Emily Welker, Published June 06 2013
Man accused of killing wife wants interview thrown out
Rogers, who was 46 years old when arrested Feb. 22, is charged in Cass County District Court with Class AA felony murder, accused of fatally shooting Elizabeth Rogers in the head Feb. 19 in their home at 3522 30th Ave. S. and then trying to make it look like she killed herself.
In a 5½-hour hearing Thursday, defense attorney Ross Brandborg aimed to question the legality of the Fargo police interview of Rogers at Prairie St. John’s psychiatric hospital.
The day after the killing, Rogers was taken to Prairie St. John’s by ambulance after Fargo police Officer Dane Ronning signed paperwork initiating a 72-hour psychiatric hold on Rogers at Essentia Health, based on a threat of suicide Rogers had made while staying at a Fargo hotel. An Essentia doctor placed a medical hold on Rogers to receive psychiatric care at Prairie St. John’s.
Fargo police Detective Matt Ysteboe testified the case changed direction the next day, Feb. 21, when an autopsy was performed on Elizabeth Rogers in Bismarck, in the presence of Detective Joshua Loos.
Rogers had originally told Fargo police investigators that his wife had shot herself in the head using her right hand, according to a motion filed by Assistant Cass County State’s Attorney Tristan Van de Streek.
But the autopsy showed the entry wound was on the left side of her head, not the right.
Loos testified he had up to that point considered the case a suicide and had treated Rogers as a surviving spouse, not a suspect.
He and Ysteboe went to Prairie St. John’s to talk to Rogers on Feb. 22 at about 1:30 a.m., after hearing that Rogers tried to contact him through a police dispatcher to ask about the autopsy.
Prairie medical staff at first denied them access, until they said Rogers had asked to speak with them.
Staff members from Prairie St. John’s testified that Rogers wasn’t free to leave the facility, but his nurse checked on Rogers at one point during the interview and he didn’t ask to end the questioning.
Police must give Miranda warnings to criminal suspects to interrogate them when they are in custody.
Prairie staff also testified Rogers was given an anti-depression medication that can cause a range of reactions, including drowsiness and lethargy. Rogers was not handcuffed or otherwise restrained during the three-hour interview.
Video and audio recordings of the interview have been entered as exhibits but were not publicly played at the hearing on Thursday.
Loos said when he asked Rogers about his alleged confession, he said, “Yes, it’s the truth. It’s all true.”
Judge Lisa Fair McEvers asked Brandborg to file a brief in support of his motion within two weeks. The judge will rule on the motion at a later date.
A friend of Elizabeth Rogers also took the stand Thursday to testify about text messages the two exchanged the night Rogers died. Prosecutors showed text messages sent between Krista Rankin and Elizabeth Rogers less than an hour before she was reported dead. Rogers texted Rankin that her husband was breaking and throwing things in their home, and she didn’t know what to do.
After the first messages from Elizabeth Rogers, Rankin said she texted her friend, “Do you want me to call police or something?”
She sent another: “Where are you? Are you safe?”
Rogers never responded.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541