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Dave Olson, Published November 04 2013

VIDEO: Fargo man gets 30 years for wife’s murder

FARGO – A Fargo man was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison for murdering his wife in a case in which he initially tried to convince authorities she had died by suicide.

In handing down the sentence for Ronald William Rogers Jr., Cass County District Court Judge Lisa Fair McEvers told Rogers that the life of his wife, Elizabeth, was worth more than the 25-year sentence the prosecution had recommended.

Rogers’ attorney, Ross Brandborg, recommended 17 years.

Under state law, Rogers must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence, or 25½ years, before he is eligible for parole.

McEvers could have given Rogers life without parole, but she said she agreed with a number of mitigating factors listed by the defense and prosecution, including the fact Rogers, who is 47, had largely lived a law-abiding life prior to shooting his wife Feb. 19 in their home in south Fargo.

Rogers spoke briefly during his sentencing Monday, stating that if he could go back in time and change what happened, he would.

“This wouldn’t have happened if we weren’t drinking so heavily that night,” Rogers said.

“Drinking can’t be an excuse for this kind of conduct,” McEvers said.

A trial was averted after Rogers pleaded guilty to a charge of murder and a charge of willful disturbance of a body for tampering with his wife’s body to make it look like she had died by shooting herself in the head.

Brandborg said after Monday’s hearing that he will file an appeal based on pretrial rulings the judge made regarding admissibility of certain evidence, including a statement Rogers made to investigators while he was a patient at Prairie St. John’s psychiatric hospital in Fargo.

Prosecutors have called the statement a confession.

Cass County prosecutor Tristan Van de Streek said the appeal will likely be decided by the state Supreme Court. If the appeal is successful, Rogers would be allowed to withdraw his guilty pleas.

Van de Streek said Elizabeth Rogers’ family did not attend Monday’s hearing because of the distance they had to travel from New York state and, in the case of her father, Harvey Spear, age.

Spear, who is in his 90s, submitted a document to the court in which he said his family wanted Rogers to be given the maximum sentence permitted by law.

Spear stated in the document that his daughter met Rogers on the Internet and the two got married in the early 2000s.

He said Rogers took advantage of his daughter’s generosity by having her pay his business debts and income tax deficiencies.

Also, after Rogers lost his job in 2008, his wife supported the family financially for several years during a time they lived in a home in Spirit Lake, Idaho, which was purchased by Elizabeth Rogers with her family’s help, according to Spear.

Spear said when his daughter accepted a job in Fargo in August 2012, Rogers was left in Idaho to take care of and arrange for the sale of their Spirit Lake home.

“During the time Elizabeth lived in Fargo waiting for Ron, he spent his time in Idaho unemployed, drinking continuously and making no effort to clean or take care of their home, which he allowed to run down so badly their real estate agent could not find a buyer for the property,” Spear wrote to the court.

“The manner in which the murder was planned and executed shows the cold-blooded attitude of Ron Rogers, who killed Elizabeth in disregard of all she had done for him,” Spear said in his letter to the court.

The court file also contains a transcript of a eulogy Spear gave at his daughter’s burial service in June.

In the eulogy, Spear said his daughter was killed by her husband after she told him she did not want to live with him anymore because of his drinking.

“Actually Ron didn’t just killer her,” Spear said at the eulogy. “He tried to set it up as a suicide. After putting her gun in her hand pointing at her right forehead as she lay on the floor, he called the police on 911 to report a suicide.

“The coroner’s report later showed she had been shot in the left forehead,” Spear added.


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Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555