Angels & Demons
The notebooks haunted the new sergeant.
There were three of them in all, each a 4-inch black binder, and they sat in Glen Moore's cluttered little office on the second floor of the St. Petersburg police station. The books were filled with reports and photos and notes on tips and leads that had been pursued and eliminated. Taken together, they contained the sum of all that had been learned so far in the Rogers investigation.
Moore, transferred to homicide almost six months after the murders, was troubled by the lack of progress in the case. He didn't like to see the notebooks stuck on a shelf, with no one looking inside them. He wanted updates. He wanted movement.
"What's happening?" he would ask Jim Kappel, the detective who had been lead investigator on the case since it began the previous summer. "What's going on?"
There wasn't much Kappel could say. He was an experienced and respected homicide investigator; several years before, the St. Petersburg Exchange Club had named him the department's officer of the year for his work on another murder case. For months, Kappel had poured himself into the Rogers investigation, sometimes working 14-hour days for weeks straight. And he had made some invaluable contributions, establishing the probable connection between the murders and the Madeira Beach rape. But by the spring of 1990, the tips generated by the composite drawing from the rape had long since stopped. There were no new leads. The case was growing colder by the minute.
"It just kind of died," Kappel would later say.
As far as Moore could tell, Kappel was a good detective. But with all the problems that came with the investigation -- no crime scene, almost no physical evidence, the apparently random selection of the victims -- Kappel and the rest of the investigators had always been fighting against the odds. As the months went by, Kappel's superiors had clearly lost confidence that the murders could ever be solved.
"Our department had never run into a case like this before," says Moore.
Complicating the situation was the fact that the department's two homicide squads were swamped with other murders. In the year that the Rogers women died, there were 45 other homicides to contend with as well -- a record for the city of St. Petersburg. The strain was showing; there were too many killings and too few detectives. A disturbing number of cases were not being solved.
Something had to give. Kappel was still officially assigned to the Rogers case, but for some time now he had also been assigned to other cases that took up most of his time. Unless new information was developed, the Rogers case was going nowhere.
Moore wanted to give it another shot.
A detective who had been with the St. Petersburg police for two decades, Moore had spent years working patrol, vice and narcotics, and burglaries. When he was transferred to homicide in November 1989, he had never investigated a homicide, nor had he ever supervised a homicide investigation. He did not think like other homicide detectives, because he had never been one of them.
"I was dumb and innocent," he says today, looking back.
In retrospect, it's easy to see how these very qualities in Moore -- his inexperience, his willingness to ask questions that others might have thought pointless -- served him so well in his new assignment. But there were other, less obvious qualities that made him particularly well-suited to the difficulties of this case.
For one thing, he was quietly, politely, unbelievably stubborn. For another, he carried himself with the peace of a man who knows that, no matter what, his soul is saved and on its way to heaven.
Moore's faith in God was as robust as the rest of him. He was a big man, imposing, with a thick neck, wide shoulders, hands that looked huge enough to crush boulders into pebbles. He looked just like what he was, a former high school football player and discus thrower who had grown up in Georgia, moved to Florida, joined the police academy, married his high school sweetheart, had three children and devoted himself to a lifetime in law enforcement. Around the department, he was known as "Boomer."
This was a nickname bestowed upon Moore eons ago, when he was a rookie and the department put on a wrestling exhibition for charity. At the last minute, Glen was persuaded to climb into the ring, where he unceremoniously creamed a couple of opponents, including his sergeant at the time, who took the whole thing surprisingly well once he managed to peel himself off the floor. The sergeant dubbed him "Boom-Boom," which had evolved into "Boomer" and stuck ever since.
Times file photos
ROOKIE: In 1970, when this police portrait was taken, Glen Moore was a young patrol officer.
