Dayton Leroy Rogers
One That Got Away
A short time later, Clackamas County Sheriff's Detectives John T. Turner and Mike Machado arrived at the crime scene. After being briefed on that morning's events, Turner took the license plate number (Oregon CYW 194) provided by Richard Bergio and ran it through the Oregon State Department of Motor Vehicles computer. Moments later, Turner learned that the pickup's registered owner was 33-year-old Dayton Leroy Rogers, whose address was listed as being in the 10500 block of South Heinz Road in Canby, Oregon, about 20 miles south of the crime scene.
Turner and a team of deputies reached Rogers' home at approximately 5:00 a.m. They saw no sign of the pickup on the property, and they were subsequently told by a relative that Rogers was not at home but could likely be found at his auto-repair shop in the 11600 block of Pacific Court in Woodburn, a few miles south of Canby. The relative told the sleuths that Rogers sometimes worked odd hours at the shop.
It was 5:35 a.m. when Detective Turner arrived at Rogers' shop. After a cursory glance around outside, he knocked on the door of the shop until a man with bloodshot eyes answered. Smelling of alcohol, the man identified himself as Dayton Rogers. After Turner told Rogers that he and the deputies were there as part of a homicide investigation, Rogers allowed them inside.
Although Detective Turner noted that Rogers' pupils were dilated, he observed that the man had no difficulty walking and that his speech was not slurred, prompting him to conclude that Rogers had been drinking but was not drunk. When asked, Rogers told the detective that he'd been at the shop all night and had been drinking bourbon and strawberry mixer.
"Mind if I take a look around?" asked Turner.
"Go ahead and search the place," said Rogers. "Search the truck, too, if you want to."
Rogers told the detective that his pickup had been at the shop all night. Turner shot him a dubious glance, walked over to the truck and raised the hood.
"Been here all night, huh?" asked Turner as he attempted to place his hand on the engine's valve cover, which was too hot to touch. "You haven't gone out at all, have you?"
Rogers, or somebody, had recently run the engine hard, thought Turner, as he pulled his hand away from the hot engine.
"What happened to your hand?" asked Turner, observing that Rogers' right hand was bandaged. "Cut yourself?"
Rogers explained that he'd been using a hacksaw a few hours earlier, when it suddenly slipped and cut his hand. Turner asked if he had left the shop for first aid; Rogers responded that he'd gone to Willamette Falls Hospital in Oregon City that same morning to have the wound treated.
So he had left the shop, reflected Turner, who also wondered why the man had initially lied about it. If he didn't have anything to hide, why was he acting so suspiciously?
There was no doubt that Rogers' pickup was the one seen fleeing the scene of the crime. It matched in appearance and the license plate identification was the same. Because of that and his suspicious demeanor, Rogers was arrested a few minutes later and taken to the Clackamas County Jail in Oregon City, where he was held on suspicion of murder.
Meanwhile, the detectives identified the dead woman as 25-year-old Jennifer Lisa Smith, mother of two. Her last known address was in the 4800 block of North Albina Avenue in Portland, not far from Union Avenue. Additional background on Smith revealed that she had an arrest record for prostitution and indecent exposure.
Background on Rogers revealed that he was no stranger to law enforcement, either. In 1972, when he was 18, Rogers picked up a 15-year-old girl who had been hitchhiking in Eugene, Oregon. He had convinced her to go to a remote area to have sex with him, detectives learned. Risking a charge of statutory rape, Rogers picked the girl up again a few days later and they went together to a park to gather wood to make whistles for neighborhood kids. But he took her into a wooded area to again have sex with her.
After lying down on the ground, Rogers leaned over as if to kiss the girl. Instead, according to police reports, he stabbed her in the abdomen with a hunting knife. After pulling the knife from her stomach, the girl, bleeding profusely and in intense pain, convinced Rogers to take her to a hospital for treatment. She survived and later told authorities about the attack. On February 13, 1973, Rogers pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was placed on four years' probation for that attack.
Less than six months later, the detectives learned, Rogers assaulted two 15-year-old girls with a soft-drink bottle. Although charged with one count each of second- and third-degree assault, Rogers was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Oregon's equivalent to an insanity plea; he was sent to the Oregon State Hospital by Lane County Circuit Court Judge Helen Frye. He was released from the hospital on December 12, 1974.
These incidents prompted Darryl L. Larson, Lane County Deputy District Attorney, to write an after-sentence report on Rogers: "This man is an extreme danger to the community, particularly to young women. He is both sexually and physically violent and, without question, is a murder case looking for a place to happen.
In January 1976, Rogers was indicted on a charge of first-degree rape in Clackamas County, but he was eventually acquitted of the charge. In February 1976, however, while the Clackamas County rape charge was still pending, Rogers picked up two Keizer, Oregon high school girls, and at knifepoint allegedly raped one and threatened to rape the other.
According to John L. Collins, Yamhill County District Attorney, the two girls had skipped school and were walking down a Keizer street when Rogers saw them and convinced them to go with him.
"He was a good talker and his method at the time was to pick up girls, particularly blonde girls," said Collins. "They got into the car with him, and they went to get some beer." After drinking beer and smoking marijuana together, said Collins, Rogers took a paring knife from the glove box of the car he was driving and threatened the girls with it. He used coat-hanger wire to bind the girls' wrists and ankles.
"Afterward he apologized and pretended like it was all some kind of game," said Collins. Rogers was nonetheless indicted on charges of rape and coercion; he pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Rogers was convicted only on the coercion charge and received a maximum five-year prison sentence.
"This was in a less-enlightened time," said Collins, "when juries often felt that if the woman or girl contributed to the rape in any way, they would not convict him. In this case, I think it was because they drank beer and smoked marijuana with him."
As the detectives probed deeper into Rogers' background, they learned that he had been in and out of jail for a variety of reasons, including parole and probation violations and for kidnapping a local prostitute. All in all, the detectives learned, Rogers spent 27 months in Oregon prisons. His parole was formally terminated in January 1983.