Machete attacker found guilty of murder

Palmer jury: rogers jr. faces over 100 years in prison for killing father, attacking father's fiancee.

December 18, 2008 

Christopher Erin Rogers Jr., photographed Wednesday December 17, 2008 in a Palmer courtroom, was found guilty Thursday of murder, attempted murder and animal cruelty, as well as assault, theft and probation violation charges. Rogers faces trial next year on charges he continued his rampage in Anchorage.

MARC LESTER / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

PALMER -- Christopher Erin Rogers Jr. fully intended to kill his father and his father's fiancee last December when he attacked them with a machete as they slept, a Palmer jury decided.

The jury's decision Thursday afternoon followed just a half-day of deliberations but, before that, days of emotionally searing testimony and evidence that included photos of blood-soaked rooms and an account of the attack's survivor.

Rogers showed little reaction when the verdict was read. Supporters of Christopher Chris Rogers Sr. and his fiancee, Elann "Lennie" Moren, were overjoyed. Moren, who attended some of the trial, was not there for the verdict but was listening by phone hookup.

"We're very elated and looking forward to sentencing in March," said Ronda Marcy, Moren's friend and legal advocate.

Rogers' sentencing is set for March 24.

None of the jurors wanted to comment after they left the courtroom.

The jury convicted Rogers of murder, attempted murder -- for his attack on Moren -- and animal cruelty, as well as assault, theft and probation violation charges. A charge for driving on a revoked license was dismissed.

Rogers could get more than 100 years. First-degree murder brings a 99-year maximum sentence, and Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said later he also plans to ask for the upper sentencing range on the attempted murder charge.

The bloody attacks at the center of the case began after a party celebrating the couple's first anniversary together last December, prosecutors say. Rogers unsheathed a machete, walked into their bedroom and attacked his father and his fiancee along with their dog, Bear.

Rogers Sr. died in the house from more than 30 machete blows. Moren, badly injured and with one arm barely attached, took shelter in a bathroom, according to testimony during the trial. She survived, though she walks stiffly, her leg braced, and still suffers from brain damage and other permanent scars of the attack.

Rogers faces trial next year on charges he continued his rampage in Anchorage, where he allegedly shot and killed one person and wounded two others.

Reliving the horrors of that December night took an emotionally heavy toll on Moren, Marcy said later. Moren testified at length about the attacks Wednesday while on the witness stand. Rogers' mother, Sherry Kelly, openly questioned Moren's testimony.

But afterward, she followed Moren to the parking lot and said, " 'I want to apologize to you for what my son has done,' " Marcy said. "Then she said, 'I didn't tell my son to do that to you.' "

The trial began Dec. 3; a lengthy jury selection process took days due to the sensational nature of the killing.

Jury deliberations began just before noon Thursday. Their primary decision: did Rogers intend to kill his father and Moren -- justifying a first-degree murder and attempted-murder verdict -- or was he guilty of second-degree murder and assault in the attacks?

During closing arguments Thursday morning, Kalytiak presented jurors with literally a pile of evidence to back up his contention that Rogers meant to kill them both.

The prosecutor stacked slick blue plastic evidence bags on a table: footprints including one on the bed where the slashing began, bloody clothes, the machete in a long box.

Rogers told police in Anchorage he meant to kill the couple, Kalytiak said.

"Every chop he made, every time that machete was swung, every time it made contact with a human body, is continuing evidence of his intent," he said.

Rogers' only stated regret to police, the district attorney continued, was that he didn't use a gun -- it would have been quicker and less bloody.

Rogers' own attorney admitted his client was guilty of second-degree murder.

But public defender John Richard told jurors it's "not good enough" to think Rogers probably meant to kill his father and Moren.

Richard told jurors to ignore Rogers' statements to police in Anchorage, in which he said aliens told him to act and made clear his hatred for his father and Moren.

Instead, focus on testimony from Moren and her friends that Rogers was trying to become part of the family and liked to grow flowers, though he did have a problem taking responsibility for his actions.

Rogers was staying with the pair at the time of the attack. They served as third-party custodians for him on a 2006 drunken-driving charge.

Richard reminded jurors that Rogers used a machete -- something designed "to hack bushes" -- rather than a gun, an inherently deadly weapon.

"Yes, you know it is intended to kill. This is not like that," he said, his near-monotone suddenly almost a shout. "This is not like that. This is horrible. But you cannot know what was in his mind."

Find Zaz Hollander online at adn.com/contact/zhollander or call 352-6711.

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