Richard W. Rogers
Last Call Killer
The trial for Richard W. Rogers got underway on October 26, 2005 before Judge James N. Citta in Toms River, New Jersey, according to the Asbury Park Press. During jury selection, Rogers, 55, was offered a plea deal: plead guilty to manslaughter in two cases and receive two thirty-year sentences with the possibility of parole in fifteen years. Also, if he pled to third-degree murder in a third case from PA, he would be given ten to twenty years in prison.
Rogers did not respond immediately but indicated that he'd take it under consideration. Trial watchers waited out the weekend, wondering if he might short-circuit the process and admit to guilt. But he did not, so jury selection continued. Judge Citta has ruled that he will allow accounts about two similar murders from out of state, and these are likely to have some influence on how the jury considers the case as a whole.
It began over a decade ago when the remains of five middle-aged men were found dumped along some roadways. Scattered in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, the victims had been stabbed, dismembered and then wrapped in layers of plastic bags. They seemed to be linked to a single perpetrator, soon dubbed the "Last Call Killer." Many leads were followed but all went cold.
Then a new technique for finding fingerprints on plastic bags was developed. Called vacuum metal deposition (VMD), it involved coating evidence with gold and zinc to develop the latent prints like a developing photograph, giving a reverse image. While the technique itself will be scrutinized during the trial, as well as the fact that not all of the prints found were matched to Rogers, it's a technology that's gaining favor.
New Jersey investigators sent gloves found on one body and two dozen of the plastic bags for analysis. Scientists lifted prints and the police got a match from nine out of ten fingers to Rogers, a registered nurse from Staten Island. Rogers, it was then learned, had bludgeoned an acquaintance to death in 1973, wrapped the body in a tent, and dumped it on the side of a road. He was charged with manslaughter, but he claimed self-defense and was acquitted.