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Creepy and Unexplained: Houston’s infamous double homicide
September 18, 2018
What do you think of when you hear the word “Icebox?” If you thought about a refrigerator, you’re correct. In the mid-19th century, the old and unmechanical version of the refrigerator, the icebox, used blocks of ice to keep food cold. On June 1965, in Houston, a refrigerator, the much more advanced version of an icebox, was used to store the limbs, torsos, and heads of Fred and Edwina Rogers.
The dismembered bodies of Fred and Edwina Rogers were found after Edwina’s worried nephew, Marvin, called the police to check on the home of the deceased after his calls were left pending for days. When the police arrived at the house it looked neat. No one answered the door, therefore the police decided to let themselves in.
A police officer checked the refrigerator, supposedly to find a cold beer for the hot day. He saw some “unwrapped cuts of hog meat” stacked neatly on the upper level of the refrigerator. He paid no attention to them and moved on to the vegetable bin, determined to find what he desired. What he ended up finding was indeed not a cold beer, but the heads of the murdered couple.
The police discovered that the neatly stacked “unwrapped cuts of hog meat” were the limbs and torsos of Fred and Edwina Rogers. They later found the organs in a nearby sewer. They were dismembered and flushed down the toilet while other remains were never found.
The autopsy showed that the couple was killed on Father’s Day. Fred Rogers had been killed by blows to the head with a claw hammer. His eyes were scraped out and his genitals were removed. Edwina Rogers was beaten and was shot, execution style.
Police reports said that the couples were dismembered by someone, “with some knowledge of anatomy.” The scene was cleaned rigorously. There was no hint of blood except in a keyhole saw that was found in the bedroom of the couple’s son, Charles Rogers.
After the blood-stained keyhole saw was found, a search for Charles was initiated while a warrant was introduced, labeling Charles as a material witness to the crime. Unfortunately, Rogers was never found.
Although there were signs that Charles Rogers might be the potential murderer, the police still lacked the reason why Charles had murdered his parents. That’s where Houston Forensic Accountants, Hugh and Martha Gardenier, come in.
“They do regular accountant stuff; taxes, audits, but they’re also certified forensic accountants,” said Phoebe Judge, host and co-creator of Criminal Podcast.
Hugh and Martha took the initiative in solving the Ice Box Murders in 1997. The couple had no background in law enforcement. They’re accountants who decided to investigate the spine-chilling case. As part of their investigation, they decided to ignore all the written statements that the police have reported and decided to investigate them by themselves. When they did so, they found a lot of statements to be untrue.
Martha, along with her son, would go down to the neighborhood where the double homicide took place to measure sewer openings. They then went to the city planning department and dug into the archives to look into where the sewers ran and which sewers connected to the house. They found out the sewers the police had reported to be used by flushing down the organs were in no way linked to the house.
The Gardeniers spent over 5,000 hours on this case and interviewed over 100 people. The couple was determined to solve this case, and they did. They not only solved the case but figured out why the Rogers was murdered and how Charles was able to flee.
When the Gardeniers investigated the whereabouts of Charles Rogers, they found out that the case was a “white-collar crime,” as Hugh Gardenier said. A white-collar crime is financially motivated and in no way violent. “It is a crime committed by a highly respected and high social status person.”
Charles Rogers was a lone wolf. He grew up being abused by his parents and bullied by others. He grew up to be anti-social. The family’s maid mentioned that Edwina hadn’t seen her sons face in 5 years, despite Charles living with his parents. Charles would communicate with them by slipping notes under his bedroom door and would leave early in the morning, returning back home late at night. He avoided being seen by anyone and he succeeded.
Despite being a loner, Charles Rogers was intelligent. He attended the University of Houston, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in nuclear physics. He then joined the Navy, where he served as a pilot in World War II. After serving his time in the war, he became a seismologist, “the study of science concerned with earthquakes and related phenomena.” He worked for Shell Oil for nine years and quit his job later on without giving a reason.
