Angels of Death: The Male Nurses
Some nurses kill while on the job; others wait until they're on their free time. The New York Post, Daily News, and Newark Star Ledger carried the stories on this suspect, as did many New York-based gay newspapers and Web sites.
Along the rural East Coast during the early 1990s, the remains of five middle-aged men were found dumped along some roadway. Found variously in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, they had been murdered, dismembered, and wrapped tightly in several layers of plastic bags. From the method of cutting with a saw and a knife, wrapping and disposal, it seemed to be the work of a single perpetrator, and he was soon dubbed the "Last Call Killer." There were also similarities in the way the victims were bound and in ligature marks on the wrists. Many leads were followed, but all of them went cold.
Then a new technique for getting fingerprints off plastic bags was developed. Called vacuum metal deposition (VMD), it involved an expensive high-tech machine that coats evidence with gold and zinc to develop the latent prints into near-picture quality. The oils from the prints absorb the gold, and the zinc bonds with it to reveal each place where the gold stuck except where it was absorbed. The prints then stand out like a developing photograph, giving a reverse image of them.
When New Jersey investigators learned about the VMD technique, they sent gloves believed to have belonged to the Last Call Killer, found on a body, and two dozen of the bags that had been collected from the bodies for analysis. Scientists in Toronto managed to lift some prints, which the N.J. police ran through AFIS in all fifty states. They got a match in Maine named Richard Rogers. Sixteen prints from nine of his fingers were identified. He was a 50-year-old registered nurse from Staten Island, having worked for the past 20 years at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.
It turned out that Rogers had a history. He had bludgeoned an acquaintance to death, wrapped the body in a tent, and dumped it on the side of a road. When he was charged with manslaughter, he claimed self-defense and was acquitted.
The M.O. was just too coincidental.
On May 27, 2001, Rogers was arrested and charged with the murder and dismemberment of two of the victims found in New Jersey: the July 1992 murder of Thomas Mulcahy, 57, a business executive from Sudbury, Massachusetts, and the May 1993 killing of Anthony Marrero, 44, a hustler at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. Police have both fingerprints from the bags, carpet fibers that are similar to those found in Rogers' home, and bite mark evidence for the Mulcahy murder. He was also the one with whom the gloves bearing Rogers' fingerprints were found, and those gloves had been purchased on Staten Island. There were two fingerprints and a palm print matching Rogers on the bags wrapping Marrero's parts.
He remains a suspect in the other three, with new evidence announced in January 2004 about two of them: Peter S. Anderson 54, an investment banker who was found in 1991 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike showed 18 of Rogers' fingerprints on the bags that wrapped his remains; Michael Sakara, 55, a New York law journal typesetter found in 1993 on a rural highway was last seen at a gay bar and was seen with Rogers. In addition, another man, Matthew Pierro, who was last seen in 1982 in a bar in Orlando, Fla. and was found murdered had bite mark impressions on his chest that appear to be a match for Rogers (who had attended college in Florida and who was placed in Florida at the time the victim disappeared). One other murder that shares a similar M.O. is that of Guillermo Mendez, 50, a Cuban refugee who was not known to be gay but who was found in 1992, dismembered, drained of blood, and scattered around Schenectady, New York.
On January 21, 2003, Rogers was indicted by a grand jury in New Jersey on two counts of murder and two counts of hindering apprehension. One of the murders occurred in Ocean County and the other in Burlington. The body parts of Thomas Mulcahy were found by state workers who were emptying trash cans. Both victims, found a year apart, had been repeatedly stabbed. Apparently Rogers was barely acquainted with them, having just met them before they were last seen alive.
Rogers' trial is pending, as are further charges. At issue will be the fingerprint method, as well as the New Jersey prosecutor's jurisdiction, since the murders may not have occurred in New Jersey. If experts affirm its reliability, Rogers will have a difficult time with a defense. Nevertheless, he denies involvement in any of them.
The U.S. is not alone in unwittingly providing killing grounds for unstable male nurses.