A Shermans Dale man was arrested Monday and charged with the 1983 murder of his wife, Debra Jane Rodgers.
State Attorney General Josh Shapiro Tuesday announced the murder charge against Carl Rodgers, 62.
“For more than three decades, the family and friends of Debra Jane Rodgers have sought justice, and wondered if this day would ever come,” Shapiro said at a news conference with the Pennsylvania State Police in Perry County. “Thanks to a strong collaboration between the Pennsylvania State Police and our office, and the effective use of a statewide investigating grand jury, Carl Rodgers stands charged with murder.”
According to the attorney general’s office, Debra Rodgers was 23 at the time of her death and at the time had been living with her husband and their 5-year-old daughter in a trailer on the Rodgers’ family farm.
On the night of her disappearance, April 22, 1983, police said Debra returned home late from her job at the state park, and Carl Rodgers gave police statements about that evening that were inconsistent. He claimed his wife was depressed about her job and was suicidal, and he later admitted that they had argued and he grabbed her by the arm.
Police said Debra had applied for a job with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which would have meant a pay increase.
The day after her disappearance, Carl Rodgers called her family and told them she was missing. He led her family into the state park to search for her, and they found her car in a remote, heavily wooded area, according to the attorney general.
The search was called off, and Carl Rodgers insisted on driving her car back to the farm, despite the family’s worries that Debra could be stranded in the cold without it.
The next day, Carl Rodgers suggested he search the ridge line with Debra’s brother while the others searched the woods below. Her body was found by her mother in the area where Carl had suggested, the news release said.
Debra was found several hundred yards away from her vehicle, and her shirt was pulled halfway up as if she were dragged to the location, the release said. A knife and sheath bearing the name “Carl,” was also found near the scene.
The coroner at the time determined Debra had died of blunt force trauma to the head and torso, but both of her wrists had been deeply slashed to make it appear as though she committed suicide, the attorney general’s office said. The coroner determined those wounds were unlikely to be self-inflicted.
Last year, senior deputy attorneys Kelly Sekula and Heather Castellino met with State Police to review cold case homicides, and brought this case before an investigating grandy jury, which reexamined the evidence and heard testimony from witnesses and experts.
The grand jury recommended the murder charge. Rodgers is being held without bail.
“This case shows the commitment we have, across law enforcement, to pursue unsolved murders regardless of how many years go by,” Shapiro said. “Just as families never stop praying for loved ones they’ve lost, we will never stop seeking justice for victims anywhere and at any time in our commonwealth.”