Coroner: 'Very powerful impact' killed woman in 1983
Debra Jane Rodgers with her daughter, Christine, 5, in 1983.
(New Bloomfield) — A woman whose body was found in a central Pennsylvania forest more than 30 years ago was killed by a “very powerful impact” that fractured her skull, according to the coroner who examined the remains.
Dr. Duckkyu Chang testified Wednesday in Perry County about the autopsy he performed hours after the body of 23-year-old Debra Rodgers was found in the Tuscarora State Forest in April 1983, PennLive.com reported.
Rodgers’ husband, Carl, now 63, of Shermans Dale is accused of beating his wife to death and then slashing her wrists to make it appear she killed herself. He was arrested in November 2017 after the state attorney general’s office re-examined evidence in the case and decided to present it to a grand jury.
Defense attorney Geoffrey McInroy argues that Debra Rodgers did take her own life because she was depressed about work. He told jurors in his opening statement that the woman’s head injury and other wounds occurred when she fell onto rocks on the forest floor, and Carl Rodgers “has nothing to do with Deb’s death.”
The grand jury said in 2017 that it heard testimony that Debra Rodgers excelled at her job, had recently landed another state job that paid more money, and seemed happy. Carl Rodgers was the only person who described his wife as being suicidal, and his statements were contradictory, prosecutors said. Two years after his wife’s death, Rodgers told investigators he was afraid she had been planning to divorce him, they said.
Chang testified under questioning by prosecutors that in addition to a fractured skull and the cuts on her wrist, Debra Rodgers had lacerations to her liver and spleen and a broken rib. Under cross-examination by McInroy, he said the impact from a fall under certain circumstances can cause fatal blunt force. Debra Rodgers, he said, died “probably within minutes of the impact on her skull.”