Apparently, women found him extremely charming, for he could talk them into accompanying him alone with remarkable ease, which is why he was also called the ‘Casanova Killer’ – a tag he shares with another American serial killer of the 1970s – Paul John Knowels. HEMRAJ SINGH tells the story.
In the morning hours of September 29, 1995, the Los Angeles fire department received a call reporting a vehicle fire in the compound of a hospital in Van Nuys, Los Angeles. They rushed to the scene and found a pickup truck ablaze in the parking lot of the hospital. The firemen managed to extinguish the fire, but once the flames were gone, they saw the charred human remains in the truck. The matter was promptly escalated to the Homicide Department and the Arson Department of the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Homicide Detectives were rushed to the scene, where they were briefed by the officers who had already secured the crime scene to prevent any further loss of evidence from the crime scene contamination. They started by interviewing the possible witnesses to crime.
A nurse told the detectives that she had witnessed the vehicle go up in flames when she was walking into the hospital that morning to report for duty for the early morning shift, and she had also seen a human figure with long hair run away from the vehicle before the car was enveloped in fire. However, she could not help the detectives with the identity of the person, for she had only seen a human figure with long hair rush away, and had not seen the face of the person. She told the detectives that she had never seen the truck before. A close examination of the burnt vehicle revealed that the fire had begun in the cabin of the truck and had rapidly spread assisted by an incendiary agent, perhaps gasoline. It was clear that the fire was not an accident and had been intentionally set either to kill the woman or to destroy her body or to disfigure it beyond recognition after the murder. The offender had partly succeeded because while it appeared to be a female body, it was difficult to say for sure due to the severity of the burns.
However, there were other items in the truck that had survived the fire, including a backpack carrying a camera, an undeveloped film roll and some identification papers that suggested that the deceased was probably a 33-year-old Sandra Gallagher, but due to the burns a positive identification was possible only through a dental match, which could take some time. In the meanwhile the detectives began working with the evidence they already had in their possession. The truck was registered in the name of Sandra Gallagher. The detectives discovered that Sandra Gallagher was married to one Steve Gallagher and was the mother of three. The detectives contacted the husband, who lived in the Los Angeles rea itself, and had him brought over for questioning. So far the detectives had every reason to believe that the victim was Sandra, but a positive identification was still a few days away. The detectives placed the articles retrieved from Sandra’s car and asked him to have a look. Steve confirmed that all the items belonged to Sandra. The film roll found had been developed by the detectives, and the pictures were shown to Steve, who identified Sandra in the pictures. However, the pictures did not provide any leads, but for now Steve was not above suspicion.
The detectives inquired if everything was alright between Steve and Sandra because in a large number of cases of murdered married women, the husband is the culprit. So, the questioning was intended to first eliminate Steve as a suspect before moving further.
Steve told the detectives that he and Sandra were experiencing difficulties pulling together and had been staying apart for a few days. He also told that he had met Sandra for lunch at around 2:00 p.m. on September 28, 1995, the day before the blazing truck with a woman in it was reported to the authorities, and the duo had talked about dissolving their differences and starting afresh, but they found that they were not quite there yet, and it seemed that they needed some more time apart before they could get back together. He had also had a small talk with his wife in the evening the same day when she called him from a local bar to share the news of her winning $1200 in lottery. That was the last he had heard from her.
The mention of the bar gave the detectives a way forward. They visited the bar and showed Sandra’s picture to the bartender, who recognized her instantly. The bartender knew her and confirmed that Sandra had been to the bar on the night of September 28, 1995, and Sandra had also told everybody about her lottery win. While the detectives were talking to the bartender, a few customers overheard the conversation and they joined in because they remembered seeing Sandra at the bar on the night of September 28, 1995 and her lottery.
They also told the detectives that Sandra kept talking with this new man, who had been taking special interest in her that evening and had been buying drinks for her and others all evening. They described the man as having long blond hair and a beard, which was also the description the nurse had given of the man she had seen run away from the car right before the car went up in flames in the early hours of September 29, 1995. Steve’s story had checked out. The detectives had sufficient reason to believe Steve was not their man. It was this other person with long blond hair, and the customers had also given them a name to look this person by – Glen. They were not sure what his last name was, but they vaguely remembered it as ‘Rogers’ or something similar. Glen has asked Sandra for a lift to his house when the bar closed that morning. He said he lived nearby. Sandra agreed to drop Glen and they left together. He had been visiting the bar quite frequently in the few days immediately preceding Sandra’s last visit, which was when Glen and Sandra met the first time. And neither she, nor Glen had visited the bar ever since.
The detectives checked the records and found a Glen Rogers living in the area. They took Glen’s pictures to the bar and showed it around to the customers who had seen Sandra with the man with long, blond hair. Glen’s picture was put together with the pictures of several other similar looking men, but the people at the bar had no problem picking Glen from the jumble as the person they had seen Sandra leave with that night.
The detectives got the warrant to search Glen’s house, which was just a few minutes from where the burning car had been found. When they got to the apartment and knocked, nobody attended the door. Armed with a search warrant, the police officers followed by the detectives entered the house. Glen was not home. From the look of the apartment he seemed to have left in a hurry.
