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Cold case breakthrough: Husband arrested over 30 years later for reportedly beating wife to death

A Pennsylvania man is behind bars after investigators revisited a case and pieced together information that helped police obtain an arrest warrant for a murder that occurred over 30 years ago.

CNN reports that authorities took Carl Rodgers, 62, of Shermans Dale, into custody on Monday morning and charged him with murder, stemming from the 1983 death of his wife, 23-year-old Debra Jane Rogers. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the arrest came after authorities started revisiting unsolved cold cases last year.

According to court documents, Debra died in 1983 while living her husband and their young daughter in a trailer near Rodger’s parents’ dairy farm in Loysville. Debra’s mother found her daughter’s lifeless body on a secluded road in the woods of a state forest several miles away from the dairy farm. Detectives treated the death as a homicide from the beginning, but didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest.

At the time of her death, Rodgers claimed that Debra was depressed and suicidal, stemming from a situation with her job performance at a state park.

“That was completely at odds with how her family and coworkers saw her and knew her at that time,” Shapiro said on Tuesday, referring to Rodgers’ initial explanation for his wife’s death. “His story never quite checked out. It changed repeatedly.”

An autopsy report indicated that Debra died from blunt force trauma. A medical examiner found injuries to the victim’s head and torso, as well as “deep cuts” on her wrists, as if someone tried to make it look as if she killed herself. Investigators agreed with the medical examiner and said it was highly unlikely Debra committed suicide.

Penn Live reports that a knife sheath with the word “Carl” etched on it was found to Debra’s body. Further, her shirt was lifted above her torso, as if someone dragged her into the wooded area.

On Monday morning, authorities arrested a surprised Rodgers at his place of employment. Shapiro said that it was the culmination of different things, not just one piece of evidence, that led to Rodgers’ arrest.

“Our investigation, it is important to note, did not hinge on any one piece of new evidence or any bombshell revelation. Instead, a closer examination of the facts and collaborative use of law enforcement resources led us to this day.”

Rodgers’ lawyer, Geoffrey McInroy, said that authorities only have circumstantial evidence in the case and ” bits and pieces” at that, that the “commonwealth had difficulty assembling.”

The suspect remains behind bars without bail. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional information becomes available.

[Feature Photo: Carl Rodgers/Police Handout]