Houston's Darkest Hours

The Chilling Tale of the Icebox Murders

Houston’s most infamous unsolved crime starts with a horrifying discovery.

By Nicki Koetting November 26, 2018 Published in the December 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

An investigator examining the icebox where the bodies were found. The home itself was eventually torn down, and the site is now occupied by condos.

On June 23, 1965, after receiving a call for a welfare check on Fred and Edwina Rogers, two Houston police officers knocked on the front door of their Montrose home before kicking it in. Inside, one opened the fridge and discovered what he thought were stacks upon stacks of hog meat.

That, unfortunately, was far from the grisly reality. An article from the Amarillo Globe-Times, published the next day, described the scene: “On all the shelves and in the freezer compartment were the dismembered bodies, cut in unwrapped, washed off pieces smaller than individual joints.” The officers realized what they were dealing with after opening the crisper to find two human heads.

Investigators later concluded that Edwina had been shot in the head, while Fred had been beaten to death with a hammer, before both were dragged to the master bathroom, drained of blood, chopped into pieces, and placed in the fridge. “Whoever did this apparently took their time and knew what they were doing,” the medical examiner on the case told the Globe-Times. “The dismembering was a fairly neat job.”

Fred and Edwina Rogers, murdered in their home on Father's Day, 1965.

Image: Fair Use

By the next morning, police had focused on just one suspect: the couple’s son, 43-year-old Charles Rogers, a recluse who only communicated with his parents via notes slipped under his bedroom door and was rarely seen by neighbors. The house had been carefully cleaned, but blood was discovered on the keyhole of his bedroom door.

But the police didn’t get the chance to speak with Charles, who, despite a nationwide manhunt, was never seen or heard from again. He was declared legally dead in 1975.

In 1997 a Houston couple, Hugh and Martha Gardenier, began reinvestigating the Ice Box Murders, as the still-open case is known—even self-publishing an e-book on the subject. They believe they’ve figured out who did it: Charles, of course.

Why? The Gardeniers say that Charles was physically and emotionally abused by his parents well into adulthood, and that at the end of their lives they were defrauding him by forging his signature on deeds of land that he owned. Charles owned the house they all lived in, not his parents, and Edwina had apparently taken out loans on it and pocketed the money. According to the authors, after the murders Charles escaped to Central America, where he later died.

It’s a good theory, but still a theory. We may never know for certain who killed Fred and Edwina Rogers. 

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