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Charges dismissed against woman in old Rusk County slaying

Murder - Conspiracy - Perjury - Withdrawn

San Francisco Chronicle, 14 March 2007
Peter Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer

A judge dismissed charges Wednesday against a California attorney accused of plotting with a district attorney to kill a college student nearly 28 years ago.

Rusk County District Attorney Kathleen Pakes asked to withdraw the charges against Cherie Barnard, 56, telling the judge her former brother-in-law, a key prosecution witness, would no longer testify against her. Barron County Circuit Judge Edward Brunner agreed.

The witness, John Rogers, was convicted in October of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison after he admitted he shot and killed Robert Pfeil, 27, outside his rural Ladysmith home.

According to court records, then-Rusk County District Attorney Robert Rogers recruited three of his brothers to kill Pfeil because he feared retaliation after deputies killed some of Pfeil's dogs. Barnard was married to Robert Rogers, who died more than 20 years ago after moving to California.

John Rogers testified in a 2005 hearing that Barnard and his brother recruited him to kill Pfeil. He said that Barnard told him that if he could not kill Pfeil, she would call one of her relatives.

Prosecutors contended Barnard took part in the conspiracy because she was afraid Pfeil was going to kill her and her three children. Barnard also was charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury about her role in the plot.

In a letter to Pakes, John Rogers' new attorney said he was appealing his murder conviction and would invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination if called to testify against Barnard. Rogers, 54, is an inmate at a state prison in Waupun.

His brother, Dale Rogers, 49, of Sheldon, was convicted in May of solicitation to commit second-degree murder for his part in Pfeil's death and sentenced to the 461 days he had already served in jail. A third brother was not charged after he helped investigators break the case.

Barnard's attorney, Chris Van Wagner, said she was "greatly relieved that this long trip is over."

He said Barnard, who previously lived in San Mateo, Calif., but has lived in Michigan since she was charged, would return to California. She has denied involvement in the slaying.

Reprint approved.

Related Articles:
Charges Against Cherie Barnard Dismissed | The Capitol Times, Madison Wisconsin
Related Topics:
Murder | First Degree Intentional Homicide | Grand Jury Proceedings