WASHBURN COUNTY -- A man has been charged in Washburn County Circuit Court with First Degree Intentional Homicide in the death of another man at a Spooner Mobile Home Park in July, 2019.
According to a Criminal Complaint filed in Washburn County, Joseph J. Rogers, 31, is being charged with the death of 52-year-old Troy Sweep at Park West Mobile Home Park in Spooner, WI, which authorities had previously ruled a homicide.
Your complainant, Spooner Chief of Police, Jerry Christman, has been actively involved in the investigation of the death of Troy Robert Sweep (DOB: 11/7/1966) as the lead investigator. Your complainant has had ongoing communication with officers, deputies, special agents, and analysts participating in this investigation from the Spooner Police Department, the Washburn County Sheriff’s Office, Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Lab. The information from the various law enforcement agencies is deemed reliable and accurate as the individuals involved are sworn officers and professionals and the information relied upon was gathered as part of their official duties.
DISCOVERY OF TROY SWEEP
On the morning of July 16, 2019, Troy Robert Sweep (DOB 11/7/66) was discovered deceased at his residence, 403 Norway Drive, Spooner, Wisconsin. At about 11:00 am that morning, Witness #1 and Witness #2 called the Washburn County Sheriff’s Department and reported that they were at 403 Norway Drive, Spooner, Wisconsin and had discovered the deceased body of Troy Sweep. Witness #1 and Witness #2 were making their regularly scheduled delivery to Mr. Sweep at his residence. Witness #1 and Witness #2 were able to identify the decedent as Troy Robert Sweep (DOB: 11/7/66). Spooner Chief of Police Jerry Christman was the first to respond. Upon arrival Chief Christman entered 403 Norway Drive to secure the scene and personally assess the condition of Mr. Sweep. Chief Christman saw that Mr. Sweep was lying face down in the kitchen with a large amount of dried and still drying blood around Mr. Sweep’s head. Upon closer examination Chief Christman was able to determine that rigor mortis had set in, strongly suggesting Mr. Sweep’s death had occurred many hours prior. Chief Christman positively identified the decedent as Troy Robert Sweep (DOB: 11/7/66) from past professional contact. Chief Christman determined from the condition of Mr. Sweep’s body and surrounding area that Mr. Sweep’s death was suspicious and apparently not from natural causes. Chief Christman then double checked scene security and summoned investigative support.
Chief Christman requested assistance the Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Lab to respond and process the scene; the Wisconsin State Patrol to map the scene; and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and the Washburn County Sheriff’s Department to assist in the investigation. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime Lab, Wisconsin State Patrol, Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the Washburn County Sheriff’s Department all responded immediately.
CONTACT WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Law enforcement officers had contact with friends and family of Mr. Sweep, who had gathered in the area. They reported that Mr. Sweep lived alone at 403 Norway Drive. Mr. Sweep had previously suffered a stroke. Due to the stroke, Mr. Sweep was virtually mute and communicated with a dry erase board. While Mr. Sweep could walk on his own, he often used a motorized wheelchair to travel around town and within his home. Due to his condition, Mr. Sweep had friends and family that would check on him daily. Monday, July 15, 2019 and Tuesday, July 16, 2019 were no different.
Law enforcement interviewed several witnesses who had normal contacts with Mr. Sweep on Monday, July 15, 2019. The last reported normal contact with Mr. Sweep was between approximately 6:30 pm and 7:00 pm. Witness #8 contacted Mr. Sweep by telephone and described the contact as typical; nothing unusual was reported or suspected.
While speaking with friends and family, law enforcement officers identified Witness #9. Witness #9 lived in the area and had just learned that Mr. Sweep had been found deceased. Witness #9 was upset because they believed they had relevant information regarding the investigation. Witness #9 disclosed that on the night prior, July 15, 2019, the night Troy Sweep was killed, Joseph J. Rogers (DOB: 8/1/88) had come to Witness #9’s house around 6:00 PM; before the rain storm that night. Joseph Rogers was homeless and sleeping in the woods behind the trailer park on Norway Drive. Witness #9 has known Joseph Rogers for approximately one and half to two weeks. Witness #9 saw Joseph Rogers in the area because Joseph Rogers’ mother lived in the area. Witness #9 felt sorry for Joseph Rogers and attempted to befriend him to help him out.
