Remembering murdered teen, 16-year-old Joanna Rogers
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - On Monday, May 3, 2004, Kathy and Joe Bill Rogers kissed their daughter Joanna goodnight for the last time.
"I went in to wake her up and she was gone, she had just vanished," Kathy said.
Kathy said her daughter's favorite coat, wallet, car keys and phone were all left behind in her room.
"I had no clue what happened to her," Kathy said.
Lubbock County Sheriff David Gutierrez hosted a news conference alerting the community to her disappearance.
"The fact that she left all of her personal items is of major concern for us, leaving us to believe she had no intention of leaving for good," Sheriff Gutierrez said.
Volunteers and law enforcement spread out across the county, knocking on doors, mailing flyers and taping posters on businesses.
Months later, on Joanna's 17th birthday, law enforcement still had little evidence in the case.
"In justice to Joanna, we cannot assume that she is going to show up tomorrow or the next day," Kathy said in an interview with KCBD in 2005.
"We want her back. We are going to find her," Joe Bill said.
Months later, on Joanna's 17th's birthday, they still had no idea what happened to their daughter.
The Rogers family met with KCBD with a plea for their daughter or anyone who may have information on the case.
"Stay strong and come home to us, honey," Kathy said.
"Your daddy loves you too. You knew that," Joe Bill said.
On May 25, 2006, National Missing Children's Day, the Rogers family made another plea for information regarding their daughter's case.
"If Joanna is out there, we love her and we miss her. If we could send a message to Joanna, everybody hurts because she's not here. If you know where she is, please tell us," they told KCBD.
The Rogers remembers how they survived those months of uncertainty.
"I knew God was taking care of Joanna. To keep that picture in my mind, of her in Jesus' arms, that was it; that was the best that I could do," Kathy said.
Then, police contacted the Rogers family with a break in the case.
They were investigating the suspect in the murder of a 29-year-old pregnant woman.
Summer Baldwin's body was found in a suitcase in the city landfill.
The investigation led them to Rosendo Rodriguez III, who eventually admitted to killing Baldwin.
As police searched his computer, they found he had been chatting online with Joanna before she went missing.
The Lubbock County District Attorney's Office believed he had something to do with her disappearance, so they made a deal.
If Rodriguez would tell them what happened to Rogers, they would waive the death penalty in Baldwin's case.
Rodriguez took the deal.
He told police he met with Joanna the night she went missing and they began to argue.
Rodriguez said he strangled her, put her body in a suitcase, and threw it in a dumpster.
For two months, men and women searched the landfill for that suitcase.
Roughly 900 days after Joanna went missing, they found it. Her body was still inside.
"That was the last day they were going to dig because it's nasty and dangerous out there. We didn't want anybody getting hurt," Joe Bill said, remembering how close they came to never finding his daughter.
"Thank God they were patient enough to help us find Joanna," Kathy said.
It's not the outcome the Rogers prayed for, but thanks to the hard work of volunteers and law enforcement, the Rogers would get to bury their daughter.
"Even after 14 years, it means so much to us that this community has come together and that law enforcement never gave up to bring Joanna home," Kathy said.
At the last minute, Rodriguez ended up withdrawing his plea deal, so the state sought the death penalty.
In 2008, a jury convicted Rodriguez and sentenced him to death.
He is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018, the day after his 38th birthday.
The Rogers family plans to be there.
RELATED STORY: Rosendo Rodriguez execution date set for March 27, 2018
RELATED LINK: Rodriguez Rejects Plea Deal, Now Faces Death Penalty (From Oct. 2006)
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