Unsolved: The Houston Ice Box Murders (1965)

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The next crime we are looking at is in Houston, Texas. It was June 23, 1965, Marvin Martin had been calling for 3 days to check on his aunt and uncle, Fred and Edwina Rogers, he was unable to get in touch with them, Marvin even went over to their house but he found when he arrived that the house was all locked up and the blinds and curtains had been pulled check, he realized he then had no way to check on his aunt and uncle, so he called the police and requested a welfare check be made.

Around 9 PM that night, 2 Houston police officers and Marvin went to his aunt and uncles house and knocked on the door, when nobody answered, Marvin directed them to kick down the door in order to find out what was going on. Once inside, there was no sign of his aunt or uncle, let alone their son, Charles who still lived at home.

Once inside, the police officers realized that the house was a mess, but Marvin stated that neither his aunt or his uncle were the best cleaners so that did not seem odd to Marvin, but what did seem odd to him and the officers was the moldy food on the table and the smell of something rotting coming from the refrigerator.

An Officer went to investigate the refrigerator to see where the smell was coming from, the officer at first thought, he saw stacks of washed but unwrapped “hog meat” on every shelf in the refrigerator but when he opened the Ice box, he realized the meat he saw was not “hog meat.”

An article from the Amarillo Globe Times described the crime scene: “On all the shelves and in the freezer compartment were dismembered body parts, cut in unwrapped but washed off pieces smaller than individual joints. There was extraordinarily little food in the ice box.” In the vegetable crisper was where they found the most horrific scene that either one of the officers had seen, it was the severed heads of Fred and Edwina.

An investigation started and the son of Fred and Edwina, Charles, became the number on suspect in their murder.

I can just imagine this scene, officers finding what at the time they thought was hog meat, I could see that I mean, its not uncommon for people to purchase hog meat, but seeing severed heads? That…that is something you only see in movies; I mean the only time I have seen somebody keep a severed head is on the TV Show “Criminal Minds”.

Investigators determined that Edwina, had been beaten and then shot, execution style. Fred on the other hand, had it a lot worse. Fred had been beaten to death with a claw hammer, his eyes were removed from the skull and his genitals were removed.

Just let that sink in, Fred watched his wife be beaten to death, and then he knew his time was coming and he endured a painful beating, hopefully he was not alive when his eyes or genitals were removed from his body. The pain, the mutilation, this seems personal, who could have wanted to expose Fred this way and make him feel less of a man by removing his genitals?

Investigators believed that after Fred and Edwina were dead, the couple was dragged into the bathtub this was according to an interview to the Amarillo Globe Times by at the time Captain L.D. Morrison. It was in the bathroom, that the couple’s bodies were drained of all their blood, their arms, legs and torso were then cut into fridge size pieces, the couple organs were found in a sewer nearby later, which means, the killer had chopped them up into small pieces and flushed them down the toilet.

The medical examiner told the Amarillo Globe Times, “Whoever did this knew exactly what they were doing, and they took their time, the dismembering that occurred was a fairly neat job.”

The house had been cleaned and when I say cleaned, I mean like super clean, like the killer did not leave a trace of blood, but test did confirm that a large amount of blood had been cleaned from the bathroom floor and tub. The stairs leading to Charles bedroom had been scrubbed clean. Police decided to go into his room to investigate further there was not a lot, just clothing, a hot plate and kettle and a collection of ham radios, but they did find one piece of key evidence, a bloodied keyhole saw.

Police determined that they were looking for a suspect that had very in-depth experience with the human anatomy. They believed the keyhole saw that was found in Charles’ room was what was used to dismember Fred and Edwina. They also determined that the couple had been dead for at least 3 days which means, they were murdered on Father’s Day.

Police had focused on just one suspect, the couple’s son, Charles, he was 43 years old, he was known as a recluse who only communicated with his parents via notes that he slipped under his bedroom door and was rarely seen by neighbors. He was said to have been extremely intelligent with an extraordinarily strong interest in ham radios. I guess that would make sense since the police found a lot of them in his bedroom.

Charles was in the US navy during WWII where he was a pilot, he spoke 7 languages and had a bachelor’s degree in nuclear physics. He also served in the Office of Naval Intelligence. Upon discharge from the Navy, he became a seismologist for Shell Oil Company. During some point in the 1950’s, Charles was involved in the Civil Air Patrol where he met David Ferrie – a man later accused of being involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Well, this is some alarming information, he was friends with a man that was known to have been involved with assassinating a President. How bizarre? But how did that play a role in his parents’ death?

