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The lawyer for a former nurse charged with killing and dismembering two gay men in New Jersey told a jury that police may have arrested the wrong man, suggesting that his client's fingerprints prove he did nothing more than carry bags in which mutilated body parts were found. In opening statements Wednesday in state superior court, David Ruhnke, the lawyer for Richard W. Rogers, said other fingerprints were found on the bags as well.
"Start thinking to yourself, maybe there's more than one person, or maybe Mr. Rogers just carried the bags," Ruhnke told the jury. "They promised to prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt the man who sits here...is the killer. Maybe they don't have the right guy."
But assistant prosecutor William Heisler told jurors that the true killer was sitting before them in court. Rogers, 55, of Staten Island, N.Y., is charged with two counts of murder, but prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty because the dismemberments were carried out after the victims were dead. He was arrested in May 2001 after forensic scientists matched his fingerprints to those found on plastic bags containing two victims' body parts.
Thomas R. Mulcahy, 58, of Sudbury, Mass., a computer equipment sales executive, disappeared in July 1992 after attending a business meeting in New York. His remains were found two days later, in separate locations in Woodland and Stafford townships. In May 1993 the remains of Anthony E. Marrero, 44, a gay prostitute who disappeared in New York, were found in a bag along a road in Manchester Township.
Prosecutors also plan to introduce evidence about the killings and mutilations of two other men. Although Rogers is not charged in those killings, Judge James N. Citta ruled that the jury should be allowed to hear about them to weigh whether the similarities in the killings amount to a "signature" that could belong only to Rogers.
The big break in the case came on May 28, 2001, when Maine authorities, who had recently gone online with an automated fingerprint identification system, matched Rogers's prints to those on the bags that contained Mulcahy's and Marrero's dismembered remains. His fingerprints were on file in Maine because he had been tried in November 1973 for the slaying of his graduate school roommate at the University of Maine, Frederick Spencer. Claiming self-defense, Rogers was acquitted in the hammer-beating death.
Rogers was also tried--and acquitted--in a 1990 abduction and assault in New York. In that case the victim met Rogers in a gay bar and returned to Rogers's home, where he said he was drugged with spiked orange juice and stripped and then woke up bound at the wrists and legs. (AP)