Minutes after steadfastly maintaining his innocence before the court, Glen Edward Rogers sat impassively Friday as a judge sentenced him to death for killing a woman he met at a San Fernando Valley bar in 1995.
The sentence followed a jury's recommendation that Rogers be put to death after being found guilty of murdering Sandra Gallagher, a 33-year-old mother of three whom he picked up at a Van Nuys tavern where she was celebrating a $1,200 state lottery win.
Authorities believe that Gallagher, who was found burned and strangled in her pickup the morning after she met Rogers, was the initial victim in a cross-country rampage that also ended the lives of three women in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Two years ago in Florida, Rogers was found guilty of and put on death row for the 1995 murder of Tina Marie Cribbs, whom he met at a Tampa-area bar and killed in a hotel room.
Dressed in a blue-and-white jail jumpsuit and wearing chains around his wrists and ankles, Rogers entered the downtown courtroom solemnly but smiled when he saw his brother, Claude Rogers, the only member of his family present.
Given a chance to speak to the court before Judge Jacqueline Connor sealed his fate, Rogers attempted to pin the crime on another man, Istvan Kele, a convicted murderer and acquaintance of Rogers.
"I would like to apologize for any part I may have had in the homicide of Sandra Gallagher," said Rogers, glancing briefly at her family seated in the front row. "I feel somewhat responsible, but I maintain my innocence. I feel confident, regardless of what I say, you're still going to sentence me to death. And I'm also confident that that sentence will never be carried out, because Mr. Kele will confess. Whether it be on his deathbed or sooner or later, he will."
Rogers' lawyers argued during trial that Kele, who never testified, was the killer. But prosecutors say all the evidence pointed to Rogers.
Three of Gallagher's relatives who addressed the court pleaded with Connor to follow the jury's death penalty recommendation.
"He gets the easy way out," said Gallagher's mother, Jan Baxter, as she choked back tears. "He doesn't get tortured like [my daughter] did."
Gallagher's sister then stood and called Rogers an animal. "I pray he gets death, so maybe my nightmares can stop," she said. Both women cried softly as they sat down and were comforted by relatives.
Connor took little time to announce her decision.
"It is the order of this court that you shall suffer the death penalty," she said.
Connor later said Rogers' death penalty judgment would probably be carried out in Florida.
Rogers' lawyer, Pat Coady, said the Florida death sentence is under appeal, and the California decision will be appealed automatically.