The Gardeniers believe that the police at the time didn’t have enough time nor resources to investigate the case skillfully; but with a more advanced world in 1997, they audited all financial records of the Rogers.
Charles had reportedly owned several pieces of land, including the house in which the couple was murdered. Fred and Edwina had forged Charles signature on false deeds with the properties that Charles owned. Edwina linked the house to her name and asked for loans against the house, pocketing the money in the end.
Hugh and Martha believe that Charles had approached this “financial” problem as an “engineering job”.
“First, developing a course of action, and then making backup plans; and back up, backup plans,” said Phoebe Judge, host and co-creator of Criminal Podcast.
As one of Charles Rogers’s backup plan, he spent days in the house, after the murder, making sure nothing led back to him. He spent time cleaning the bloody mess and even organized the crime to look as if a robbery had gone bad, according to the Gardeniers. Charles then fled and was never caught.
In 1968, the police received information about Charles Rogers, which at first, was kept away from the public. The day after Fred and Edwina’s bodies were found, a man who looked very similar to Charles, had walked inside into an office building. Witnesses reported that the man looked nervous and said that he was a welder. The man was seeking for a job overseas and when asked for his name, he responded with Anthony Pitts.
With their investigation skills, The Gardeniers were able to find out that Charles longtime girlfriend worked in the office building. She had been waiting for him to help him escape by giving him the keys to a getaway car. Charles took off to Chihuahua, Mexico, another detail that was missed by the police, and never faced punishment for his gory crime.
The Gardeniers came to a realization that Charles had a pilot license, from when he served in the World War II. Hugh and Martha claimed that they knew Charles so well, they were positive he used his own plane when granted his license.
The Gardeniers went on a hunt in finding Charles airplane but had a difficult time with the pilot license since they couldn’t distinguish the last number. They had a span of many possible numbers for the identification, which decreased after they visited the Texas A&M Library. There, they went through registration files from the past and were able to reduce the list to approximately 10 numbers. Hugh and Martha were able to find Charles airplane after that, a Cessna 140.
As they audited the sale records of the airplane, The Gardeniers found their biggest clue yet. They found out that Charles had sold the airplane to a man named Pop Fullwood, who eventually sold it to a man named Anthony Pitts.
Does the name sound familiar? It is the exact name that the man, who looked exactly as Charles and said to be a welder, used when he was supposedly looking for a job in an office building. The Gardeniers were able to find files that proved Anthony Pitts was a real person and was involved with Charles Rogers in the Department of Public Safety in Texas and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Anthony Pitts had worked with Charles Rogers in Central America way before the murders. Now The Gardeniers needed proof that they still remained working together throughout all these years. They found that proof with the person that kept appearing in Charles Rogers’s business records, John Mackey.
The Gardeniers managed to contact Mackey’s lawyer, who was able to contact Mackey’s widow for the Gardeniers.
“Widows will talk after their quite frankly philandering husbands are dead. It’s amazing the information you can get out,” Hugh Gardenier said.
The widow revealed that her late husband was in control of mining businesses in Mexico and Honduras for Texas investors. He was in need for someone who guarantees the investors that they’d be digging in the right place. Charles Rogers was perfect for the job.
Despite Charles being well known for the double homicide, the Texans had no interest in turning him in due to making money from Charles. No one dared to step forward and say something. Instead, they sat back and relaxed while Charles went on with his new life.
Charles Rogers escaped punishment for his crime, but he could never escape death. According to the widow, Charles had been killed in Honduras by miners due to a wage dispute. He had been pickaxed and his body was thrown into the river where it badly decomposed. When the Honduras Police informed Mackey about the “American geologist,” Mackey said he had no idea who it could be.
The Ice Box Murders came to be one of Houston’s most notorious crimes yet. It is still considered an open case, leaving Charles Rogers to be the only suspect. Charles was declared legally dead by a Houston judge so his “estate could be probated.” The infamous house, where the couple was murdered, was turned into condos. The Ice Box Murders is still well known around Houston. People still talk about it till this day and it’s been a tale that has been passed down for generations ever since.