Angels & Demons
SILENT WITNESSES: Three years after the murders, this Christmas photo of the Rogers girls -- taken when Michelle was 8 and Christe was 6 -- still hung on the wall of the task force office, spurring on the detectives as they closed in on their new suspect.
That summer, three years after the murders, Michelle and Christe were watching the detectives. Photos of the Rogers girls still hung on a wall of the task force's office on the second floor of the St. Petersburg police station. The most haunting of these pictures, the one that the members of the task force would talk about long after the case was over, was the Christmas shot.
It had been taken in December 1980, when Michelle was 8 and Christe was 6. They are shown standing side by side in front of the Christmas tree. Candy canes and a silver garland and a Santa Claus ornament are hanging off the branches behind them; a small mountain of wrapped presents rises from the floor at their feet. But the most striking aspect of the picture is the girls themselves.
They are dressed up, posing for what was clearly the official holiday portrait. Michelle, chin raised, her long hair held back by white barrettes, is wearing a blue velvet jumper over a long-sleeved white blouse; Christe, her bangs hanging past her eyebrows, is in a rose-colored jumper over a white blouse. Both are wearing white knee socks. Both are standing stiffly, hands behind their backs, neither of them smiling as they stare toward the camera.
The photo had been placed on the wall early in the investigation. Now, as the members of the task force turned their attention toward the new suspect, it stayed up.
Day after day, the girls gazed out at them, still alive somehow, standing straight before them, listening, noticing, taking everything in without uttering a word.
Michelle and Christe were waiting.
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