A Rockville man who police believed had leaped to his death from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge five days before he was to be sentenced for raping a woman surprised Virginia authorities yesterday by walking into the Prince William County Courthouse and surrendering.

Kenneth L. Titcomb had driven his van to the highest point on the bridge May 1 and left a note indicating he was taking his life. He said yesterday in an interview in the county jail that he had considered suicide at the time, but he said he decided to disappear in hopes he would somehow find a way to clear himself of the charges.

He came back, he said, "because I am innocent. Because I was railroaded. Because I had never seen that woman before in my life."

Prosecutors rejected his story. "I think that's a lot of rubbish," said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William Hamblin, who handled the case against Titcomb, owner of a towing service and auto parts firm. A Prince William County Circuit Court jury convicted Titcomb on March 3 of abducting and raping a 23-year-old Annandale woman whose car he had towed after it broke down on the Capital Beltway in Virginia last August. The jury recommended Titcomb be sentenced to 15 years in prison and he was free on bond pending his sentencing when he disappeared.

"I'm scared to death of jail," the 29-year-old Titcomb said yesterday as he nervously rubbed his stocking feet together beneath a table in an interview room down the hall from Cell No. 9, where he is being held pending sentencing. Hamblin said no date has been set for his sentencing and that prosecutors have no plans to file additional charges against Titcomb.

"I don't have a criminal mind. I don't know how to run. That's why I came back," said Titcomb. "My wife and my business was all that I ever had. I didn't want to run from them."

Until his arrest, his life in the Maryland suburbs was good, he said. He was the owner of the Sundance Used Auto Parts and Towing Service in Rockville, had a $120,000 home in Wheaton, a brand new Cadillac Eldorado, and membership in Lodge 35 of the Fraternal Order of Police.

He was convicted after a half-day trial and 1 1/2 days of jury deliberation. He said he was awaiting sentencing when he decided "that there was probably more for me in the hereafter than I had left here in life."

So he drove to the bridge and climbed the fence and peered into the bay below, he said. Something made him stop. "It just felt like suicide was too final. All I know about crime and courts and jail is from television. I thought, like, well, like maybe Simon and Simon would show up at my door and prove I didn't do it," he said.

Titcomb said he believes he was picked up by a passing motorist and that "the next thing I knew I was in Tennessee, of all places." He said he remembers little of what happened during the next 11 weeks.

"I guess I've been an emotional mess for some time," he said. "I lose reality; I kind of go into a time warp." What he does remember, he says, is that he slept wherever he could, on park benches, in fields, under trees, and that he took odd jobs in Nashville and Knoxville and some little towns whose names he cannot remember, cutting grass, painting, shoveling manure.

"I went to a lot of churches," he said. "I had to talk to someone. I remember being real scared. I know I did a lot of crying. I had to run from people, 'cause as soon as people see you crying they want to know what's the matter, want to get you some help.

"Then I called someone at home, I forget who, and they said my wife was really sick, that she thought I was dead. That started getting me back to reality. I thought, 'I didn't do it. If I'm not there, no one is going to hear about it.' So I came back."