The cartoonish nickname was a smoke screen. It made it easy to underestimate Moore. Because underneath the hulking exterior was an attentive and complicated person. Moore did not fit any of the usual stereotypes of a cynical, world-weary detective. He rarely swore. He hardly ever drank. After 20 years of marriage, he was still crazy about his wife and spoke about her with unrestrained reverence. He was an involved father who cheered for his children at their school plays and football and baseball games. He loved to read and possessed a roving curiosity about everything from politics to sports to history to science. When he wasn't talking shop, he would engage people in conversations about the nature of time and eternity, the origins of the universe, whether intelligent life truly existed in Washington, D.C.
What defined Glen Moore, more than anything else, was his belief in God. Raised in the Baptist faith, he had been saved at the age of 12. All these years later, he prayed every day and served as a deacon at his church. Though he tried to avoid forcing his views on others, especially at the station, he found it hard to understand why everyone did not believe in God. To him, there was an abundance of undeniable, irrefutable proof of God's existence; God, he believed, was an artist without compare whose works were on display for anyone with eyes to see. It was there in the staggering diversity of creatures multiplying across the planet. It was there in the brilliance of the stars exploding in the sky.
"Who am I to challenge the wonders of this universe?" he would say. "It's all around us. . . . God's creation is all around us."
Moore was deeply conservative. He saw the Bible as God's word, meant to be interpreted literally. He thought the theory of evolution was ridiculous. He believed that the country was coming apart and the apocalypse was close at hand. He was not one of these doom-and-gloom types, always waving signs proclaiming that the end was near; he didn't run his life that way and
He was perfectly capable of getting along with people who did not share his views. He had no trouble surviving in the modern, politically correct working world of the 1990s. In many ways, he was a progressive-minded boss. He was not particularly focused on hierarchy, did not feel the need to wave his rank or his seniority over those he worked with. He was a good listener, and encouraged those who worked for him to speak their minds. Time and again, he insisted that his detectives pull themselves away from their cases and take time for their families.
"Go home," he would tell them. "Get out of here."
Like anyone else, Moore had his flaws. He could be impatient, bullheaded and overbearing; some people in the department saw him as arrogant. He had a tendency, from time to time, to think he was always right. A perfectionist with high standards, he sometimes had difficulty letting go when things didn't proceed exactly as he saw fit. That's when other people would give him the speech.
"Glen, go back to your office," they would say. "Sit in that little room and forget about it."
But Moore wasn't good at forgetting. He also struggled sometimes with keeping his temper; during his younger years with the department, he occasionally exploded without warning.
Once, in an almost legendary episode from when he was still with vice and narcotics, he lost it with another officer who swiped one of his apples. At the time, Moore was preparing for a body-building competition and was suffering under a Draconian diet that allowed him almost no sweets, no fats, virtually no food at all. He was training at the gym one day, looking forward to eating an apple that awaited him as his reward -- a Red Delicious apple, to be precise -- when he realized that this officer, who worked out at the same gym, had taken the apple and eaten it. Suddenly Moore was lifting the poor guy off his feet and pushing him against the wall.
"Don't you ever touch one of my apples again," he told him.
In retrospect, Moore acknowledges that he came slightly unhinged that day. Later he apologized to the officer, and they remained friends.
Moore didn't like losing his temper and had worked over the years at learning how to stay calm. His belief in God, he said, had helped him with that task.
His faith transformed the way he approached everything. Guided by his belief in the Bible, he was motivated by a strict and unwavering sense of morality. He did not agree with taking the easy way out, was not afraid to take an unpopular stand when he believed it was the correct thing to do.
"What's right is right," he liked to say. "Truth is truth."
Some people might have been surprised to learn that a veteran police officer, having seen so much ambiguity and complexity, would view life in such simple, black and white terms. But these were his beliefs, and Moore made no apologies. His faith was exactly the rudder he needed to navigate his way through the grueling, emotionally draining work in homicide. As he and his detectives sorted through the growing pile of cases before them, Moore was witness to some of the best and much of the worst of human behavior. To him, their job was part of the ongoing war between good and evil.