When Joseph Rogers arrived at Witness #9’s home on July 15, 2019 around 6:00 PM, Joseph Rogers was carrying a plastic bag from a local retail store with dirty clothes, a small tackle box and an ID card. Shortly after Joseph Rogers arrived, Witness #9 left to go get some food. Witness #9 arrived back home at approximately 8:45 PM and Joseph Rogers was not there. Witness #9 did not know where Joseph Rogers went.
At about 11:45 PM, Witness #9’s dog began to bark outside the home. Witness #9, checking on the dog, found Joseph Rogers outside Witness #9’s house wearing a wet, dark blue t-shirt, long baggy ripped shorts and his old shoes. Joseph Rogers was also carrying a vodka bottle and was clearly intoxicated. Witness #9 allowed Joseph Rogers to come into Witness #9’s home. Upon entering Witness #9’s home, Joseph Rogers told Witness #9 that he had just opened the door of the wrong house. Joseph Rogers informed Witness #9 that Joseph Rogers had just, in a drunken stupor, went to Witness #9’s neighbor’s house, later determined to be Troy Sweep’s residence, and Rogers opened the door. Witness #9 said Rogers went on to explain he, Joseph Rogers “didn’t realize where I was and all of a sudden he [Troy Sweep] was right there.”
Witness #9 allowed Joseph Rogers to come into their home and he made an alcoholic drink. Witness #9 attempted to discuss Roger’s alcohol consumption. Rogers said Witness #9 does not understand; that things were crazy and Rogers was almost in tears. Joseph Rogers then suddenly got up and said e needed to take a shower and wash his clothes. When Joseph Rogers emerged from the shower he was wearing nothing but a towel. Joseph Rogers’ erratic behavior continued when he stated he needed to leave and went to the door wearing nothing but a towel. Witness #9 told Rogers that if he left, still wearing nothing but a towel, Witness #9 would not let him back in the residence. Joseph Rogers left Witness #9’s house wearing only a towel. Witness #9 recalled this happened at approximately 3:00 AM.
At about 4:10 AM, Rogers tried to get back into Witness #9’s house, a third time since leaving approximately an hour prior. Witness #9 threw out some of their ex’s clothes for Rogers to wear as Rogers’ clothes were still in the wash. Witness #9 provided Joseph Rogers with a fluorescent safety yellow/green hoodie and cargo shorts. Joseph Rogers kept his tennis shoes with him. Joseph Rogers had left Witness #9’s two towels on the porch. Witness #9 eventually went to sleep and was awoken to law enforcement investigating Troy Sweeps homicide. When Witness #9 awoke and came outside and witnessed the ongoing investigation of Mr. Sweep’s homicide Witness #9, upset, pointed at the towels on her porch and said “He did it!”
Witness #9 claimed Joseph Rogers and Troy Sweep did not get along because Joseph Rogers was always trying to “bum” cigarettes from Troy Sweep (as corroborated by other witnesses). This was confirmed by Witness #4 as well. Witness #4 recalled a time a couple weeks prior that Joseph Rogers had randomly walked up to Troy Sweeps’ door and asked for cigarettes. Mr. Sweep gave Joseph Rogers some cigarettes as he would often try to help people when he could. It was also confirmed that Mr. Sweep had previously made it known he did not like Rogers. Witness #10 indicated that while at Mr. Sweep’s residence Witness #10 and Troy Sweep saw Joseph Rogers at Witness #9’s house and Mr. Sweep wrote “METH” on his dry erase board for Witness #10 to see and made an audible disapproving grunt.
