Killer's death sentence vacated by high court

Nigel Duara / The Associated Press /

PORTLAND — The Oregon Supreme Court vacated the death sentence of a former lawn-mower repairman who was convicted of killing six women in the 1980s in a western Oregon forest.

Serial killer Dayton Leroy Rogers has been on and off death row since his conviction in 1989. He admitted to the slayings, but the state Supreme Court struck down Rogers’ death sentences in 1992 and 2000.

His latest death sentence, handed down in 2006 by a Clackamas County jury, was vacated on Thursday by the Oregon high court. He will now be resentenced in county court.

At that hearing, jurors heard conflicting testimony over Rogers’ potential for further crimes but unanimously rejected the defense claim that 18 years in prison had changed him.

The Supreme Court found errors by trial judge Ronald Thom — specifically, that he didn’t establish “strong and particular grounds for believing that the jurors’ identities needed to be protected” when he empanelled an anonymous jury, and that he incorrectly allowed the introduction of evidence of Rogers’ homosexual experiences as a teenager, despite Rogers’ protestations.

Prosecutors said Rogers tortured, stabbed and mutilated his victims, binding them with dog collars and coat hangers and then dumping them in a forest near Molalla in Clackamas County. Authorities believe he killed eight women in 1987.

Rogers’ first known attack was at age 18 in 1972, when he stabbed a 15-year-old Eugene girl after taking her to a wooded area to have sex. In 1973, after striking two Lane County girls, he was sent to the state mental hospital. After his release in 1974, Rogers’ crimes continued for more than a decade.

The state Supreme Court struck down Rogers’ 2000 death sentence because the jury considered only the options of death and life in prison with the possibility of parole.

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