HAMILTON, Ohio — The bars here fill up quickly on weekend nights, when eligible men and women, and even some married folk, gather to shoot pool, dance and drink.
These watering holes, where beer is served in bottles and liquor in plastic cups, are about the only diversion for the young in this blue-collar city north of Cincinnati. With depression gripping both the economy and the people, the bars draw regulars seeking company and comfort.
One was Glen Edward Rogers, a smooth-talking charmer who picked up women with ease in such places--a skill admired among buddies and one the FBI believes he used to lure at least four women to their deaths in four states.
With a bluff and gregarious manner, Rogers, 33, earned the trust of vulnerable women in their 30s with red or strawberry-blond hair, whom he met mostly in bars, and whom authorities allege he stabbed or strangled in California, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. If true, the crimes show he ratcheted up his history of petty crimes and violence a terrifying notch--from beating a wife and girlfriends or lying drunk in the streets of Hamilton to perpetrating an alleged cross-country killing spree.
And the rumor mill on Rogers in his hometown grinds exactly where it all began: in the smoky, seedy bars where he perfected his style of picking up women. Now on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, Rogers is something of a sensation in Hamilton, which has not drawn such national notoriety since a resident gunned down 11 members of his own family on Easter Sunday 20 years ago.
"I read [about Rogers] in the paper," said one woman at the Right Spot Cafe, a lounge Rogers frequented on the troubled east side of the Great Miami River. "He's bad news."
On the surface, Rogers' magnetic personality was the first thing people noticed about him: friendly, persuasive, easygoing, generous. But he at times revealed a hair-trigger temper. "He starts fidgeting, playing with his face. He just snaps all at once," said Jimmy Bowman, 21, a young boy when Rogers dated his sister in the mid-1980s.
Rogers also knew how to survive on Hamilton's tough streets, which put others in awe of his ability to pull out of numerous scrapes with police.
"You can't help but like him. I idolized him," Bowman said. "He's got more street smarts than anyone I know."
It was a reputation Rogers built throughout his life.
He was born in 1962, a time when Hamilton was a bustling industrial center in Ohio, with paper mills, steel manufacturers and other businesses. The safe company that built the vault at Ft. Knox is located here, as was a thriving General Motors plant.
Rogers' father, Claude, worked as a pump operator at the Champion paper company to support his wife, Edna, and six children.
Friends and acquaintances describe the Rogers family as being of "Hamiltuckian" stock, a disparaging reference to the backwoods culture of Appalachia. They moved around Hamilton, eventually settling on Park Avenue, on the west side of town.
Edna Mae Rogers, who maintains that her son is innocent, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Rogers had a typical childhood. She said he developed a skin rash that stayed with him until adulthood after playing in puddles of toxic waste by a nearby chemical plant.
Before his 16th birthday, Rogers was expelled from Wilson Junior High. School records, which show no evidence of any distinction by Rogers in scholastics or athletics, give no reason for the expulsion.
Those who know him say that Rogers had already begun running afoul of the law, contributing to the rising crime rate within Hamilton, as manufacturing jobs took flight and an urban future that once seemed bright disappeared.
"He told me himself he'd probably been in every [youth detention facility] in Ohio when he was a kid," said one man who asked not to be identified.
Within months of his expulsion from school, Rogers got his girlfriend, 14-year-old Deborah Ann Nix, pregnant. Their son, Clinton, named after one of Rogers' brothers, was born in 1979.
The teen-age lovers married a year later. Rogers had his wife's nickname, Debi, tattooed across the knuckles of his right hand. A second son, Jonathan, arrived in 1981.
But around that time, Rogers, just 19, moved alone to Southern California for the first time, joined later by his brother Clinton and the two sons. Clinton brought the boys from Ohio, said a friend who knew the Rogers brothers in California.
The brothers lived in a wood-frame house in Pasadena with the children, who were cared for by baby-sitters while Glen worked at the Highland Press printing company and Clinton worked at a local bar.
Debi Rogers, a small, thin blond woman, eventually moved to California and lived with her husband in a Monrovia duplex, friends said. But court documents indicate that the marriage quickly became rocky again, as Debi began to fear her husband would physically harm her.