Hiding In Plain Sight: Cops Finally Apprehend a Killer, Now 82 and Ailing, Who'd Been on the Lam for 22 Years

A bailiff in a beige uniform opens the door next to the courtroom's inmate-seating area, which is empty for the moment. It's Monday at the Maricopa County Superior Court, and the inmate galley begins to fill up for the morning's hearings.

"It might be easier to get him through this way," says someone from the hallway beyond the door.

Finally, an old man in a wheelchair rolls through the doorway, pushed by another inmate.

Richard Rodgers in an ID shot from 1987 and a police mug shot in 2009, after 22 years on the lam.
Richard Rodgers in an ID shot from 1987 and a police mug shot in 2009, after 22 years on the lam.
Rodgers' 1987 booking photo
Rodgers' 1987 booking photo

Like the much younger defendants shuffling through the door in chains, the elderly man wears a striped jail uniform over a pink, long-sleeve undershirt. He has thick and long-ish white-gray hair and two or three inches of white beard. He twists in the chair to thank the inmate who helped him, then looks to the visitors' section, smiles, and waves. His daughter, Connie Watkins, a heavyset, middle-age woman in a pantsuit, waves back.

Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner James Rummage takes his seat on the bench, then does a double take when he looks at the number of the first case before him. The case number includes the year of the alleged offense. Rummage stumbles: "I'm sorry, CR 1987?"

The date of the crime and age of the defendant aren't the only weird things about the hearing: The old man's lawyer claims authorities have the wrong man in custody. The 23-year-old case names Roger Cook as the defendant, but the inmate says he's Richard Earl Rodgers Sr.

"That's the name I was born with," the man tells the judge in a strong voice.

Yet if the man in the wheelchair is Richard Rodgers, then where is Roger Cook, the nasty guy who gunned down an unarmed young stranger those many years ago at a downtown Phoenix apartment complex? The case wasn't a whodunit: Witnesses back then all agreed that Cook had leaned over a second-floor balcony and fired his .357 Magnum at 23-year-old Terance Keenan, who had done nothing but taunt him from a parking lot below.

Cook was arrested at the time but disappeared soon after a judge released him on an unsecured bond.

Watkins whispers to a reporter seated on the bench next to her that Rodgers couldn't possibly have committed the crime.

"He wasn't living here in 1987. He was in Long Beach," she says. "He had heart surgery in 1989. This is a case of mistaken identity and abuse of an elderly person."

She's in town from California, where she'd been living to be near her aging father. Now she's doing whatever she can to help him during his incarceration. Her brother, Thomas Rodgers, uses his blog to repeat the claim that their father is falsely accused.

A big man with the face of a boxer and a scar on his nose, Rodgers grew up during the Great Depression, joined the Navy in the late 1940s, and worked as a truck driver for 50 years. He lived and worked in Phoenix for at least 11 years and has been retired in Long Beach for more than 20, spending the past 15 in the same senior-living apartment.

In August, authorities rousted Rodgers from his home and checked the semi-ambulatory old man into a medical ward at the local jail. Three months later, he was placed on a private flight (at taxpayer expense) and found himself booked into another medical unit, this time in the Maricopa County jail.

The retiree had been living on a fixed income and couldn't afford a lawyer, so his case was assigned to John Curry, a public defender. Curry was, in fact, the same public defender who handled the Cook case two decades ago, when he was fresh out of law school. An experienced lawyer now, he tells Commissioner Rummage that he doesn't recognize anyone in the courtroom from 1987.

"We're not sure why the state thinks he's Roger Cook," Curry says.

The prosecutor, Deputy County Attorney Bernita Clark, says she can't immediately provide proof of the man's identity.

But that's okay with Rummage, who isn't buying the mistaken-identity angle. Rummage acts as though the defendant's true name is a moot point. And it is a moot point, except as a Hail Mary defense tactic.

Rodgers admitted before his 2009 arrest that he was the man in the 1987 booking photo, according to a report published by police weeks earlier. Fingerprint evidence confirmed it, even if Clark didn't have the documents in front of her at the hearing.

