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Arts & Culture

Criminal: The Ice Box Murders

A n illustration of Rogers' Cessna over the Sierra Madre mountains.
Julienne Alexander
Charles Rogers was known as a shut it, before he allegedly murdered his parents and lived a life of adventure on the lam.

In this week's episode of Criminal, a murder mystery is solved by some surprising sleuths: a married pair of accountants.  Host Phoebe Judge spoke with Texas-based CPAs Hugh and Martha Gardinier about how an audit unraveled a complicated criminal case. Criminal is a podcast recorded at WUNC.

In the 1960s, Fred and Edwina Rogers were found dead in their Houston home. Fred was in his 80s and Edwina in her 70s when the police found their bodies dissected and heads severed in the refrigerator. The first person the police went to was their son, Charles Rogers. Charles was thought of as a shut-in, however, he was nowhere to be found after the murder of his parents.

“[Charles] childhood was pretty grim by most acceptable standards," Martha Gardinier said. "It was a life of alcohol and physical abuse and emotional abuse. He basically became a loner, but he was a brilliant person.”

In their investigation, the Gardiniers found that Charles was actually a talented geophysicist, he'd gone treasure hunting in the Sierra Madres and had several business interests. The Gardiniers concluded Charles Rogers had been very good at covering his tracks after he murdered his parents.

The couple looked back to the police reports and followed the money trail. They found that Charles actually owned his parent's house and that his parents had been ripping him off by taking out loans and pocketing the money.

“This was one of the things that was missed with the police investigation," Hugh Gardinier said. "They never had the time or the resources to put together the paper trail and to look at it from a standpoint of, 'What were the financial transactions that led up to the murders?'”

They realized Charles had escaped to Mexico, then to South America with the help of several friends. He continued to work as a successful geophysicist. Meanwhile, his colleagues kept his crime safe because they had either made money from him or were making money from him at the time.

"He in essence was the golden goose," Hugh Gardinier said.

The thought is that Charles Rogers was killed by coal miners in a dispute a long time ago. If he was alive today, he would be around 100 years old.

Hugh and Martha Gardinier have chronicled the Rogers' story in a new novel called "The Ice Box Murders."

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