Law enforcement interviewed Witness #13 and #14, neighbors to Witness #9, who indicated that Joseph Rogers approached Witness #13 on the evening of July 15, 2019 and asked Witness #13 to use their cell phone. Witness #14 recalled the event because Rogers was wearing only a towel. Witness #13 stated Witness #13 did let Rogers use their cellular phone to make a call. Law Enforcement asked to see the phone Joseph Rogers used. Witness #13 identified the call on the call log and that the call was placed at 8:04 PM. This was during the time after Witness #9 had allowed Rogers in the house the first time and had left to get food, finding Rogers gone upon their return.
Video surveillance footage from a local store shows Joseph Rogers entered the store at about 9:15 PM wearing a white long sleeved shirt and dark long shorts/pants. Witness #11 states Witness #11 remembers seeing Joseph Rogers walking away from the area towards the store at about 8:30 PM. Witness #11 remembered this because Witness #11 thought to themselves that it was odd to be wearing long sleeves when it was so hot out. Online almanacs indicate the top temperatures in Spooner, Wisconsin on Monday, July 15 2019 was 91 degrees Fahrenheit. https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/usa/spooner/historic?month=7&year=2019. Witness #9 later confirmed that the clothes Rogers was seen wearing, the white long sleeve shirt, was Witness #9’s and it was in the wash when Witness #9 left to go get food shortly after Joseph Rogers came to Witness #9’s house. Witness #9 stated Witness #9 often slept in the shirt as it was oversized for Witness #9 indicating they were very familiar with that particular shirt.
ROGERS LOCATED AND INTERVIEWED
On Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at approximately 6:00 PM, the Washburn County Sheriff’s Dispatch received a report of a suspicious man at a residence south of Spooner, WI asking to use their phone. The caller, Witness #12, reported it was suspicious because the same man had been there at about 10:00 AM that morning also asking to use the phone, claiming they had a broken down car, but was acting suspiciously. Witness #12 told him to leave, which he did at that time. When the man returned at about 6:00 PM, Witness #12 took a picture of the man, which startled him and he left just before the caller notified dispatch. Witness #12 recalled the man looked like the son of their old neighbor. After some contemplation, Witness #12 recalled the neighbor’s son’s name was Joseph Rogers. Witness #12 recalled that Joseph Rogers would often come to Witness #12 house and ask to use the phone.
Law enforcement quickly responded to Witness #12 residence. Within a short period of time law enforcement located the suspect whom was later positively identified as Joseph J. Rogers (DOB: 8/1/1988). Witness #12 confirmed that Joseph Rogers was the man at their door. Joseph Rogers was taken into custody. On his person was a plastic bag with clothes, a bottle of vodka and a ballpeen hammer. Joseph Rogers was taken to the Spooner Police Department. Law enforcement confirmed that Joseph Rogers was on probation with a “no drink” provision. Due to the possession of alcohol and disorderly conduct at Witness #12’s house, the Wisconsin Department of Corrections placed a “hold” or Order to Detain/Arrest on Joseph Rogers.
At approximately 6:45 PM, DCI and Washburn County Investigators introduced themselves to Joseph Rogers and explained that they were investigating the death of Troy Sweep. Law enforcement explained that they believed Joseph Rogers possessed relevant information regarding the investigation and would like to speak to him. However, because Joseph Rogers was in custody because of the probation hold they could not speak to him without informing him of his rights and he consented to the conversation. Joseph Rogers was then read his Miranda Rights, confirmed he understood his rights and then agreed to converse with law enforcement.
During the beginning of the interview, while law enforcement established rapport and read Rogers his rights, Joseph Rogers was adjusting and cleaning his waist area. Rogers stated he had sand in his underwear.
