Nearly a decade after Sandra Rogers pleaded guilty to attacking her ex-husband and his wife with a sledgehammer, testimony is set to begin this morning in her attempted murder trial in Lake County.
In an extremely rare occurrence, Sandra Rogers, now 56, was allowed last May to retract her guilty plea, several years into her 30-year sentence.
In opening statements late Tuesday, prosecutors called the attack, which occurred in Rogers' ex-husband's Lincolnshire home, a “bloodbath."
But defense attorney Gillian Gosch contended that it was Rogers' and her ex-husband's daughter, then 14, who committed the attack with an accomplice, the girl’s then boyfriend, 17-year-old Jonathan McMeekin.
Rogers has said she agreed to plead guilty because she was led to believe that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to prove her guilt. That plea was based largely on the prosecutors’ alleged mischaracterization of a message that she purportedly sent to her co-defendant, McMeekin, through a jail correctional officer, said Judge John Phillips, who granted her a new trial.
“On May 19, 2003, between 4-5 a.m., everyone’s worst nightmare became a reality (for the victims),” Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Rod Drobinski said.
Drobinski said that McMeekin confronted Rogers’ ex-husband’s new wife at her bedroom door and then her ex-husband woke up and was able to get him in a choke hold. That is when Rogers stepped in, he said.
“This defendant savagely, brutally and repeatedly beat both (victims) with a hammer,” Drobinski said.
Drobinski told the jury that they would hear testimony about how Rogers allowed McMeekin to live in her home and sleep with her 14-year-old daughter. The relationship between Rogers, who was 47 at the time, and McMeekin, also became sexual, Drobinski said.
Rogers’ ex-husband was worth between $1-2 million and her children would inherit half of that if he and his wife were dead, Drobinski said, calling it a clear motive for a woman with constant financial woes.
Gosch said that the evidence would show that Rogers' daughter, Robin Rogers, who lived with her father at the time of the attack, who had the motive and opportunity to kill her father.
Robin Rogers gave McMeekin directions to her father’s home and described the layout to him, both she and McMeekin will testify, Gosch said.
In addition, the defense will show the jury journal entries written by Robin Rogers that detailed “how much she hated her father and wanted him dead,” Gosch said.
In addition, there is no physical evidence linking Sandra Rogers to the crime, she said.
And McMeekin told police initially that he was solely responsible for the attack – before later changing his story and implicating Sandra.
“He was angry and upset,” Gosch said. “He wanted to be with Robin, and her father wasn’t letting him.”
McMeekin was also convicted in the attack and remains in prison.
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