Police found a van and a suicide note from a Wheaton man on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Sunday and thought it was a hoax. But they now they believe he probably jumped to his death.

The note was left by Kenneth L. Titcomb, 28, who was facing jail on a rape conviction. On March 3, a jury found Titcomb, operator of a towing business, guilty of abducting and raping a 23-year-old woman whose car he towed after it broke down on the Capital Beltway in Virginia last August.

He was sentenced to 15 years but was free on bond pending a final sentencing hearing Friday in Prince William County.

Toll facilities police discovered the empty van and note before dawn Sunday but no body was found in the waters below by Coast Guard and Department of Natural Resources searchers. Police then theorized that Titcomb could have driven onto the bridge, parked, rolled his motorcycle out of the van and fled.

But they learned today that Titcomb's motorcycle was parked in his driveway in Wheaton.

"That eliminates that theory," said Sgt. William Hasenei of the bridge police, who said Titcomb probably could not have walked the 2 1/2 miles off the bridge without being detected. "We're under the impression now that he did jump."

Titcomb's lawyer, Alfred Swersky of Alexandria, said a friend of his client's told him this week that "Ken told him many times that he would die rather than go to jail."

Hasenei said the police inquiry and the suicide note, whose contents were not released, indicated "this guy was really depressed."

Hasenei said police have been wary of closing the books on suicides without bodies since 1979, when Charles (Weedie) Smith of Glen Burnie left his car on the bridge and was thought to have jumped, but turned up a year later in Alabama.

Smith said he'd parked his car and rollerskated to the end of the bridge.