Rogers stated he remembered going to his mother’s house at about 8:00 AM that morning, the morning of July 16, 2019, the morning Troy Sweeps body was discovered. Rogers stated he usually keeps some clothes over at his mother’s house because she takes care of his two children. (Later, Roger’s mother, who lives across the street from Troy Sweep’s residence, confirmed she cares for his children and that she keeps clothes for him in a tote or two in her shed but that she keeps it locked and must give him access. Rogers’ mother also confirmed Joseph Rogers came to the house about 8:00 AM, got a change of clothes and talked to the children for a couple minutes. Joseph asked if he could take a shower, but his mother said no.)
Rogers stated that he spent the night of July 15-16, 2019 in the woods somewhere but could not remember exactly where. Rogers remembered that after he visited his mother he went to sleep in a field, woke up, went to Witness #12’s house, asked to use the phone and was arrested walking on the trail. Rogers stated he did go to his friend’s house on Norway Drive but could not remember the friend’s name. Rogers explained he met the person only a few weeks prior and had slept there and used the shower a few times. It was confirmed that the friend was in fact Witness #9.
ROGERS 1st VERSION OF EVENTS
Joseph Rogers stated he went to Witness #9’s house at 7:00 or 8:00 or 9:00 PM and left. Rogers stated he slept in the woods until about 4:00 AM. Rogers stated he went back to Witness #9’s house at about 4:00 AM when he woke up and Witness #9 let him in. Rogers stated he retrieved his clothes and left. Rogers then claimed he walked down the ATV trail and stayed behind a local store under a street light until 7:30 AM, when he walked to his mother’s house. Rogers stated he then visited with his children at his mother’s house and left about 9:00 AM when he walked back down the ATV trail and fell asleep in a hayfield where he slept until he was arrested.
Rogers was asked what he was doing the night prior at Witness #9’s house. Rogers stated he just sat around, talked and did some laundry, eventually leaving at 4:00 AM walking around until 8:00 AM when he went to his mother’s house. Rogers admitted to wearing a white, long sleeved shirt and black shorts the night prior. Rogers acknowledged that the clothes he was then currently wearing were oversized because he got them from Witness #9. Rogers was asked if he spoke with anyone or had seen anyone else that night and Rogers stated “NO.” Rogers elaborated that he is not trying to make friends and only knows Witness #9.
ROGERS 2nd VERSION OF EVENTS
Rogers was then asked if he had ever walked into someone else’s house on accident when he was hanging around Norway Drive. Rogers replied, “Um yep” and admitted it actually happened the night prior, July 15, 2019. Joseph Rogers explained at about 2:30 AM, just before Rogers did his laundry he was in a “blackout” or was maybe “sleep walking” and walked into someone else’s house. Rogers stated he “snapped out of it” and realized he was not at Witness #9’s house and then left and went to Witness #9’s house.
Joseph Rogers was asked directly if he encountered anyone at the other house while he was there. Rogers stated that he “Um ... I really didn’t see much. I didn’t see anything. I opened the door and realized it was the wrong house. That’s all I did.” Rogers said it was the trailer right next to Witness #9, identified as Troy Sweep’s residence.
Rogers was asked what he did during the day on July 15th, 2019. Rogers stated he stayed at Witness #9’s house all day. Rogers claimed he ate breakfast and lunch at Witness #9’s house. At around 8:00 PM he wanted to give Witness #9 some space, so he left and took a nap. He came back at about 3:00 AM or 4:00 AM, did some laundry/got some clothes and he left again walking around until he went to his mother’s house at 8:00 AM.
ROGERS 3rd VERSION OF EVENTS
Rogers was asked how he met Witness #9. Rogers stated that about two weeks prior he saw Witness #9 walking Witness #9’s dog and they began to talk. Rogers claimed Witness #9 and him went to Witness #9’s house and had a drink. Rogers was then asked if he was drinking on the 15th of July 2019. Rogers stated he was and that he had “a blackout moment.” Rogers was confronted with why did not tell officers he went into the wrong house that night. Rogers described himself as “drunk stumbling” went to the neighbor’s house, opened the door, realized it was the wrong house, closed the door, and left. Rogers was asked if any lights were on. Rogers stated he only opened the door and did not go in. Rogers was then asked if heard anything while he was there. Rogers stated “No, I did not talk to him.” Rogers estimated he left the door open for five seconds and left. Rogers was asked if the TV was on and Rogers said all he did was open the door for ten seconds and he left.
