Yes, he confessed, but Christopher Erin Rogers didn't actually kill anyone in Anchorage in December 2007, defense attorney David Weber told a jury Tuesday as Rogers' murder trial got under way in Anchorage.
The day Jason Wenger was shot and killed in Spenard and Liz Rumsey was shot and seriously injured on a downtown bike trail, Rogers watched the news, Weber said. And the next day, when he decided to steal Tamas Deak's car, he imitated what he'd seen and shot Deak, Weber said.
Then he fabricated a confession.
How could jurors tell Rogers' confession to all the shootings was bogus?
Aliens, Weber explained.
Rogers told police at one point that aliens made him shoot Wenger, Rumsey and Deak. However, aliens don't speak to people, Weber said, so that was obviously not true.
He flashed pictures of E.T., crop circles and giant satellite dishes on a projector in the courtroom to illustrate his point. Weber explained to jurors that he couldn't call the aliens to check, but it was safe to assume they didn't tell Rogers to shoot people. Rogers made up the aliens, just like he made up the rest of his confession, he said.
The jury hasn't been told that Rogers was convicted last year of murder in a Palmer court for hacking his father and stepmother with a machete, leaving his father dead.
He's on trial in Anchorage for what happened afterward: Police say he drove his father's truck to Anchorage and went on a shooting rampage, attacking strangers over a two-day period. Wenger was killed. Rumsey and Deak were seriously injured. Police found Rogers in Deak's car and arrested him. They say he fired into police cruisers during a chase, attempting to kill officers.
'CALLOUS, HEARTLESS, ANGRY'
In her opening statement, prosecutor Adrienne Bachman told the jury Rogers was a "callous, heartless, angry" man, with a "devil-may-care" attitude that was clear as he calmly described his actions to police in a lengthy confession.
Bachman said Rogers drove to Anchorage after the attack in Palmer -- although she wasn't specific about the type of attack. Rogers ditched his truck at a gas station and walked to Spenard, where he found Wenger in an idling Bronco.
He shot Wenger, thinking he would steal his car. But, Wenger revved the engine and it made so much noise that Rogers got scared and ran. He later told police he was afraid the noise would alert neighbors and "it was going to be overwhelming to take out a whole entire neighborhood," Bachman said, quoting from Rogers' confession.
After the killing, he walked along the railroad tracks toward downtown and bought some cigarettes and alcohol at a Brown Jug. A little later, he ran into Rumsey on a trail. She was on her cell phone. He asked her the time, she told him, then he shot her in the back, he told police.
As police swarmed the scene afterward, he watched from a hiding place, he said. He told police he was focused on an officer in a police car, considering killing her.
The next morning, he saw Deak near his car. He shot him, he said, and pulled him out of the car. When police caught up with him in Deak's Jeep, they had to ram it to get him to stop. From the stolen Jeep, Rogers shot at the officers. Asked if he was trying to kill them, he said, "I'm not trying to give them a piece of candy or a rose," Bachman quoted from his confession.
Why did he do all this? "I guess in some kind of odd, weird way I was releasing hate or anger," Bachman read from the confession.
That confession was a "self-destructive lie," Weber said.
Jurors will hear evidence of a white sedan speeding away from one scene, victim and witness descriptions of the attacks that don't match Rogers, evidence that the three victims were not shot by the same man, he said. And Rumsey picked someone else out of a photo lineup.
Jurors won't be given any DNA or fingerprint evidence to support the prosecution's theory because there isn't any, he said.
Yes, Rogers is guilty of some things, Weber said. But not murder. The jury should "convict him of what he did, not what he said he did."
When the opening statements were done, Tamas Deak took the stand.
He got up early the morning of the shooting, he said. His wife and two children were still asleep. He walked out to his car, put his things in the passenger seat, and was turning the key in the ignition, about to shut the driver-side door, when he noticed movement in his peripheral vision.
It was a stranger dressed in a mechanic's jumpsuit, with his hood up. His face was thin and skeleton-like.
Rogers unloaded several bullets into him before he could even register what was happening, Deak said.
Rogers pulled him out of the car and onto the ground. He looked up and saw the gun pointing at his face.
"It seemed like I was going to be executed," he told jurors.
He turned his head. The bullet grazed his chin and carved through his neck.
A moment later Deak heard the car pull down the driveway and wondered if he would be run over. But the Jeep disappeared down the road.
Alone in the driveway, Deak called for his sleeping wife, but she couldn't hear him. He tried to stand, but couldn't. He crawled to his front door and knocked. It wasn't loud enough to wake his family. He remembered he had a cell phone.
He'd been shot in the chest and arm, and it was hard to move. He tried to pull the phone from a holster on his hip but became exhausted. Don't pass out, he told himself, don't die in your driveway.
He grabbed the phone antenna in his teeth and pulled it, finally, out of the holster. He flipped it open and, with weak hands, pecked the keys. 7- 9-1-1. Wrong. Delete. Delete. Delete. Delete. His lungs weren't pulling in enough air. He pecked the keys again. 9-1-1.
Finally, he heard a dispatcher's voice. He'd been shot, he gasped.
The trial continues today.
Find Julia O'Malley online at adn.com/contact/jomalley or call 257-4591.