The detectives found a woman’s purse with a wallet in it, but it had no money and nothing to identify the owner by. A single piece from the pair of a woman’s earrings was also found, which was significant piece of evidence because Sandra’s husband identified it as part of the pair he had bought for Sandra a few months earlier, which meant that Sandra had probably been to Glen’s apartment unless there was some other explanation for the presence of the piece there.
In the meanwhile, the coroner’s report also came in. It had been medically confirmed that the charred remains found in the car were indeed of Sandra Gallagher, but she had not died of the burns. She was already dead when she was set afire. The cause of death was asphyxiation from manual strangulation.
The detectives had found their prime suspect. Glen Rogers was charged with the murder of Sandra Gallagher and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Glen’s name and picture entered the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC), the national database of crimes and criminals, which is accessible to some 57,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States. This meant that nearly all law enforcement agencies throughout the length and breadth of the nation were technically aware that Glen Rogers was wanted for a murder in California, and they could apprehend him at sight. The detectives were actively looking for Glen pursuing all leads. They knew that he frequented bars and did odd jobs, particularly in construction business. They went to several construction sites and came across quite a few of Glen’s friends and co-workers, who revealed a good deal about Glen Rogers, including that he had bad temper especially when drunk, and had been violent with former girlfriends.
One of Glen’s friends who had promised to inform the detectives if and when he heard from him contacted the detectives a few days after the conversation and told that Glen had called him from a motel outside Jackson, Mississippi. The police immediately landed at the motel and the in-charge showed them to Glen’s room. But by the time they got into the room Glen had already fled, again. A local All-points Bulletin (APB) was issued for Glen in the hope that someone might see and report Glen before he disappeared from the area. Little did they know that Mississippi was to see the darker side of Glen before he vanished from the State.
On November 3, 1995, a few days after the motel raid, the police got a call reporting murder in Jackson, Mississippi. The victim was a 34-year-old single mother by the name Linda Price. She was found dead in a bathtub with multiple stab wounds on the body and her throat slashed. No murder weapon was found on the scene, no valuables were missing, there were no signs of a forced entry and the killer had locked the door before exiting the murder scene. So, the detectives concluded that Linda Price had been killed for reasons other than robbery by someone she knew and had invited into her house.
The detectives got in touch with Linda’s mother to find if she knew anything about her daughter’s death. She told that her daughter had found a new boyfriend, and his name was Glen Rogers. Linda had met Glen on October 3, 1995, a month before her murder, at the Mississippi State Fair, where Glen had been working. Linda fell for Glen’s charms almost instantly and the two were a couple in no time. They rented an apartment soon after and moved in together. Linda’s mother told the detectives that in the beginning Linda was happier than ever before but had later started doubting the wisdom of her decision of taking things forward with Glen that soon. Glen had a bad temper and Linda was quite scared of his mood swings. Linda’s mother suspected that it was Glen who had killed his daughter. The police did not have any reason to not share her opinion. Glen, of course, had vanished from the scene, and the detectives believed that he had left the area. The information regarding the Mississippi murder was fed into the NCIC database, and it was now known across the country that the man called Glen Rogers was wanted for a murder in California and another in Mississippi.
By now the detectives knew that Glen had charmed his victims to death, and it didn’t look like he was going to stop anytime soon on his own. The only way to stop him was by putting him behind the bars. So, if he was not quickly captured and locked up, there were likely to be more victims. The detectives investigating the case got in touch with the FBI field office in Jackson, Mississippi seeking assistance because they believed that Glen had left the State after Linda’s murder just like he had left California after killing Sandra. FBI came on board with the local law enforcement agencies to make a well-coordinated attempt to catch hold of Glen Rogers.
However, by then Glen Rogers had already struck again. Three days after killing Linda, Glen claimed another victim on November 6, 1995; this time in Tampa, Florida in a motel room rented by Glen. Once again the victim, like Linda Price, was found dead in a bathtub with multiple knife wounds in the back, chest and on the wrists. The woman could not be immediately identified, as there was nothing in the room to identify her by, but the detectives noticed a cross tattooed on her shoulder, which could be useful for identification. Her jeans and shoes were found piled by the toilet and her bracelet was in the sink.
From the look of the clothing, shoes and the stab wounds on the body of the victim, it was quite clear that the woman had most probably been stabbed from behind through the clothes and the clothes had been taken off later. The pattern of blood stains on the shoes also suggested that she was wearing the shoes as well when she was attacked. The detectives also found a man’s watch under the body. It was also clear that an attempt had been made to wipe the crime scene clean of evidence. The body had been discovered by the housekeeper when she entered the room to clean it. The day before she had not cleaned up the room respecting the handwritten ‘Do Not Disturb’ slip at the door, but that day the guest was supposed to have already checked out. Later, the motel manager told the detectives that the man who had rented the room had asked for a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, which, he was told, they did not have. So, it seemed, he had torn off a page from the phone book and had made a DND sign for himself.
…to be continued