Elderly woman, son die in Cape home

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Police suspect deaths were heat-related, but autopsies will be performed today.

An elderly woman and her disabled son were found dead Wednesday in their Cape Girardeau home.

Glenda Rogers, who was in her 80s, and her son Clarence "Roger" Rogers, 63, were discovered by a family friend who became worried when she could not reach them on the telephone, Cape Girardeau Police Sgt. Barry Hovis said.

Neighbors of the pair, who lived at 611 Themis St., said they rarely saw Clarence Rogers outside the home and that Glenda Rogers had become noticeably less energetic in recent years.

The home had no air conditioning, Hovis said. Despite the drop in outdoor temperatures Wednesday, some rescue workers sweated heavily after just a short time in the home.

No official cause of death could be determined immediately, Hovis said, but the deaths did not appear to be caused by foul play. Coroner John Clifton scheduled autopsies for this morning.

"They appear to have been there a few days because of the odor in the house," Hovis said at the scene.

The woman who discovered the deaths said she regularly visited the Rogers and ran errands such as grocery shopping for them. The woman, who asked not to be identified for privacy reasons, said she visited the Rogers' home Wednesday after calling two or three times and getting a busy signal. The woman said she last talked to Glenda Rogers on Sunday.

Glenda Rogers kept her windows sealed to protect her son from anything that might irritate his asthma, the woman said. The house was always very hot, she said.

"Neither one of them was in good health," she said. "They shouldn't have been living by themselves, but they wouldn't have it any other way."

When she arrived Wednesday afternoon, she said, there were several newspapers on the steps that had not been picked up and the back door was unlocked. When she went in, she saw a pair of legs on the floor in the home's middle room and immediately left the house to call 911.

As a result of a stroke, Clarence Rogers needed a wheelchair to get around and required assistance to get in and out of the chair, she said.

The body of Clarence Rogers was found on the floor, Hovis said, but he did not have information about where his mother's body was located.

Neighbors recalled Glenda Rogers as a kindly woman whose health had become obviously worse in recent years. Jean Rabe of 613 Themis St. said she had not seen Glenda Rogers outside the house in a few weeks. "She was a very sweet lady, kind and gentle," Rabe said. "She devoted her life to that boy."

The home has a well-kept lawn and flower beds. While the lawn was mowed by a lawn service, she said, Glenda Rogers would occasionally work outside weeding the flowers.

Dorotha Allen, also of 613 Themis St., said she called Glenda Rogers "granny." She and Glenda Rogers would exchange greetings when Rogers was hanging wash outside to dry, she said.

There hasn't been any wash outside for a while, Allen said. "I haven't noticed no stirring around or nothing."

The emergency call for help came shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday. Police and Cape Girardeau Fire Department responders opened the house, set up a ventilation fan on the front porch and used respirators when going into and out of the home.

Bags of garbage from inside the home were brought out the front door and placed on the lawn. When officers went in to do a forensic examination of the scene, they wore full hazardous-material protective suits.

The woman who discovered the deaths said Glenda Rogers had asked her a few times recently to help sift through items that had accumulated in the house. The house was always too hot to stay long, she said.

The deaths highlight the need for homebound people to be checked every day and programs such as the Cape Girardeau Senior Center's meal deliveries provide that service, center director Susan McClanahan said. The meals program delivers about 120 meals each day, and could deliver more if volunteers could be found. Any senior who has trouble leaving their house, either because of health issues or lack of transportation, can ask for the meals, McClanahan said. There is no income ceiling for the service, she said.

The Rogers were not part of the program.

During the heat wave that ended early Wednesday morning, McClanahan said, a volunteer found one woman who was obviously overheated. The volunteer called the center, which immediately called the woman's sister. The sister helped get the woman's air conditioning repaired.

"For a lot of seniors, the meal is a bonus" to the daily visit, McClanahan said.

When a meal delivery volunteer does not get a response during a visit to a person who is supposed to be home, she said, rescue workers are called immediately to the scene.


335-6611 extension 126

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