Surviving victim of machete attack testifies

FIANCE WAS KILLED: Attack came morning after her 'happiest day.'

December 17, 2008 

Elann "Lennie" Moren identifies Christopher Erin Rogers Jr. in a Palmer courtroom Dec. 17, 2008. Moren testified that she was seriously injured by Rogers in a machete attack.


PALMER -- Surrounded by an entourage of girlfriends and other supporters, Elann Moren walked into a courtroom Wednesday morning in a black pant suit, a string of white beads and the kind of composure one wouldn't expect of a woman sitting half a stone's throw from the man accused of nearly hacking her to death with a machete.

A year ago, doctors didn't think she'd ever walk again. But she walks, though a bit on the slow and stiff side and with the help of a leg brace. And on what would have been her murdered fiance's 53rd birthday, she walked to the witness stand, took a seat and told the jury what happened early one winter morning when the defendant entered their bedroom holding something she at first took to be a stick.

Christopher Erin Rogers Jr., 29, faces murder, attempted murder and a pile of other charges, including cruelty to animals for chopping the dog that tried to stop the madness. The attack last December left the defendant's father, Christopher "Chris" Rogers Sr., dead and Moren gravely wounded.

Rogers, who goes by Erin, faces more charges, including murder, for a rampage that followed in Anchorage, and will be tried for those crimes next year.

But before court got under way Wednesday, for the third time in this trial, prosecutor Roman Kalytiak brought up restraints. Rogers was in an agitated mood, he said, and had made a threatening remark to a corrections officer.

Kalytiak also didn't appreciate it when Rogers, as he was being led into the courtroom, turned to his mother and a family friend and said, "All rise," an honor reserved for judges.

Although, through his lawyer, Rogers adamantly denied being the one who made the threat, Superior Court Judge Vanessa White decided Rogers would wear leg shackles for the entire day's proceedings, rather than just during Moren's testimony as previously agreed.

Before the day was done, Rogers' mother would be in a little trouble herself. It did not go by the judge that she reacted verbally and through loud-and-clear body language that she didn't agree with certain things Moren said under oath. Kalytiak also told the judge that she'd confronted Moren out in the hall in a way that appeared antagonistic.

To that, the judge suggested Rogers' attorney and Rogers' mother have themselves a chat.

From the witness stand, Moren started off talking about the man she lost.

They grew up together, she said, since her mother and his were best friends. She even baby-sat him when he was 8 and she was 12. They played GI Joes and Barbies together.

As they got older they went their separate ways. That changed rather abruptly on Dec. 1, 2006.

"We rekindled an old friendship and found some new fire," she told the jury.

Although this didn't come up in court, there's a story there.

"Lennie" as she is known to friends and family, has 14 years of sobriety behind her. That night a little more than two years ago, she dropped in on an AA meeting just as everyone was about to hold hands. She didn't recognize him at first. When they realized whose hands they were holding, that was it.

The jury learned about their plans for a June wedding, about the property they'd just bought, about the gathering the night before the attack to celebrate the first anniversary of falling for each other.

They heard how Chris was goofing around while Lennie was doing dishes, kissing her on the neck. How when she turned around, he started dancing with her.

"That was the happiest day of my life," she said. "Everything was coming together for us."

She still wears the engagement ring he gave her.

And then it was time to talk about the reason they were all in that courtroom together.

Moren closed her eyes a moment, took a deep breath, and began at the beginning.

Breaking down at times, she powered through, telling the jury how early that morning Erin had appeared in their bedroom door, backlit by the bathroom or kitchen light, she's not sure.

"He came in and he had what I thought was a stick, or like a ruler, and he's screaming, 'Look at what you're making me do! Look at what you're making me do!'

"And he started hitting his father; he was lying on his left side. I couldn't even count -- how many times he hit him.

"I jumped across the bed and tired to grab what I thought was a stick and when I brought my hand back, the tips of my fingers were cut off."

The horrid details went on and on, how Chris made a noise she'd never heard come out of a human as he got to his feet and pushed his son out of the bedroom, through the bathroom and into the kitchen to try to save her before he died.

How Erin then came back for her.

"He was trying to either cut off my arm or my head," she said.

"There was a point when I was able to twist around and look him in the eye. And I said, 'We're dead. You killed us. You can go now.'

"I was pretty sure Chris was dead ... I wanted to lie down next to him and just die with him."

She didn't because she had work to do. She called 911 on her cell phone so that if she died, someone would know who did this. She also called because she worried about her elderly landlady, that Erin might go to her house next.

"Also, I didn't want her to find our bodies. Because she would have been the one."

A little over a year later, in addition to pain, Moren still suffers the effects of the attack, including some brain damage, post traumatic stress, vertigo and nerve damage. Her hands don't work right; her elbow needs repair. She could go on and on.

At one point, she lifted up her sleeve to show the jury that damaged elbow, exposing deep purple scars on a misshapen arm.

After the last of her testimony, she walked out of the courtroom. Her friends got up from their seats, followed her into the hallway, circled around and took turns hugging her.

The day she'd dreaded was done.

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