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Emily Welker, Published February 22 2013

Murder charge filed against Fargo man accused of shooting wife

FARGO - A Fargo man is being held on $1 million bail after being charged with shooting his wife to death, and then lying to police by telling them she had committed suicide.

Police said the first call to the couple’s home at 3255 30th Ave. S. came in about 10:15 Tuesday night as a suicide by gunshot to the head. The victim was Elizabeth Rogers, 40, who lived there with her husband, Ronald Rogers.

Police said the couple were home alone at the time.

Charging documents in the case filed Friday in Cass County District Court state that Ronald William Rogers Jr., 46, told police he and his wife had been arguing when she fired two rounds from a handgun over his head. Rogers told police he tried to disarm his wife, but that she turned the gun on herself before he could take it away.

Fargo police Chief Keith Ternes said at a news conference Friday that “as a result of some fairly exhaustive forensics,” including scene reconstruction and an autopsy, investigators found inconsistencies in the information Rogers gave them.

They re-interviewed him and, according to court documents, Rogers admitted he had taken control of the gun after she fired the first two times, and then shot her in the head.

Court documents also state Rogers admitted he put the gun near his wife’s hand in an attempt to stage the scene.

Rogers was arrested and booked into the Cass County jail at 5:30 Friday morning on one charge of Class AA felony murder, which carries with it a potential life sentence without parole. Cass County prosecutors also charged him with willful disturbance of a dead body, a Class A misdemeanor.

Cass County State’s Attorney Birch Burdick said the state asked for $1 million bail in part because of the nature of the charges against Rogers, which, Burdick said, can give that person an incentive to flee. Burdick also said Rogers has not lived in the Fargo area long, and doesn’t appear to have any strong ties to the community.

Neighbors in the Rogers’ south Fargo community said they had known something strange was going on at the Rogers’ home since police arrived Tuesday night, but said they searched media reports in vain.

One neighbor, Laura Simonson, who lives across the street from the Rogers’ home, said she and her husband had turned the lights off Tuesday night and watched for an hour and half as police came and went. At one point, she said, she saw police leading Rogers out to a waiting police car. Rogers was walking very slowly, she said.

“It was very scary,” Simonson said. “It makes me sick to my stomach right now. That’s why we live here, in south Fargo – it’s safe.”

Other neighbors said it was the first time since they moved to the area that they had seen police cars with their lights on in their neighborhood.

Elizabeth Rogers’s father, Harvey Milton Spear, spoke briefly by telephone from New York state. Spear said he heard two different stories about what happened to his daughter, but that he didn’t want to go into more detail until the family had a chance to meet over the weekend.

Police said they found no evidence of pre-existing domestic violence or domestic abuse by Rogers. Burdick said Rogers is expected to appear in Cass County District Court on Monday morning.