Rogers was then informed that the house he was at was the house where Troy Sweeps body was found. Rogers was asked if he knew Troy Sweep and Rogers stated he did not know him.
ROGERS 4th VERSION OF EVENTS
Now that Rogers knew why he was being questioned about this house he was asked if he ever went in. Rogers changed his story again and stated “I think I opened the door and took like one step in. I said “whoa” this is not the house I was staying at and left.” Rogers then stated he did not know the guy, he did not know his name and he never met him; and he did not talk to him except to say “hi” in passing.
ROGERS 5th VERSION OF EVENTS
Rogers was asked if he had ever borrowed any cigarettes from Mr. Sweep. Rogers now stated that yes, about two weeks prior he did borrow 10-12 cigarettes from Troy Sweep. Rogers then described Troy Sweep and admitted he was at Troy’s house twice. The first time was two weeks prior. Rogers stated he was drinking and wanted a cigarette. He said to himself, “hey, let’s go make some friends.” Rogers then went over to Troy Sweeps house, his friend’s neighbor, and borrowed a handful of cigarettes. Rogers stated the second time was the night prior (the evening of July 15, 2019).
Rogers was asked if he was wearing the shoes he had on during the interview the night before when he went to the wrong trailer. Rogers stated they were the same shoes as they are the only ones he has. Rogers consented to his shoes being photographed. These shoes were also seized as evidence and submitted for forensic examination.
ROGERS 6th VERSION OF EVENTS
During follow-up questioning Rogers was asked again about borrowing cigarettes. Rogers became frustrated and stated he did not borrow cigarettes the last time, the night of July 15th. Rogers declared he did not see anyone, he opened the door and left. It was clarified that investigators were discussing the first time, the time two weeks prior. Rogers stated, the time two weeks prior, he was drunk, went to the neighbor’s house, the door was open so he went in and asked for cigarettes. Rogers stated he strolled around the house and Sweep gave him a handful of cigarettes.
Rogers was then asked if he borrowed any more cigarettes the night prior. Rogers said “okay okay ... I think there might have been a wheelchair and like a dead guy or something on the floor and then I kinda snapped out of it and I went back to my friends and told [Witness #9] about it.”
Rogers was then asked to describe the “dead guy.” Rogers stated he didn’t see anything, that there was nothing there.
ROGERS 7th VERSION OF EVENTS
Rogers was asked to describe what he saw, in detail, when he opened the door. Rogers stated he saw the living room and the kitchen. Rogers stated he saw a wheelchair and feet sticking out past a cabinet. Rogers stated he didn’t know if he, Troy Sweep, was drunk or dead or sleeping. Rogers was asked if he ever saw Troy drink (alcohol) and Rogers admitted no. Rogers was asked if he thought it was normal for someone to sleep on the kitchen floor and Rogers stated he didn’t know. Rogers stated he just freaked out and left. Rogers was asked where he was when he saw Troy’s feet. Rogers stated “a couple steps. I went in, saw feet and said ‘oh wow’ this is not my house and I kinda snapped out of it.”
ROGERS 8th VERSION OF EVENTS
Rogers stated the clothes he was wearing the night of July 15, 2019 were at Witness #9’s house. Rogers was asked if it would be possible that Troy’s blood and/or DNA would be on any of Rogers clothes. Rogers said it would be “impossible.” Rogers then described the event as if you went to someone’s house, knocked, opened the door and said “hello hello.” Then Rogers said, “But yeah, if, I mean if you guys got a pair of my clothes with his blood and everything on it I guess there’s nothing to talk about, but I know you don’t because I took two steps into the house.”
Rogers was then asked if it was possible he was going to Troy’s to ask for a cigarette. Rogers stated “well probably, yes. I didn’t get one though.” Rogers was asked if Troy answered the door. Rogers stated, no, he just walked in.
