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Contradictions Fill Suspect's Past : Manhunt: Some in Glen Rogers' hometown saw him as charming. Others recall troubles, hair-trigger temper.

November 12, 1995|HENRY CHU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In May, 1983, at the age of 18, she returned to Ohio and filed for divorce from Glen Rogers, accusing him of acting with "extreme cruelty" and threatening to "do her great bodily harm."

Debi Rogers was the first of several women who would eventually accuse him of abuse.

After Debi left, Glen Rogers began to crumble, his former co-workers say. One day in 1986 or 1987, Rogers walked out of the printing plant in the middle of a job--and left California soon afterward.

He went back to Hamilton, beginning a pattern of departure and return that friends say marks his entire adult life.

By then, Hamilton had already slid from its perch near the top of Ohio's economic ladder to close to the bottom. The fall of manufacturing spelled the death of thousands of jobs and of much of the town spirit, leaving an oppressive atmosphere of abandoned buildings, weed-choked yards, cracked pavement and empty factories.

For many in Hamilton, hard drinking had replaced the hard work of flush times. Rogers, who tried his hand at construction work, printing and taxi-driving, became a popular patron at neighborhood bars like the J & J or the Choo-Choo, next to the railroad tracks that crisscross the city.

The bars were--and still are--the focal point of night life, where alcohol is mixed with nicotine and often with marijuana or, in recent years, harder drugs. Friends said Rogers, like most everyone, indulged.

"Everybody went to Choo-Choo's. I'm not saying it's the elite people of Hamilton. It was a ghetto bar" for the lower crust, said Sharon Campbell, 47, who hung out with Rogers.

Blond and good looking, Rogers continued with the winning ways that attracted the attention of many, especially women, who would call the taxi company he worked at to chat and request him specifically for rides.

"I danced with him [in the bars]. He was a sweetheart. . . . Every time I met him, he gave me a kiss," Campbell said. "If you needed money for a cigarette or drinks, he'd give it to you."

At the taxi company, where the owner said Rogers had a good record, he would fetch meals for the other cabbies and once organized a funeral cortege of taxi cars for a fellow driver and occasional drinking buddy who died suddenly.

"He liked the party life, the rough, redneck cowboy life," said Bowman, who recalled Rogers smiling and constantly singing the song "All My Ex's Live in Texas," substituting "Ohio" for "Texas."

But Rogers also continued the more nefarious activities of his youth that made his name well-known to local police.

Throughout his time in Hamilton in the 1980s, he was arrested on suspicion of a variety of crimes, including forgery, attempted arson and receipt of stolen property.

In 1987, Rogers pleaded guilty to charges of breaking and entering, as well as forgery, which earned him a two-year prison sentence. It is unclear exactly how much time he served. Those who say they were close to Rogers describe an even more ominous side.

Bowman, a small-time criminal who alleges that Rogers "taught me to steal," remembers an incident in which Rogers asked him to climb through a warehouse window and open the door. After another accomplice backed up the truck too far into the garage to load up the loot, Rogers started beating him, saying, " 'Don't make mistakes like that,' " Bowman said.

Rogers had become physically abusive toward Bowman's sister, a petite blond he dated about three years, Bowman said.

Bowman said Rogers likes women who are lonely, vulnerable and "easily overpowered." "He lives off women," Bowman said. "He's very manipulative."

On at least four occasions, police became involved in disputes between Rogers and his girlfriend of the moment.

In 1989, Angel Wagers accused Rogers of repeatedly striking her in the face and head as they drove around Hamilton in her car. In 1990, he broke down the door of her mother's apartment and demanded to speak to her, according to police reports.

In 1991, a girlfriend attacked Rogers with a knife after witnesses said he grew angry about a mutual friend and squeezed her arm until she was in pain. Also that year, police responded to a domestic disturbance call at his apartment, where he had barricaded himself, threatened to shoot the officers if they came in, then set fire to the door with a blowtorch.

In late 1993, authorities allege, Rogers began to kill.

An elderly Hamilton man with whom Rogers lived--one of at least 10 different local addresses listed by Rogers over 14 years--went missing. A few months later, Rogers left town.

His departure struck no one as unusual. Throughout the years, friends said, Rogers often left Hamilton for a few weeks or months at a time, but would always return, never saying where he had been or what he had done.

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