Re: Man charged in 30-year-old murder
- From: indigoace@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Indigo Ace)
- Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2007 14:12:03 GMT
From the Chicago Tribune--
Luck led to arrest in 1977 cold case
Murder charge filed after traffic stop
By Matthew Walberg
Tribune staff reporter
Published March 21, 2007
Fred J. Rogers was a teenager when he is alleged to have stabbed
Kenneth J. Hellstrom Jr., 17, to death on a January night 30 years
ago. And then he disappeared.
But hope, mixed with equal parts determination, advancements in police
work and plain luck eventually caught up with Rogers, 46, a drifter
who sometimes worked as a laborer for his brother's construction
company, officials said.
The hope came from Hellstrom's family, who gathered Tuesday with
Homewood police as details of Rogers' arrest were made public.
"We're just happy that we have this conclusion," the victim's mother,
Carol Hellstrom, said. "It's been a long, long time of worry. But I've
never given up hope."
She had answered the banging on her back door shortly after 9 p.m.
Jan. 19, 1977, after her son staggered to the family home in the 18500
block of South Lexington Avenue. She found him lying in the snow,
bleeding from stab wounds in his chest, back and arms. He was taken to
South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, where he died a short time
Police at the time believed he had been heading home from his job at a
nearby gas station when he was attacked.
"He was tall and thin, but he was strong," his mother told the Tribune
at the time. "Still I don't know how he was able to make it home and
rap at the door so loud. ... I hope to God they catch the ones who did
this ... an attack like this--I can't understand this."
Rogers, who police Tuesday said had a previous quarrel with Kenneth
Hellstrom, was considered a suspect from the start.
"But he fled immediately the night of the homicide, and police were
unable to talk to him," said Homewood Police Detective William Alcott.
"Several attempts were made to locate him, and the case went cold
after other suspects were looked at."
Case is revisited
Decades passed, and the investigation remained open. But about 18
months ago the Homewood Police Department prepared to hand over the
case--the oldest unsolved homicide the small south suburb has ever
had--to the Cook County Sheriff's Police Cold Case Squad, said Police
Chief Larry Burnson.
Homewood police records clerk Cynthia Murray, a former police officer,
and Pat Harris, an investigator with the South Suburban Major Crimes
Task Force, pulled the files on the case and began to arrange the
information in an incident timeline, looking for gaps or missed steps
in the original investigation.
"The two of them, in going through it, came up with a timeline that
showed this Fred Rogers was not interviewed properly or not at all,"
said Homewood Deputy Chief James Gannon.
Police learned that Rogers--who drifted around the country, living in
Florida, Tennessee and, more recently, Pennsylvania--had returned to
his childhood home in the 18700 block of Crawford Avenue in Flossmoor
about six or seven months ago, following his father's death.
And on Friday night, officials said they just got lucky when Homewood
police pulled Rogers over for improper lane usage near 183rd Street
and Kedzie Avenue.
"We knew he was back in town, but we didn't know we were going to run
into him," Gannon said. "The officers made a stop and, lo and behold,
it's our boy. It was the wrong place at the wrong time for him, but
the right place and right time for us."
Rogers was charged with a traffic violation and drug charges for a
small amount of marijuana found in his possession, and when asked
about the murder he "gave a full statement implicating himself in the
homicide of Kenneth J. Hellstrom," Burnson said.
Rogers appeared in Cook County Juvenile Court on Monday charged in a
juvenile petition with murder, as he was a minor at the time of the
alleged crime, Burnson said.
Prosecutors will petition to have him charged as an adult at an April
13 hearing before Juvenile Court Judge Paul Stralka.
The attack occurred near 183rd Street and Morris Avenue.
"On the night of the murder, the two had a pre-arranged meeting,"
Burnson said. "We don't know exactly what happened, but there was a
Hellstrom was unarmed, Burnson said. In his statement, Rogers told
investigators why he attacked Hellstrom and what kind of weapon was
used, the chief said.
Burnson would not divulge that information, citing Rogers' status as a
juvenile in the eyes of the law, but said the dispute "was a personal
If the judge allows him to be prosecuted as an adult, he will be tried
under the law as it was in 1977, meaning he could face a minimum of 14
years in prison and an unlimited maximum sentence, said Tandra
Simonton, spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.
If the judge rules he should be tried as a juvenile, "he essentially
would walk," Simonton said, because in 1977 a juvenile convicted of
murder could only be incarcerated until age 21.
A woman at the home where Rogers was living when he was arrested
Hope bears fruit
But for the Hellstrom family, the arrest was vindication for years of
seemingly fruitless hope. "We never did give up," said Jeri Hellstrom,
34, of Hobart, Ind., who was 4 when her brother was slain. "It was
just every day, praying that somebody would get caught."
She said she learned of Rogers' arrest Sunday.
"I was stunned," she said. "My mom told me, and I couldn't do
anything. But it started sinking in ..."
Hellstrom said her father, Kenneth Hellstrom Sr., a grocery salesman,
until his death in 2000 hung onto his belief that his only son's
murder would be solved. "He died on Jan. 19--the same as my brother,"
Jeri Hellstrom said.
Still, Hellstrom said charges against Rogers brought some relief to
"I'm just so happy that they did find somebody and got the person that
said he did it," Jeri Hellstrom said. "And that's all I'm happy about.
Even though I didn't know my brother, he's still in my heart."
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Anne, indigoace at goodsol period com
- Man charged in 30-year-old murder
- From: Indigo Ace
- Man charged in 30-year-old murder
- Prev by Date: Re: *Dog of the Day* Finds Lost Scout
- Next by Date: No signals in past of mom held in slaying
- Previous by thread: Man charged in 30-year-old murder
- Next by thread: `There are secrets in the house. We don't tell.'