And when he looked over at the black notebooks from the Rogers case, he was determined to do everything possible to solve the murders and bring the killer to justice. To Moore, it was obvious that he and the other investigators were searching for someone possessed by a darkness beyond understanding. Someone who thought of people as objects to be manipulated and tortured and thrown away. Someone who had no remorse, no guilt, no conscience.
If Moore and his detectives didn't catch this person, who would? If they did not demand that the killer be held responsible for the deaths of three human beings, then who else would do it? Who else was left? Who else could speak for Jo and Michelle and Christe?
Late that spring, as the one-year anniversary of the murders approached, Moore went to one of his superiors, Maj. Cliff Fouts, and told him he wanted to do a review of the case. He wanted to gather a team of new investigators -- people who would look with fresh eyes -- and have them pore over the case books and talk to the original investigators and then see what shook loose.
Okay, said the major.
That June, Moore put together his team, using several detectives who were new to the case as well as an investigator from the state attorney's office and a former St. Petersburg police detective who was now a special agent for the FBI, assigned to the bureau's Tampa office. They took the notebooks off the shelf and read through them and then sat down in a room with Jim Kappel and Ralph Pflieger, another experienced detective who had worked extensively on the case, and started emptying their brains of everything they had learned and everything they wondered and everything they considered.
Moore and his team had a list of items they wanted to go over with Kappel and Pflieger. It was a long and tough and sobering list, with close to 150 questions in all, and it took several days to go through. The process was not fun. Attempts were made to reassure Kappel and Pflieger, to remind them their efforts had been appreciated, to tell them they were not being criticized or attacked.
These efforts were not entirely successful. No one likes to be second-guessed, especially by a group of inquisitive, intelligent people who are trained in finding holes and who are all now playing devil's advocate as they comb through every step you've taken for the past year. Moore and others who took part in the review all agree that Kappel and Pflieger grew frustrated during the questioning, that they felt as though they were being subjected to a marathon grilling.
For their part, Kappel and Pflieger say today that they understood the reason for the review and tried not to take it personally. Still, they had given the investigation everything they had. Pflieger was so obsessed with the case, he often dreamed about Michelle and Christe; in these dreams, he would see the girls still alive, walking the halls at school and milking cows on the farm.
Looking back on the review, the two investigators acknowledge that the sessions were sometimes difficult and even exasperating. Kappel remembers some verbal sparring. Pflieger says it felt as though the quality of his work was being questioned.
Either way, the two of them told the new team that they had tried everything they could think of, that there was nothing new to be explored.
"We did that," they said repeatedly. "It's already been done."
Moore and the other members of the team did not agree. Two weeks after the review began, Moore's team concluded that many things had not been done. They discovered, says Moore, that the Clearwater Beach brochure recovered from the Rogers car -- the one marked with the handwritten directions showing the family how to reach the motel -- had never been processed for prints. Other items found in the car and in the motel room, Moore reports, had never been processed, either. Many of the hundreds of tips that had come pouring in at various points during the investigation had not been pursued.
Moore had little interest in casting blame or pointing fingers for any oversights. He knew that Kappel and Pflieger and all the other investigators had done their best under extremely difficult circumstances.
But somewhere along the line, Moore believed, too many people had bought into the argument that this case could not be solved. As far as he was concerned, the most devastating error had not come in the handling of evidence or in how many calls were or were not made. It had been in the minds of the investigators and their superiors. The reason they had not gotten anywhere, he thought, was because they had decided there was nowhere to possibly go.
Moore, too stubborn to know better, saw things differently. And now, after typing a 10-page memo detailing the findings of the review, he had the proof to show his commanding officers that there was a great deal of work to be done. He did not have to be particularly blunt about it, either. The bottom line was so obvious:
The Rogers case was not dead unless they killed it themselves.
Faced with Moore's memo, the commanding officers didn't really have much choice. Moore asked for more time. They gave it to him. He asked for two new detectives, both from the team that did the review. They approved it. He requested that these detectives be allowed to work exclusively on the Rogers case. They granted it.
Yes, they said. Do it.
©Copyright 1999, St. Petersburg Times.
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