A Pennsylvania man is facing a life sentence for allegations that he killed his wife more than three decades ago.
Carl Rogers, 62, of Shermans Dale, Pennsylvania, was taken into custody early Monday morning and charged with the 1983 murder of Debra Jane Rogers, Pennsylvania State Police announced Tuesday. The arrest came after a 2016 effort by the Pennsylvania State Police to revisit cold case homicides.
“These cases never go away, much like the pain of the family members who lost a loved one,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told reporters Tuesday.
Debra Rogers was 23 years old, living with Carl and their 5-year-old daughter in a trailer on the Rogers family farm in April 1983, when her husband called her family, saying she’d gone missing.
Carl led Debra’s family to a secluded road in the woods, prosecutors allege, where Debra’s car had been left unattended. Her body was found in the woods by her mother the next day.
The case was reopened last year by an investigating grand jury, which reviewed the evidence gathered from the initial investigation. The grand jury also interviewed experts as well as witnesses to the events surrounding Debra’s 1983 disappearance and death.
At the time, prosecutors say, Carl Rogers told police, as well as Debra’s family, that his wife had been depressed about her job at a nearby state park and had made allusions to suicide during a fight the night of her disappearance.
“That was completely at odds with how her family and coworkers saw her and knew her at that time,” Shapiro said Tuesday.
“His story never quite checked out,” Shapiro said of Carl Rogers. “It changed repeatedly.”
An expert review of Debra’s autopsy indicated that she had been killed by blunt force trauma to the head and torso, while her wrists had deep cuts “as if to make her death appear to be the result of suicide.”
“Our investigation, it is important to note, did not hinge on any one piece of new evidence or any bombshell revelation,” Shapiro told reporters. “Instead, a closer examination of the facts and collaborative use of law enforcement resources led us to this day.”
Pennsylvania State Police Lieutenant Mark Magyar told reporters Tuesday that Carl Rogers had been arrested at a feed mill where he works in nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
“It’s our understanding that he’s remarried twice,” Magyar added.
Carl Rogers’ attorney, Geoffrey McInroy, told CNN Tuesday that the arrest was unexpected.
“It kind of took him by surprise that the Attorney General’s office saw fit to arrest him at work on a Monday morning,” he said.
McInroy characterized the evidence against his client as circumstantial.
“Here we are looking at bits and pieces that even the commonwealth had difficulty assembling,” he said. “It’s my position that those same facts fit together to tell a different narrative.”
“It’s something that’s dogged my client for the past 35 years,” McInroy said of suspicions that Rogers killed his wife.
The attorney general’s office declined to say whether Rogers had been a suspect in the case prior to the re-examination of evidence last year.
Perry County District Attorney Andrew Bender could not be immediately reached for comment.
Ian Peters, an uncle of Debra Rogers, publicly thanked Shapiro and the Pennsylvania State Police at Tuesday’s press conference, but did not comment substantively on the case or take any questions from reporters.
Rogers is being held without bail. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.