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In 1991, Robert Howard found himself on the road making his regular commute from Little Rock to the smaller bedroom communities surrounding the city.
He now ran his own business, Self Image, Inc., a licensed massage and beauty service that offered in-home services to clients, some in Conway about 30 miles northwest of his home in Little Rock.
He had noticed a few men loitering around the building and in the nearby woods that surrounded the rest area on one side.
He paid little attention although he knew of the men's intentions.
Robert Howard is a gay man, but he did differ from the loitering individuals in that his intention was only to use the toilet for its intended purpose.
The Morgan Rest Area was opened in October of 1973, at a cost of almost half a million dollars for this very purpose.
It sat near mile marker 146 on Interstate 40, meaning it was 146 miles from the Oklahoma border to the west.
The interstate highway system, the great victory of the automotive lobby, begun in the 1950s, soon symbolized the postwar economic boom, connecting far-flung cities and the citizens therein, and the American love affair with the automobile and leisure in general.The highway rest area offered travelers services to aid them in their journey, including toilets, picnic facilities, tourist information, and other services along the interstate highways.He usually worked late, to accommodate clients after their workday.By the time he left his last client on February 1, 1991, it was almost p.m.
Howard stopped off to use the public toilets at the Morgan Rest Area, sitting roughly halfway between Conway and Little Rock. The fact that a great many men used the space for anonymous sexual encounters was not lost on Howard, nor was it lost on local law enforcement officers.Howard parked his car and entered the men's toilets.