By Internet standards, it wasn't unusual that Maryland resident Sharon Lopatka carried on a sexually explicit, sometimes threatening conversation by computer with a North Carolina man she knew as "Slowhand."

But Lopatka knew that their "master-slave" role-playing would go beyond virtual reality into a violent reality when she left her Carroll County home earlier this month to meet the man in Lenoir, N.C., police said yesterday. Authorities found her body last week in a shallow grave beside a rural North Carolina mobile home.

Lopatka, 35, left a note to her husband saying she would not be coming home again and "not to go after the person that did this to her," according to affidavits released yesterday during a hearing for Robert Fredrick Glass, 45, who was charged in Lopatka's death.

"If my body is never retrieved, don't worry, know that I'm at peace," she wrote to her husband.

Lopatka's electronic mail messages with Glass make it "very clear" that Lopatka knew the man was talking about sexually torturing and possibly killing her before she traveled the 361 miles from Hampstead to Lenoir, said Sgt. Barry Leese, who supervises the computer crimes section of the Maryland State Police.

"She went to see him; she stayed with him; she was not there against her will," said Caldwell County, N.C., Sheriff Roger Hutchings.

Lopatka appeared to have been strangled, according to the preliminary autopsy on her body, found in a pit beside Glass's mobile home in Collettsville, near the Caldwell County town of Lenoir in mountainous Western North Carolina. Sgt. Chris Haas of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations said the strangulation evidence "is all we're releasing now."

Glass, a computer systems analyst for nearby Catawba County, was being held without bail at the Caldwell County detention center. A grand jury is to convene Nov. 12, and Glass's next court appearance is scheduled for Nov. 18.

Glass, who has three children, was separated from his wife earlier this year. Neighbors told the Associated Press that Glass seemed to change, taking less interest in his home, after his wife left him.

A clerk in the criminal division of state District Court in Caldwell County said a search of local records found only that Glass had a speeding ticket in 1988 and was cited for having an expired automobile inspection sticker this year.

Lopatka left her Maryland home Oct. 13, supposedly to visit friends in Georgia, and was reported missing Oct. 20 after her husband, Victor Lopatka, found her car parked near Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore.

A man answering the telephone at the Lopatka home in Hampstead yesterday hung up immediately after a caller identified himself as a reporter.

Lopatka, who had an Internet-based business writing classified advertisements, left behind 870 pages of e-mail messages from the last four to six weeks, according to Leese, who combed through them with the family's permission. Among the messages was a continuing dialogue with "Slowhand" in which Lopatka encouraged Glass's aggressive role-playing.

"They talked about what would happen when she came to see him," said Leese, who said "the method of death" was not made clear in the e-mail. An attachment to the search warrant describing the items to be seized from Glass's home lists "all items indicative of physical torture" including "leather, straps, wire, rope, wooden frames, knives, skewers, pins, soldering irons."

Lopatka died Oct. 16, three days after Glass met her at the train station in Charlotte, Hutchings said. Investigators also found some of Lopatka's belongings in Glass's house, he said. Police seized a .357 magnum and drug paraphernalia as well, according to court papers.

In Hampstead, northwest of Baltimore, a neighbor of the Lopatkas', Shellie Jenkins, said they "kept to themselves. . . . I saw her coming home each day from work, and that was about it."

Another neighbor, registered nurse Beth Long, said she occasionally saw Victor Lopatka, "and I never saw her at all. . . . She could have been a patient at the hospital, and I would not have known she was my neighbor."

Long said, "It was strange that {Sharon Lopatka} was lonely enough or depressed enough to do something like this, to get on the Internet and hope someone would make her life better."

Long and other neighbors said the couple rarely became involved in neighborhood activities, but there were some small surprises.

"Last year," Long said, "the kids went trick or treating on Halloween {to the Lopatka house}, and they handed out big mega bars of candy. They seemed very generous, but I guess they were also introverts.

"If anything comes out of this tragedy, it might educate people not to get into this kind of thing," she said.

Long said the Lopatkas were so private that "I didn't even know her name before all this."

The couple lived at the end of a cul-de-sac on the rural edge of Hampstead in northern Carroll County. They lived in a small one-story house with a deck on the back. The front of the house is shielded from view by a screen of evergreens. Neighbors said Victor Lopatka jogged regularly with the couple's black Labrador retriever and rode a bicycle in the neighborhood.

Neighbor Dave Murphy, a Baltimore County firefighter, said the couple "did not socialize. They weren't involved in any neighborhood activities." He said the couple had no children unlike like most families in the community. Special correspondent Nan Chase in Lenoir contributed to this report.