Curry, Watkins, and Thomas Rodgers are just doing what comes naturally for defense lawyers and kin — covering for the old guy, hoping they'll get away with it.

Fact was, cops knew in June 2009 that they had their man. Their dilemma centered on what to do with him.

Rodgers was 81 at the time. He used a motorized scooter to get around, received treatments at a California Veterans Affairs hospital for various ailments, including congestive heart failure. He took handfuls of medications daily. Ultimately, it was decided to take him back to Maricopa County.

Rodgers spends much of the January hearing with his chin resting near his chest, appearing alternately lucid and confused by the legal bantering.

Rummage declares that things will proceed for the time being without confirmation of the defendant's identity. He affirms a $1 million bond, ensuring that Rodgers won't have a second chance to slip away.

1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
23 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Karlalachapelle
Karlalachapelle

my name is Karla Lachapelle. i am the only only child of Terrence Keenan. I don't expect some of people to understand what the last 22 years have been like for me and my family. Roger Cook murdered my dad almost 23 years ago. had Arizona done their jobs correctly back then this wouldn't be an issue. Unless you have been through this yourself you have no idea how bad it can destroy a family. My two sons will never know their grandfather. will never know what a wonderful loving father and husband he was. Roger Cook should have to pay for what he did. finally after all these years he has to responsiblity for what he did. And about being a burden on the tax payers look at it this way with any luck he wont live to long.anyone that has a comment find me on facebook karlalachapelle.com

Csrw_1
Csrw_1

Let me clear something up for Ray Stern who once again is not reporting the facts. The picture you keep posting and stating is Richard Rodgers mug shot is not correct. The one in the black coat is the booking shot taken in az. when booked the other picture is Richard Rodgers Ca. ID card. The original Mug shot looks nothing like this pictures.Get your facts correct before reporting Ray.

julieacklin
julieacklin

This man is not a harm hes in a wheel chair.Our prisons are full of sick an physically ill inmates .we can not take care of the ones we have .Wharehoused like animals and menatlly ill making the doc their institutions and the deaths that are occurring .az needs to explain why these inmates we have already are being neglected.i know my own son sorry to say is mentally ill an sick an suffering 23 years old never hurt anyone and got 5 years .Why so he could suffer a slow death hep c .Az take care of the ones we have and think about the families that are suffering as victims of your money making barbarick death traps. The home of the sick and the mentally ill.This man is a zillion and will cost the state a million.Az prison a breeding ground for deadly viruses and prison health is public health.Let this old man go.and if you have to go after the daughter if anyone she wont cost the state more money until of course she contracts hep c like 6,000 other inmates infected. Hcv ,prison reform national ass.of hepatitis c task force.free macumber and davon acklin and courtney bisbee they are the neglected and suffering in az prisons

Marcy
Marcy

Lock him up and throw away the key, he's a murderer AND he ran to avoid punishment.

Anon
Anon

Marcy, Unless you personally want to pay for this aging man in prison, then it would seem more cost effective to put him on a GPS system anchored at home. Would save the taxpayers scarce resources they do not have anyway -- just to prove a point -- and be done with it. We have many more violent offenders who the prisons were intended for. You and people like you, Marcy are dead wrong!!

