Contradictions Fill Suspect's Past : Manhunt: Some in Glen Rogers' hometown saw him as charming. Others recall troubles, hair-trigger temper.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bars here fill up quickly on weekend nights, when eligible men and women, and even some married folk, gather to shoot pool, dance and drink.

These watering holes, where beer is served in bottles and liquor in plastic cups, are about the only diversion for the young in this blue-collar city north of Cincinnati. With depression gripping both the economy and the people, the bars draw regulars seeking company and comfort.

One was Glen Edward Rogers, a smooth-talking charmer who picked up women with ease in such places--a skill admired among buddies and one the FBI believes he used to lure at least four women to their deaths in four states.

With a bluff and gregarious manner, Rogers, 33, earned the trust of vulnerable women in their 30s with red or strawberry-blond hair, whom he met mostly in bars, and whom authorities allege he stabbed or strangled in California, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana. If true, the crimes show he ratcheted up his history of petty crimes and violence a terrifying notch--from beating a wife and girlfriends or lying drunk in the streets of Hamilton to perpetrating an alleged cross-country killing spree.

And the rumor mill on Rogers in his hometown grinds exactly where it all began: in the smoky, seedy bars where he perfected his style of picking up women. Now on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list, Rogers is something of a sensation in Hamilton, which has not drawn such national notoriety since a resident gunned down 11 members of his own family on Easter Sunday 20 years ago.

"I read [about Rogers] in the paper," said one woman at the Right Spot Cafe, a lounge Rogers frequented on the troubled east side of the Great Miami River. "He's bad news."

On the surface, Rogers' magnetic personality was the first thing people noticed about him: friendly, persuasive, easygoing, generous. But he at times revealed a hair-trigger temper. "He starts fidgeting, playing with his face. He just snaps all at once," said Jimmy Bowman, 21, a young boy when Rogers dated his sister in the mid-1980s.

Rogers also knew how to survive on Hamilton's tough streets, which put others in awe of his ability to pull out of numerous scrapes with police.

"You can't help but like him. I idolized him," Bowman said. "He's got more street smarts than anyone I know."

It was a reputation Rogers built throughout his life.

He was born in 1962, a time when Hamilton was a bustling industrial center in Ohio, with paper mills, steel manufacturers and other businesses. The safe company that built the vault at Ft. Knox is located here, as was a thriving General Motors plant.

Rogers' father, Claude, worked as a pump operator at the Champion paper company to support his wife, Edna, and six children.

Friends and acquaintances describe the Rogers family as being of "Hamiltuckian" stock, a disparaging reference to the backwoods culture of Appalachia. They moved around Hamilton, eventually settling on Park Avenue, on the west side of town.

Edna Mae Rogers, who maintains that her son is innocent, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Rogers had a typical childhood. She said he developed a skin rash that stayed with him until adulthood after playing in puddles of toxic waste by a nearby chemical plant.

Before his 16th birthday, Rogers was expelled from Wilson Junior High. School records, which show no evidence of any distinction by Rogers in scholastics or athletics, give no reason for the expulsion.

Those who know him say that Rogers had already begun running afoul of the law, contributing to the rising crime rate within Hamilton, as manufacturing jobs took flight and an urban future that once seemed bright disappeared.

"He told me himself he'd probably been in every [youth detention facility] in Ohio when he was a kid," said one man who asked not to be identified.

Within months of his expulsion from school, Rogers got his girlfriend, 14-year-old Deborah Ann Nix, pregnant. Their son, Clinton, named after one of Rogers' brothers, was born in 1979.

The teen-age lovers married a year later. Rogers had his wife's nickname, Debi, tattooed across the knuckles of his right hand. A second son, Jonathan, arrived in 1981.

But around that time, Rogers, just 19, moved alone to Southern California for the first time, joined later by his brother Clinton and the two sons. Clinton brought the boys from Ohio, said a friend who knew the Rogers brothers in California.

The brothers lived in a wood-frame house in Pasadena with the children, who were cared for by baby-sitters while Glen worked at the Highland Press printing company and Clinton worked at a local bar.

Debi Rogers, a small, thin blond woman, eventually moved to California and lived with her husband in a Monrovia duplex, friends said. But court documents indicate that the marriage quickly became rocky again, as Debi began to fear her husband would physically harm her.

In May, 1983, at the age of 18, she returned to Ohio and filed for divorce from Glen Rogers, accusing him of acting with "extreme cruelty" and threatening to "do her great bodily harm."

Debi Rogers was the first of several women who would eventually accuse him of abuse.

After Debi left, Glen Rogers began to crumble, his former co-workers say. One day in 1986 or 1987, Rogers walked out of the printing plant in the middle of a job--and left California soon afterward.

He went back to Hamilton, beginning a pattern of departure and return that friends say marks his entire adult life.

By then, Hamilton had already slid from its perch near the top of Ohio's economic ladder to close to the bottom. The fall of manufacturing spelled the death of thousands of jobs and of much of the town spirit, leaving an oppressive atmosphere of abandoned buildings, weed-choked yards, cracked pavement and empty factories.

