Family members thankful for arrest in 1983 Perry County ‘cold case’ murder

HOWE TOWNSHIP, PERRY COUNTY, Pa. -- Pennsylvania State Police make an arrest in a 1983 cold case, as the death of a 23-year-old Perry County woman remained unsolved for decades until now.

Police said her husband, now 62-years-old and twice re-married, is charged with her murder.

State Police said there are a lot of factors that go into solving a case today, that didn't exist 30 years ago, such as DNA evidence, cell phone records or surveillance video, but a review of the evidence they had, gave them the break they needed in this case.

Finding the answer to the question 'who killed Debra Rodgers,' involves a cold case 34 years in the making.

Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigation Section Commander Lt. Mark Magyar said "we're here to announce the arrest of Carl Edwards Rodgers, of Shermans Dale. He was arrested early yesterday morning at his place of employment in Carlisle, by the fugitive apprehension unit, for the murder of Debra Jane Rodgers."

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said "there is no statute of limitation on murder, and Mr Rodgers is facing a life sentence."

The search for a killer may have ended for Pennsylvania State Police, but Shapiro explained how the case began on April 22, 1983.

Police said Carl Rodgers stayed at the time that his wife Debra was depressed about her job, and was suicidal.

Shapiro said Carl led Debra's family on a two-day search to find her after he reported her missing.

The search ended April 24, 1983.

"Carl suggested that he and Debra's brother Mark search near a ridge line in the forrest where the other family members searched the woods below. A short time later, Debra's mother discovered her body in the woods below," Shapiro said.

Debra's body showed signs of blunt force trauma, and her wrists were slit, but that's not all that was found at the scene.

"A knife was located about 15 feet from her body. It's sheath a few feet away, bearing the name 'Carl,'" Shapiro said.

Police said Carl initially reported his wife was depressed before her disappearance. Later, investigators say Carl admitted to arguing with his wife.

"His story never quite checked out. He knew certain things that someone who was not the killer wouldn't have known," Shapiro said.

The case remained unsolved for more than three decades until two Senior Deputy Attorneys General met with State Police and began to review cold cases. The team brought Debra's case to a statewide investigating grand jury that was able to piece together evidence e in a way not possible until now.

"The grand jury was able to take the evidence that existed, hear from witnesses, hear from experts, and piece it together in a way that had previously not been able to be done," Shapiro said.

The work done by Pennsylvania State Police, and the Deputy Attorneys General may bring justice to Debra's loved ones.

"I'm incredibly confident in the prosecutors we have working on it, and think we have the evidence to convict him," Shapiro said.

Debra's uncle Ian Peters said "thank you, and all these uniforms in here, and Mr. Scott back there, he's a buddy of mine, and always will be. He got this ball rolling, and when he got it rolling, it wasn't but about a year and a half, that he got closure."