Csrw_1
Csrw_1

to julieacklin why would the state have to go after the daughter? I did nothing wrong, I tried to take care of him when made aware of his arrest. The statements made by Ray stern were not correct when he spoke of me. I made many calls to him that were never returned. Only after my dad was sentenceed did he want to speek when I'm very upset. This reporter does not report the complete truith. As far as going after me I'm on retirement and i"m not responsable for my Dads actions. I did not even know where my Dad was at this. I new nothing about this case. As a mother,a grandmother, a greatgrandmother I was very sorry for her lose. I am not at all sure my Dad is Roger Cook and his mental state will never let me prove it. The state convenced my Dad he would get probation if he admitted to a crime he may not have committed and would not give me the chance to speek to him one on one without outside intervention. He had no idea what he was doing. now we have no idea where he is going or what kind of medical attention he will get. I know this much none of his major medical needs have been taken care of so far and i would know because i had my dads medical power of attorney and handled all his medical needs. I signed for maricopa to get them after that was told they don't have to tell me what they are doing with his medical. Mr curry did get me a copy after he found out what they were telling me. A year to late. I had a medical profession read the papers that tells me one issue he has received since he his been there that he never had before and there more. You are correct they are neglected. However to think that I'm responsable for this crime is not a very nice thing to say. You have no idea what I have gone thru this year.I'm the only child he has that would do anything for him they did not want there life upset but they sure didn't mind if my life was. I'm retired of disability with serious illness yet i ran back and fourth all year to try and do what i could for the only parent i have left, that is the way I was raised thats the way we raised our children so if thats a crime the I gues they will just have to put another sick person in they jail.

Marcy
Marcy

His fingerprints matched and his face is exactly the same, though a bit aged. Give it up, your old man is a nutter and a murderer.

Vidaflora1
Vidaflora1

Perhaps he was dangerous at one time, but obviously not so much now. He's certainly not as dangerous as you Marcy- small-minded & stupid enough to voice it. We could all benefit from more common sense & less stupidity... Marcy.

Anon
Anon

Marcy, The innocent family members should not have to pay the price they already have for their murderous family member. It's thinking like yours, Marcy, that has bankrupted the state and made incarceration more important than education in Arizona. You offer nothing but vengence -- an eye for an eye. How sick.

Marcy
Marcy

The man is no harm to society? Until the next time the freak pulls out a gun and blasts away someone else.

Just like that screwed up old man who shot that Redflex employee sitting along the side of the road.

Both of them are nice enough fellows when they aren't shooting people.

Lock up his daughter as well for lying about who he was and where he was at the time of the murder.

Anon
Anon

Marcy, The man is in a wheelchair, won't be killing a Redflex driver and probably won't be using a gun, unless he shoots someone in his own household who might provide him with a gun. There is a reason Arizona is at the bottom of the nation, just above Mississippi in poverty, education and at the top of the list in mass incarceration of it's people. It's time for you to "give it up" -- the money should be spent on the Kingman escapee types who "strolled" out of the prison while the officers are busy 'babysitting" the drunks and drug addicts.

Anon
Anon

ps - or wheeling around the elderly and dying in the nursing home the prisons have become.

Get off my lawn
Get off my lawn

well considering for the last 22 years he hasn't shot anyone else i would say he's no harm. also at 82 years old i doubt he's even a good shot assuming he even has a gun, or can hold one up. In my opinion, Keenan sounded like an idiot, taunting someone with a gun who was obviously pissed off. for crying out loud get off the old man's lawn!!

Marcy
Marcy

So we get to blow someone away every 22 years? He managed 60 years before he managed to murder the first time. Should that have given him a free pass?

He murdered, he ran away rather than face justice. Now it's time to go to prison like he should have 22 years ago.

Joseph
Joseph

yeah,arrest the daughter for hiding a killer.

FormerRepublican
FormerRepublican

The elderly, dying, chronically ill, who pose no harm to society need to be released. Arizona's taxpayers CANNOT sustain the growing mass industrial prison complex Arizona has become. Does Arizona think all this is going to attract tourists, visitors and new families? Arizona needs customers and their money -- big time. Lawyers enjoy obscene legal fees up front with NO accountability. Why would they fight it? The legislators are in bed with the special interests and Governor Brewer should be ashamed with her direct aides tied to CCA Corrections Corporation of America=private prisons=$$$"s! This taxpayer and former Republican is fed up!!

Marcy
Marcy

All states lock up old folks honey.

When sentenced to life in prison that's what you get, life in prison. You don't get to get out when you are elderly. It's called PUNISHMENT.

And that's exactly what this fruitcake needs to get.

