By Chris Harris
March 19, 2019 06:06 PM

After deliberating for just four hours, a jury of six men and six women returned a not guilty verdict Tuesday against Carl Rodgers, a Pennsylvania man who had been accused of murdering his wife, Debra Jane Rodgers, in 1983 and staging the scene like a suicide.

The decision puts an end to decades of suspicion, and brings a close to one of the oldest cold cases to ever be tried in the state of Pennsylvania.

Rodgers expressed no emotions as the verdict was read, but moments later, after being told he was free to go, looked at the audience, a smile on his face, and winked at his daughter and girlfriend.

Debra Jane Rodgers
| Credit: Pennsylvania Attorney General

Before and after the verdicts were read (Rodgers was cleared of first- and third-degree murder counts), defense attorney Geoffrey McInroy patted his client on the back.

“It took 36 years and four hours to prove he’s an innocent man,” McInroy commented after the verdict.

Rodgers, 63, was arrested in late 2017 for allegedly killing his spouse.

It was determined that the victim, his 23-year-old wife Debra, died from blunt force trauma caused by a very powerful blow to the head, but the defense maintained she was dissatisfied with her life and died by suicide.

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Rodgers was arrested after the attorney general’s office decided to take a fresh look at the evidence. Debra’s relatives and friends — some of whom testified in court last week — said she was quiet and reserved, but not suicidal.

Debra was found two days after she was last seen at her trailer on the Rodgers’ family farm in Tuscarora State Forest in Pennsylvania’s Perry County with her skull fractured and her wrists slashed.

Prosecutors had alleged that Rodgers gave police inconsistent accounts of what transpired on the night his wife disappeared, and said his wife was depressed about her job and had expressed suicidal thoughts.

The prosecution posited that it was Rodgers who beat his wife to death before slashing her wrists in an attempt to make her death look like a suicide.