After 9 years of working with the Shell Oil Company, Charles just up and quit his job without warning and moved in with his parents who rarely saw him. Now why would somebody quit working with one of the biggest Oil companies in the world? Was he about to be fired? Was his parent’s health declining where he had to quit and go and take care of them? But if he was going to take care of them why did he not come out of his room?

There was an international manhunt in search of Charles after the murders of his parents. Neighbors were shocked to have learned that they had a son since most of the neighbors had never seen him, but those who knew about Charles, like Marvin, his cousin, said the Charles rarely left the house and when he did it was before the sun came up and he would not come back until it was pitch dark. Nobody still to this day knows what he did when he was outside of the house.

Despite the nationwide hunt for Charles, he would never be seen again, but in 1992, John R. Craig and Phillip A. Rogers documented Charles’ life in the book called “The Man on the Grassy Knoll.” In the book, the authors – who at the time were investigators for the National Intelligence Service Bureau, claimed that Charles was a CIA agent until 1980’s. What in the world?! But that is not all, they also accused of Charles being one of the men who assassinated President John F. Kennedy and impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City. Well, if that does not make you raise your eyebrows reading that. But if he was a CIA agent why did he kill or have his parents killed?

It was believed that Charles’ mother, Edwina, was listening to and keeping track of Charles’ phone calls (probably making them over the landline?), and with the couple knowing to much of what their son was involved in, Charles figured that his parents should be killed. In the book, it states that Charles fled to Guatemala where he likely died of old age, but the book, The Man on the Grassy Knoll, was and is still heavily criticized for its lack of sources and blatantly untrue events, conversations and thoughts, but if you are a conspiracy theorist or have doubts about the Kennedy assassination like I do after doing research, this might be a good book for you to read.

In 1997, another book came out from forensic accountant Hugh Gardenier and his wife Martha, they had begun an investigation on the Ice book murders and decided to write their own book detailing what their theories were, it is called The Ice Box Murders.

In the book it states they knew that Charles had been involved with CIA contract workers while he worked for Shell Oil Company, but they say with no doubt that Charles was not a CIA agent himself, instead, they believed that Charles was emotionally and physically abused as a child and as an adult by his father, Fred. I can see this, I mean, his father’s genitals were cut off on Father’s Day.

The Gardeniers also believed that near the end of their life, Free and Edwina were both defrauding their son by forging his signature on multiples things, deeds of land, taking out loans and pocketing his money, they believed that Fred and Edwina was con artists. The Gardeniers said that Fred worked as a bookie who regularly engaged in gambling. I guess another reason why Charles would either have them killed or kill them himself? It makes sense honestly, after years of abuse, and then his parents supposedly stealing from him, it might have pushed him over the edge? But they believe that Charles fled to Honduras where he was killed over a wage dispute with miners, but the book, The Ice Box Murders has been called, “a work of fact-based fiction.” So, it has some facts but its also based on false reports that they believed was true. So, what do you believe?

In July of 1975, Charles Rogers was legally declared dead in absentia by a judge so his house could be probated. The house was eventually torn down in 1972, the lot was empty until 2000 when new housing was built.

When is started doing the research on this unsolved case, I honestly could not believe what I was reading, I mean between the son who would not come out of his room and when he did it was before the sun was up and then go home when it was pitch dark, or from his passing notes under his door was the way he communicated? I mean how does that? I can see why people would think that Charles was the one who committed the murders, but it is a bizarre idea or theory that the son, chopped up his parents and put them in the fridge, but what the idea of keeping the heads together in the fridge? Why not just get rid of them?

This murder took so many turns and twists that I did not even get to put all the JFK assassination theories and other people’s ideas into this part. But if you are a crime junkie like I am, I would do more research on this and read The Man on the Grassy Knoll.

Sources:

True Crime Tuesday: The Ice Box Murders – Here’s the Fucking Twist

Houston’s Creepiest Unsolved Murder Mysteries | Houston Press

Ice Box Murders | True Crime Tales (truecrimetalestx.com)

The Chilling Tale of the Icebox Murders | Houstonia Magazine

A recap on the ‘Ice Box Murders’ and ties to JFK assassination (frontpagedetectives.com)