Anon
Anon

This man is no harm to society but now costing the taxpayers a fortune as an ill and dying senior citizen. Are we now going to turn prisons into senior citizen homes, like where we've put the mentally ill (rather then in mental institutions? Or do we want to continue to build more prisons to house more of our citizens? Ask CCA/Brewer/Coughlin and Senseman... Why isn't Gov. Brewer's son (criminally insane and violent) in prison rather then a mental health facility, like over 25% of the mentally ill being house and at risk for their lives in prison?

The Arizona prisons are seriously overcrowded with cruel inhumane living conditions of confinement where there is NO money for the safety and well-being of the inmates. NO money for proper medical care or rehabilitation. "Corrections" means to correct NOT warehouse human beings. The "beds" are needed for those who are violent and a harm to society, NOT some social cleansing experiment. Meanwhile, resources and attention are diverted from the truly violent like the recent Kingman escapees.

Let's end this sham and the mass industrial prison complex Arizona has become. And you think it won't happen to you? Think again. Have an enemy or disgruntled ex-spouse? Think Macumber and aging innocent man being housed wasting precious taxpayer $$$'s.

Anon
Anon

This man is no harm to society but now costing the taxpayers a fortune as an ill and dying senior citizen. Are we now going to turn prisons into senior citizen homes, like where we've put the mentally ill (rather then in mental institutions? Or do we want to continue to build more prisons to house more or our citizens? Ask CCA/Brewer/Coughlin and Senseman...

The prisons are overcrowded with cruel inhumane living conditions of confinement where there is NO money for the safety and well-being of the inmates. NO money for proper medical care or rehabilitation. "Corrections" means to correct NOT warehouse human beings. The "beds" are needed for those who are violent and a harm to society, NOT some social cleansing experiment. Meanwhile, resources and attention are diverted from the truly violent like the recent Kingman escapees.

Let's end this sham and the mass industrial prison complex Arizona has become. And you think it won't happen to you? Think again. Have an enemy or disgruntled ex-spouse? Think Macumber and aging innocent man being housed wasting precious taxpayer $$$'s.

Anon
Anon

delete this comment w/typo- has been replaced with above

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

//"Let's end this sham and the mass industrial prison complex Arizona has become."//

Let's see... Last time I checked, murder was a jailable offense, as is flight to avoid prosecution. If the man committed the crime, he's got to serve the sentence, this isn't the same as spending $20 Grand of taxpayer money to bust some kid with 2 joints in his pocket. Murder is the taking of a life. How about we have someone kill a person that's close to you and then let that person go because they're old and because we don't want to feed "the mass industrial prison complex Arizona has become".

I wonder how THAT would sit with you?

Then again, I notice you have the lack of balls that compels you to post anonymously. I love people who have the stones to post, but are too chicken-shit to let anyone know who they are.

XSoldier
XSoldier

Mike,I agree with you to a point. Anon may be saying that his age should be a factor for the trial judge to decide. If that's so, Anon is correct.

Some people fear retaliation from the MCSO shurf and choose to post anonymously to prevent the Flaccid Fool from jailing us for calling him out on his total and utter corruption. How would being jailed for voicing your concerns about the MCSO shurf sit with you?

Mike Wells
Mike Wells

I've never been afraid to say exactly what I think about that fat buffoon. The closest I had to being afraid was about 5 or 6 years ago, someone was putting together a campaign against him(Now I can't even remember if this woman was supporting one of his rivals, just trying to make a national story about his BS, or what), I contacted her and offered to do some graphic design work if she was interested, she got back to me and said she was. That's the last I ever heard, because that same week, someone broke into her offices and stole her computers, containing all of her records and email correspondence. I was nervous there for awhile because there was a definite trail back to me, but since I didn't have anything to worry about, I figured worst case scenario is that I end up with a rather nice lawsuit against Joe...

I no longer live in Az, but I come to visit family about twice a year, and while I fear the whole atmosphere of the place, Joe himself is about as troubling to me as an unformed zit. The guy's a punk, and many people have shown that. I'd be willing to endure time in his hotel if it got me millions when I told my story...

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...