A serial killer whose gory trail may have started near Cincinnati 10 years ago -- or even earlier -- is the subject of new book, co-written by an Ohio University alumnus.
But "Road Dog," by Stephen Combs and Bobcat alum John Eckberg, is more than just a lurid recounting of the murders -- at least five, maybe more -- committed by former Hamilton County resident Glen Rogers.
It's also a story of how legal red tape and turf battles may have let Rogers roam freely around the country for two years, killing women as he went, though he already had killed a man in Hamilton, and police had ample reason to pick him up.
"I didn't set out to write a book about a serial killer," said Eckberg, who writes for The Cincinnati Enquirer. I'm not a slasher book writer."
Rogers hit the news in a big way in November 1995 after his arrest in Kentucky. By then, he was being sought for the murders of four women he had met and charmed on his travels -- one each in California, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana.
In the debate over who got to try him first, Florida won. He was convicted there for the murder of Tina Cribbs and sentenced to death. He was later convicted in California for the murder of Sandra Gallagher, and again got the death penalty.
Eckberg's co-writer Combs, a freelance reporter, covered Rogers' Florida trial, and got the nagging feeling there was more to it than came out in the courtroom. So he asked the prosecutor, who pointed him to a large box of records dealing with Rogers' case.
"She said, 'Look, just take that box over there. The judge told me to dispose of these records, and I'm disposing of them by giving them to you,'" Eckberg said.
Combs then contacted Eckberg to see if he would brief him on Rogers' background and help him dig through the records. At first, Eckberg said, he was ready to stonewall Combs.
"Reporters -- we aren't known for sharing information with each other," he admitted. But on reflection, Eckberg -- who knew a lot about Rogers' Hamilton days, including his work as a drug informant for local police -- figured he had only two options: "I can tell him nothing, which I was kind of tempted to do... or I could tell him everything." He chose the second.
When he began digging into the box of records, Eckberg said, he realized he'd made the right decision; the treasure trove of documents provided a kind of "road map" of Rogers' travels and crimes. After plowing through the box, and organizing the facts it contained, he said, "I realized that we were the only two people in the world, for better or for worse, who were in a position to tell this story."
That story, in brief: In 1993, ex-convict Glen Rogers, 31, the product of a brutal and poverty-stricken childhood in Hamilton, was living and working with the elderly Mark Peters, a retired electrician who dabbled in restoring furniture.
Peters was last seen alive in October 1993; about three months later, acting on information from one of Rogers' brothers, police from Hamilton, aided by police volunteers from Kentucky, searched a Rogers family cabin in Lee County, Ky.
They found a body that forensics analysis and on-site clues -- including a raffle ticket from a Hamilton VFW, inscribed with Peters' initials, address and phone number -- suggested was almost certainly Peters. Rogers' brother informed police that Glen had told him he killed Peters accidentally.
Prosecutors in both Kentucky and Ohio, however, refused to file charges, based on difficulties in figuring out which state the murder took place in, and an insistence by Kentucky authorities that they did not know for sure the body was that of Peters.
"Well, they did know," Eckberg said.
Meanwhile Rogers had gone on the road, meeting and charming women and killing them. No one is clear on why he killed, though a defense psychologist at his Florida trial suggested that brain damage, caused by childhood traumas, repeated head injuries, and long-term drug and alcohol abuse, may have left Rogers delusional, paranoid and prone to explode in bursts of rage.
As the bodies of his victims mounted up, police began to put the clues together and search for Rogers, leading to his capture in Kentucky after a car chase. As of "Road Dog"'s publication date, he was on death row in Florida.
As the book points out, however, Rogers might have been caught before he killed all those women. He was stopped by police repeatedly after Peters' death, and let go "because there was no reason to hold him," Eckberg said. "This guy was a cop magnet."
Police in Los Angeles ignored repeated complaints by Peters' son that Rogers had stolen his identity and was using it. Rogers even went to jail in California for assaulting his girlfriend; when Hamilton detectives wanted to fly out to question him about Peters' death, their chief nixed the trip as too expensive.
Eckberg noted that there's evidence suggesting Rogers may have had at least five more identifiable victims, in addition to Mark Peters (Hamilton), Sandra Gallagher (Van Nuys, Calif.), Linda Price (Jackson, Miss.), Tina Cribbs (Tampa, Fla.), and Andy Sutton (Bossier City, La.). "A trail of bodies has followed Glen Rogers around his whole life," Eckberg said.
Rogers has been suspected, and placed in the vicinity of, other killings in Ohio and Kentucky. He himself has claimed at different times to have killed as many as 70 women, and he once suggested to his brother that he may have killed the residents of houses he had robbed.
"He used to tell his brother that he would go into houses, and if somebody came home, he wasn't the one that was surprised," Eckberg noted. "God knows how many people he killed." Rogers' brother also told police that the area around the remote Kentucky cabin where Peters was found was Glen's "killing fields," and when FBI agents searched the site, they found human remains in the ash of an outdoor fire pit.
"He didn't burn Mark Peters," Eckberg pointed out. "So whose human remains were in that fire pit?"
Eckberg, who graduated from OU in 1976 with an English degree, said he believes "there are lessons to be learned" from Rogers' case.
"As I look back, it's not so much the cops (at fault) as it is the prosecutors," he said. There was a disconnect at some point between the cops and the prosecutors in different jurisdictions." And, he said, given that the story was only put together after two journalists pulled it from a box of dusty paper, one has to wonder -- how many other Glen Rogers are out there?
"I think there are probably more cases like this than we want to talk about," Eckberg said.
Road Dog is published by Federal Point Publishing.