Grand jury: Man made wife’s 1983 homicide appear suicide

Carl E. Rodgers (Perry County Prison)

LOYSVILLE, Pa. (WHTM) – A Perry County man accused of killing his wife 34 years ago told investigators she was depressed and tried to make her death look like a suicide, investigators revealed Tuesday.

Carl Rodgers, 62, of Shermans Dale, was arrested Monday and charged with criminal homicide in the 1983 slaying of 23-year-old Debra Jane Rodgers.

Debra Rodgers was found in a wooded area along Route 850 in Northeast Madison Township on April 23, 1983.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said a statewide investigating grand jury recently took up the case and recommended the homicide charge.

According to the grand jury presentment, Carl Rodgers called Debra’s family the day before she was found and told them she was missing. He led her family on a search for her, and the group found her car in the remote, heavily wooded area.

The search was called off that evening without finding Debra, but Carl Rodgers refused to leave her car in the woods. Debra’s family was concerned she would be stranded in the cold without it, but Carl Rodgers insisted on driving the car back to the home where the couple lived with their 5-year-old daughter.

When the search resumed the next day, Carl Rodgers suggested he search a ridge line with Debra’s brother while other family members searched the woods below. Debra’s mother found her daughter’s body in the area Carl had suggested, according to the grand jury’s report.

Debra was found several hundred yards from where her vehicle was parked and her shirt appeared as if she had been dragged. A knife was found nearby, and the sheath had the name “Carl.”

A coroner’s report found Debra 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 coroner determined that it was extremely unlikely the injuries were self-inflicted.

Carl Rodgers also claimed his wife was depressed about her job at Little Buffalo State Park. He later admitted to police that they had argued after she returned home late from work and he had grabbed her by the arm.

Investigators also learned Debra Rodgers was progressing in her career and had applied for a job that would have increased her pay, the report states.

Carl Rodgers is jailed in Perry County Prison without bail. A preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 17.

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