Pamela Jean Rogers: Murdered Indiana woman’s killer has been identified

Image copyright Alix Swarbrick Image caption Pamela Jean Rogers was killed in April 1959

Pamela Jean Rogers was only nine years old when she was raped and murdered near the heart of East Chicago, Indiana, in 1959.

Her killer was caught in 1962 but was acquitted of the crimes.

But for the last two years, Pamela’s grown children, Gretchen and Ashley Swarbrick, have tirelessly pursued her killer, despite rumours of death threats from those close to the murderer.

On Friday, Purdue University researchers identified her killer.

Their study also revealed that Pamela, who was black, was not the only black child who was raped and murdered in 1958 and 1959 in and around East Chicago.

Image copyright Purdue University Image caption Police knew Paedrich’s name but did not know if he killed other children

The rapist, identified as “Jerry Paedrich”, who was a member of the Kansas City chapter of the KKK, murdered five young girls – four black and one white – in North-East Indiana, Indiana and Mississippi.

Now Ashley and Gretchen – who have done so much for their mother’s name – have thanked their university for their work and now say they plan to visit East Chicago and raise the case with the new leader of the local police department.

“I feel like we finally got justice for our mom, in her name, and her memory and her name is above and beyond everything else, they’re just going to really care about this case and I feel very honoured,” Gretchen told IndyStar.

“As a child I could never imagine being in that situation because we just lived so normal life and the norm was for us to have a hug and to have a relationship,” she told reporters.

Image copyright Purdue University Image caption The researcher identified the killer, but told the BBC the police had been right to do nothing to the man until they could identify all the victims

But investigators now realise they should have arrested Paedrich during the trial over Pamela’s death, they said, but the prosecutors were advised by police that DNA evidence at the scene wasn’t strong enough.

Police initially couldn’t believe someone could do such a thing – to three-year-old or 9-year-old girls, they now understand.

Image copyright Purdue University Image caption This picture taken in 1959, shows Pamela Rogers

Their new research says the new killer also lived in East Chicago at the time of the crime and repeated similar acts in at least two other towns in Indiana.

East Chicago is divided into East Chicago South, which is roughly the same neighbourhood as Pamela’s mother, and East Chicago North, which is primarily black and the city’s most affluent neighbourhood.

Image copyright Purdue University Image caption Pamela Rogers’ son, Ashley Swarbrick, now works in an intern program in Indianapolis

Five other children were raped and murdered between 1958 and 1959 in East Chicago South and Indiana, dating from September 1959 to October 1958, that is the time frame for which Indiana authorities linked Paedrich to the deaths.

The US Department of Justice said in a report last year that the authorities had failed to act, but the fatal circumstances of Pamela’s murder may have acted as a disincentive to pursue the case.

“Inasmuch as the complainant, Rebecca [Rogers] had stated that the suspect was involved in another case that resulted in a death,” the DOJ report said.

Image copyright Purdue University Image caption Pamela Rogers was killed in April 1959 in East Chicago, Indiana. Her killer was caught two years later but was acquitted

“If that suspect was the same in both cases then the police had reason to suspect him and they were right. They also had reason to doubt the complainant.”

Despite the official investigation leading nowhere, Pamela’s mother wanted to seek justice for her daughter, giving a taped statement to police “so a photograph of her daughter could be placed on the wall of the Wood Memorial Motel,” her son told BBC World Service.

“In the family’s mind there was no way Paedrich should have got away with such a heinous crime,” Gretchen Swarbrick said.

“She wanted an arrest and justice and now he is off the streets.”

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