At first, it seemed like a routine call to Houston cop C.M. Bullock. On June 23, 1965, a concerned relative of elderly couple Fred C. and Edwina Rogers had asked the police to check on the couple, as they hadn't been answering the phone for a few days.
Bullock and his partner forced their way into the locked house at 1815 Driscoll in Montrose and found nothing amiss. At first. Bullock did think it was odd that food had been left on the dining room table, so on a whim, he decided to open the refrigerator. And still nothing looked off.
Sure, there did seem to be an inordinate amount of meat in there, but hey, this is Texas. And then, just as he was closing the door, something caught his eye -- the severed heads of Mr. and Mrs. Rogers peeping out at him from the vegetable bins.
Or perhaps "peeping" is not the right word, at least not in the case of Fred Rogers, as his eyes had been gouged out. He had first been beaten to death with a hammer; his wife had taken a single bullet to the head. Both had been dismembered in a bathroom, and their heads, legs and torsos were neatly stacked in the fridge. Some of their innards and sex organs were later found in a nearby sewer line, while the rest of their remains were never discovered.
A blood trail led to the bedroom of their reclusive 43-year-old son Charles Frederick Rogers, a Navy veteran and UH-educated seismologist who had mysteriously and suddenly quit his job several years before. Neighbors later said that they had not known he had lived there at all, as he was in the habit of rising before dawn and coming home after dark, even though he had no job. It was also said that his only communication with his parents came in the form of notes shoved under the door of his attic bedroom.
Police also found a blood-stained keyhole saw in his room, but as for Rogers himself, the trail ended there. He had simply vanished. Some said he snuck off to Canada, while others insisted he was living off the land in the Big Thicket, the East Texas wilds he frequently visited alone for weeks at a stretch.
And this is only where it begins to get weird, because get this: Some, most notably John R. Craig and A. Rogers Phillip, authors of a 1992 book, even later claimed that Rogers was a hit man for the CIA. And not just any hit man, but along with Woody Harrelson's dad Charles, one of two grassy-knoll gunmen of JFK assassination lore. (Rogers is also alleged to have posed as Lee Harvey Oswald on the alleged [this conspiracy stuff is addictive] assassin's, um, also alleged, sojourn in Mexico City.)
Local forensic artist Lois Gibson maintains that Rogers was one of the "three tramps" mysteriously arrested and released by Dallas police after the killing of the president.
This theory posits that Rogers's parents found one of his notebooks and had been tracking his phone calls. Having learned too much, they had to be eliminated, though why the CIA would house one of its key operatives in his parents' attic bedroom, and why that master spy would make the junior-high mistake of allowing one of his top-secret diaries to fall into the hands of hostile parental units, remains a mystery.
Still, some versions of this story also maintain that Rogers was also "Raoul" or "Frenchy," James Earl Ray's handler in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. At any rate, James Ellroy has made him a bit character in two novels -- American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand.
With regards to the murders of his parents, police sought Rogers as a material witness in what became known as "The Icebox Murders" in those places and elsewhere for ten years, but gave up by 1975, when he was declared dead by a local judge, thus leaving Rogers ample cover to murder Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Tupac, and Biggie Smalls, invent the AIDS virus, and fake the deaths of Elvis and Ken Lay. And to think it all started with a routine welfare-of-the-elderly check gone wrong on Driscoll Street.
Apparently, a condo stands there today:
View Larger Map
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.