Former DA Linked to Old Wisconsin Murder

Defense attorneys said Tuesday that two brothers accused in a 1979 slaying will cooperate with authorities and tell what they know about the plot allegedly hatched by a third brother — who was county prosecutor at the time.

Dale A. Rogers, 46, of Sheldon, has spoken to police about what happened and Harry "John" Rogers, 52, of rural Ladysmith, plans to do the same, the defense attorneys said.

They were arrested last week and charged with first-degree murder in the execution-style slaying of college student Robert Pfeil Jr. (search) John Rogers was the alleged triggerman.

Despite efforts by Pfeil's family, the case had languished for a quarter-century before a secret grand jury developed new evidence.

"There are pieces of the puzzle that we don't have and the only person who can give those pieces is John Rogers," the current Rusk County (search) district attorney, Kathleen Pakes, said.

Their brother Robert Rogers (search) resigned as district attorney in 1980 and committed suicide in 1984 after a second, unrelated killing.

In the Pfeil case, Robert Rogers "didn't pulled the trigger, but he was certainly responsible," Pakes told Judge Frederick Henderson on Tuesday. A fourth brother, Mike Rogers, who gave law enforcement officials statements about his role, will not be charged, Pakes said.

Steven Gibbs, the attorney for John Rogers, said his client would meet with law enforcement officials, perhaps as early as Tuesday, "in return for some considerations. We are cooperating to get the truth out."

Pfeil, 27, died from shotgun wounds to the back of his head on Aug. 14, 1979, near his rural Ladysmith home. There was no evidence of a struggle.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday, Robert Rogers feared Pfeil was out to harm him because police had killed Pfeil's three dogs two months earlier, and Pfeil was angry.

Mike Rogers told police he and Dale hid in some weeds while John Rogers shot Pfeil to death, according to the criminal complaint. He said that Robert had asked him and Dale to accompany John.

According to the criminal complaint, Robert Rogers was a "person of interest" immediately in the Pfeil killing because investigators quuickly learned of Pfeil's anger over the killing of the dogs.

But Robert Rogers resigned as Rusk County district attorney less than a year after Pfeil's death, and Pfeil's murder case lay in the unsolved file.

The former prosecutor moved with his wife, Cherie Barnard, to Truckee, Calif., where Rogers set up a practice. In 1984, Rogers killed dance club owner Gary Grady, 29, after learning he had been involved with Barnard. Rogers, 38, then committed suicide on his 28-foot boat by shooting himself in the chest.

Pfeil's father, Robert Pfeil Sr., 91, of Racine, pressed authorities for years for answers in his son's slaying, at times doing his own investigation and offering rewards of up to $40,000.

Gary Hahn, chief deputy of the Rusk County Sheriff's Department (search), said the break in the case came last year when "a number of people" testified before the secret grand jury.

"I guess some of the witnesses didn't feel obliged to talk to police officers as much as they did to the jury," he said.

The victim's brother, Roger Pfeil, 47, of Arizona, said his father was ill from several recent strokes but was pleased to hear about the arrests.

"I think he's still in shock about the news. Dad spent a quarter of a century going after this. It's really good that he will now have some peace about this," the son said.

Pakes vowed to investigate the case thoroughly after she was elected the county's top prosecutor in 2000. "It is a very weird case," the prosecutor said. "We have put a lot of work into it over the last four years."

Henderson ordered John Rogers held on $1 million cash bail and Dale Rogers held on $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 property bail. A preliminary hearing was set for May 17.