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After 25 years, murder trail ends with arrest of ex-prosecutor's kin

WAUSAU, Wis. -- Twenty-five years ago, the Rusk County district attorney resigned, and a murder case under his watch -- the 1979 slaying of a college student -- languished in the unsolved file.

Now his two brothers sit in jail, charged with murder in the slaying.

Defense attorneys said yesterday that Dale A. Rogers, 46, of Sheldon, and Harry ''John" Rogers, 52, of rural Ladysmith, will cooperate with authorities and tell what they know about the plot allegedly hatched by a third brother Robert, the county prosecutor at the time.

They were arrested last week and charged with first-degree murder in the execution-style slaying of college student Robert Pfeil Jr. John Rogers was the alleged gunman.

Henderson ordered John Rogers held in lieu of $1 million cash bail and Dale Rogers held in lieu of $50,000 cash bail or $100,000 property bail. A preliminary hearing was set for May 17.

Despite efforts by Pfeil's family, the case had remained unsolved for 25 years before a secret grand jury uncovered new evidence. ''There are pieces of the puzzle that we don't have, and the only person who can give those pieces is John Rogers," Kathleen Pakes, the current district attorney, said.

Robert Rogers resigned as district attorney in 1980 and committed suicide four years later after a second, unrelated killing.

In the Pfeil case, Robert Rogers ''didn't pull the trigger, but he was certainly responsible," Pakes told Judge Frederick Henderson yesterday. A fourth brother, Mike, who gave law enforcement officials statements about his role, will not be charged, Pakes said.

Steven Gibbs, the lawyer for John Rogers, said his client would meet with law enforcement officials, ''in return for some considerations."

''We are cooperating to get the truth out," Gibbs said.

Pfeil, 27, died from shotgun wounds to the back of his head on Aug. 14, 1979, near his rural Ladysmith home. There was no evidence of a struggle.

According to a criminal complaint filed Friday, Robert Rogers feared Pfeil was out to harm him because Pfeil was angry that police had killed his three dogs two months earlier.

Mike told police he and Dale hid in some weeds while John fatally shot Pfeil, according to the criminal complaint. He said that Robert had asked him and Dale to accompany John.

According to the criminal complaint, Robert Rogers was a ''person of interest" in the Pfeil killing because investigators quickly learned of Pfeil's anger over the killing of the dogs. But Robert Rogers resigned as Rusk County district attorney less than a year after Pfeil was killed, and Pfeil's murder case lay in the unsolved file.

The former prosecutor moved with his wife, Cherie Barnard, to Truckee, Calif., where Rogers set up a practice. In 1984, Rogers killed dance club owner Gary Grady, 29, after learning he had been involved with Barnard. Rogers, 38, then committed suicide on his 28-foot boat by shooting himself in the chest.

Robert Pfeil Sr., 91, of Racine, pressed authorities for years for answers in his son's slaying, at times doing his own investigation and offering rewards of up to $40,000.

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