Research Breathes Life to Story

Guest blog by Alicia Richardson

 

June in Texas is a sultry affair. By the time you walk from the front door to your car, you’re damp, and unless you’ve planned accordingly with industrial strength-hair products, your luscious locks are all a-frizz. That may be the real reason for big “Texas hair” – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

The 1965 edition was sweltering along as per usual, with some notable exceptions. The Eighth Wonder of the World, the Harris County Domed Stadium, had just seen the home-town Astros beat the famed New York Yankees the previous month. Down in Clear Lake, NASA’s Mission Control supervised Ed White’s Extra Vehicular Activity – the first American to walk in space. And a legendary unsolved double murder was discovered in the heart of Houston.

 

The Crime

 

Two HPD officers discovered elderly Fred and Edwina Rogers’ dismembered bodies stored in their own refrigerator. The press dubbed the case the “Icebox Murders.” The couple’s reclusive son, Charles was never found. Was he the killer? Another victim? Or had he been long gone before the murders happened? It’s highly unlikely that anyone who knows for sure is alive to tell the tale. Charles himself was born in 1921, so if he were still alive, he’d be nearing on 100 years of walking this Earth.

 

The Suspect

 

Enigmatic Charles has caught the attention of investigators and writers alike. A material witness warrant was issued for him, but he was never located. The State of Texas has no statute of limitations on murder, so he could be taken into custody should he ever turned up. This, despite the fact that he was declared dead in 1975. Legally speaking, he’s both alive and dead.

He was the owner of the home where his parents resided, and the infamous murder house drew thrill-seeking teens like bees to honey. They’d sneak in at night to spray paint the walls, drink, and do other things their parents probably wouldn’t approve of. The neighbors were not amused. But nothing could be done until the estate was probated. Hence the declaration of death in absentia.

Charles never returned to plead his innocence or reclaim his crumbling house. Trained professionals and amateur sleuths alike were left to ponder his absence. Several books, both fiction and non, speculated that Charles was tied to the Kennedy assassination, even going so far as to posit that he was one of the three tramps arrested in Dealey Plaza. The identification of the three men debunked this theory, however. Others are convinced that he killed his parents and fled to Mexico or South America. Plausible, perhaps, but unproveable.

But wait! There’s more.

 

 

Fantastical Inspiration

 

Coming in June, A.B. Richards (an alter-ego of mine) offers, for your reading pleasure, Icebox, a supernatural take on the unsolved murders. Readers might remember Detective Quetzel Cazares from the short story collection Rescue: A Litter of Quetzels. Detective Cazares enters into the investigation when skeletal remains turn up at the Astrodome – and comes to believe she’s found the long-absent Charles Rogers. But her cold-case file has to take a backseat to a hunt for a serial killer whose grisly leavings threaten to panic the city.

 

Putting it All Together

 

Charles’ story is told in alternating chapters, from the tragic death of his beloved sister when he was ten to his service on the USS Richmond during World War II, and beyond. I studied descriptions and photos of the crime scene, and blended supernatural terror with real-life horror to explain just what was going through the head of my imagined version of the very real Charles Rogers.

Through my research, I discovered that there had been two prior (unsolved) dismemberment murders in the Houston area, one in 1962 and another in 1964. Additionally, there was a series of nine unsolved dismemberments starting in 1959 and ending in 1964 (which included the 1964 Houston killing) that ranged mostly across Texas and New Mexico. An eerily similar case was the Black Dahlia murder in 1947 Los Angeles. Reaching even further back into history, the Cleveland Torso Murderer dismembered twelve people in Ohio during the mid-thirties and was never caught. What if there was a common thread, besides the dismemberment of the bodies? That’s where I went.

But you might want to acquire yourself some of those just now ripening delicious Texas peaches, settle in with your favorite reading format in the AC, and draw your own conclusions.

 


 

aliciaArtemis Greenleaf has always been fascinated by the mysterious, and she devoured fairy tales, folk tales and ghost stories since before she could read. In 1995, she had a near-death experience which turned her perception of the world upside down. She lived to tell the tale (and often does, in one form or another). Artemis lives in the suburban wilds of Houston, Texas with her husband, two children and assorted pets. She writes novels, short stories, and non-fiction, and her work has appeared in magazines.

 

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