For many in Hamilton, hard drinking had replaced the hard work of flush times. Rogers, who tried his hand at construction work, printing and taxi-driving, became a popular patron at neighborhood bars like the J & J or the Choo-Choo, next to the railroad tracks that crisscross the city.

The bars were--and still are--the focal point of night life, where alcohol is mixed with nicotine and often with marijuana or, in recent years, harder drugs. Friends said Rogers, like most everyone, indulged.

"Everybody went to Choo-Choo's. I'm not saying it's the elite people of Hamilton. It was a ghetto bar" for the lower crust, said Sharon Campbell, 47, who hung out with Rogers.

Blond and good looking, Rogers continued with the winning ways that attracted the attention of many, especially women, who would call the taxi company he worked at to chat and request him specifically for rides.

"I danced with him [in the bars]. He was a sweetheart. . . . Every time I met him, he gave me a kiss," Campbell said. "If you needed money for a cigarette or drinks, he'd give it to you."

At the taxi company, where the owner said Rogers had a good record, he would fetch meals for the other cabbies and once organized a funeral cortege of taxi cars for a fellow driver and occasional drinking buddy who died suddenly.

"He liked the party life, the rough, redneck cowboy life," said Bowman, who recalled Rogers smiling and constantly singing the song "All My Ex's Live in Texas," substituting "Ohio" for "Texas."

But Rogers also continued the more nefarious activities of his youth that made his name well-known to local police.

Throughout his time in Hamilton in the 1980s, he was arrested on suspicion of a variety of crimes, including forgery, attempted arson and receipt of stolen property.

In 1987, Rogers pleaded guilty to charges of breaking and entering, as well as forgery, which earned him a two-year prison sentence. It is unclear exactly how much time he served. Those who say they were close to Rogers describe an even more ominous side.

Bowman, a small-time criminal who alleges that Rogers "taught me to steal," remembers an incident in which Rogers asked him to climb through a warehouse window and open the door. After another accomplice backed up the truck too far into the garage to load up the loot, Rogers started beating him, saying, " 'Don't make mistakes like that,' " Bowman said.

Rogers had become physically abusive toward Bowman's sister, a petite blond he dated about three years, Bowman said.

Bowman said Rogers likes women who are lonely, vulnerable and "easily overpowered." "He lives off women," Bowman said. "He's very manipulative."

On at least four occasions, police became involved in disputes between Rogers and his girlfriend of the moment.

In 1989, Angel Wagers accused Rogers of repeatedly striking her in the face and head as they drove around Hamilton in her car. In 1990, he broke down the door of her mother's apartment and demanded to speak to her, according to police reports.

In 1991, a girlfriend attacked Rogers with a knife after witnesses said he grew angry about a mutual friend and squeezed her arm until she was in pain. Also that year, police responded to a domestic disturbance call at his apartment, where he had barricaded himself, threatened to shoot the officers if they came in, then set fire to the door with a blowtorch.

In late 1993, authorities allege, Rogers began to kill.

An elderly Hamilton man with whom Rogers lived--one of at least 10 different local addresses listed by Rogers over 14 years--went missing. A few months later, Rogers left town.

His departure struck no one as unusual. Throughout the years, friends said, Rogers often left Hamilton for a few weeks or months at a time, but would always return, never saying where he had been or what he had done.

After the disappearance of housemate Mark Peters, 71, Rogers moved back to California. In January, 1994, Peters' badly decomposed body was found bound and hidden in the nearby Kentucky cabin owned by Rogers' family. Police sought Rogers for questioning, but he had already left for Southern California.

Rogers lived in Van Nuys and Hollywood. A recent girlfriend, Maria Gyore, who worked in a bar, was constantly beaten by Rogers, co-workers said. Rogers spent time in jail last August after attacking two men in Hollywood with a knife.

By summer's end, authorities allege, Rogers began the recent string of slayings.

On Sept. 29, a woman Rogers met in a Van Nuys bar, Sandra Gallagher, was found strangled in her truck, which was then set on fire.

On Nov. 3, the body of Linda Price was discovered stabbed and naked in a motel bathtub in Jackson, Miss. Price and Rogers, who had grown a beard, had met at a state fair.

Four days later, Tina Marie Cribbs was found stabbed to death, her nude body lying in a motel bathtub in Tampa, Fla. Witnesses last saw Cribbs drinking with Rogers in a local bar.

And last Thursday, two days after the gruesome discovery in Tampa, Andy Jiles Sutton was found naked and fatally stabbed in the bedroom she and Rogers shared in Bossier City, La. He had been staying with her after the two met at a bar.

All four women were red-haired. In some of the cases, Rogers made no effort to hide his tracks, leaving behind his truck and renting a motel room under his own name.

Experts think Rogers may be trying to be caught. But, they add, if he is the killer, he will probably strike again.

Police do not know where Rogers headed after he left Louisiana. But many residents in Hamilton believe he will eventually return, just as he has in the past. And the place to look for him will not be in broad daylight on the streets where he grew up, but in the shadowy bars where he drank, his friend said.

"You won't see Glen till the sun goes down," Bowman said. "He's like a vampire--sleep all day, come out at night."

Times correspondent Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this story.

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