Rogers was asked if he went into the home or walked around the body at all. Rogers stated he did not. Rogers was asked if he went into any other rooms and he stated he did not. Rogers stated that he turned the door knob and took two steps in, that he knows how DNA works and that his DNA would not be anywhere but maybe on the doorknob. Joseph Rogers stated he regretted going over to Troy’s accidentally to get a cigarette because now he is in the middle of the investigation.
Rogers was asked if he ever had a bottle of Jack Daniels Whiskey over at Troy’s. Rogers denied and asked if they had a bottle at Troy Sweep’s house with Rogers’ prints on it. Rogers was told no. Rogers stated he threw an empty bottle of Jack Daniels into the woods behind his moms a few weeks back. Law enforcement informed Rogers that they heard he went to Troy’s with a bottle of Jack and wanted to party. Rogers then admitted he did go over to Troy’s with a bottle of Jack Daniels and that it was the same day he bummed the 10-12 cigarettes, about two weeks prior.
FORENSIC AUTOPSY RESULTS
On Wednesday July 17, 2019, Dr. Kelly Mills conducted a forensic autopsy on Mr. Troy Sweep at the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office in St, Paul, Minnesota. Dr. Mills determined that the cause of Mr. Sweep’s death was exsanguination due to multiple sharp force injuries to the neck area; and the manner of death was ruled a homicide. Mr. Sweep had several sharp force trauma wounds on the right side of his neck ranging in depth from three-eighths of an inch to about an inch and three-eighths deep. Mr. Sweep also had one deeper sharp force trauma wound on the left side of his neck that was approximately three and one-eighth inches deep. Dr. Kelly Mills noted at the deepest part of the wound appeared striations about one-sixteenth of an inch apart, which was consistent with a serrated knife.
PHYSICAL EVIDENCE FROM THE SCENE
Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for Troy Sweep’s residence and conducted a search of the residence for evidence. Among the many items of evidence seized, was a serrated kitchen knife that was found next to the sink in the kitchen where Troy Sweep’s body was found. This knife had a blade approximately five inches with a handle approximately four inches, totaling approximately nine inches in length and had a serrated edge. This knife was taken into evidence and subsequently submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Justice - Crime Lab for forensic analysis. DNA samples for Troy Sweep and Joseph Rogers were also submitted for comparison.
A certified lab DNA technician took DNA samples from that knife. The Wisconsin Crime Lab analyst was able to identify the DNA of two male contributors. The major contributor was Troy Sweep. The minor contributor was Joseph Rogers. The Wisconsin Crime Lab Analyst explained that someone who is identified conclusively as a DNA “source” is the result of a statistical analysis. But, the Wisconsin Crime Lab standard was to identify a source conclusively if it is seven trillion times more likely to be the individual named, rather than a random unrelated individual. The Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory chose the number seven trillion, because it is one thousand times the worlds current population. Again, Joseph Rogers was found conclusively to be a DNA source on the knife.
In addition to taking pictures of Joseph Roger’s shoes, Joseph Rogers’ shoes themselves were also submitted for forensic examination. During the investigation of the scene, Wisconsin Crime Lab analysts were able to identify approximately twelve foot-impressions at the scene, located near the edges of the blood pool surrounding Troy Sweep’s body. Impressions and pictures were taken of the officer’s shoes who had been in the scene for elimination purposes. Impressions and pictures were also taken of Joseph Rogers’ shoes. Of the approximately twelve foot-impressions identified, five to seven were positively identified to be from a shoe with a sole tread pattern identical to the shoes that Joseph Rogers was wearing when he was arrested and interviewed. Rogers said they were the only shoes he possessed and was wearing the night of the murder. The Wisconsin Crime Lab Analyst responsible for processing Joseph Rogers shoes noted that when the shoes were analyzed a significant amount of sand fell out of them.
During the investigation the scene, investigators noted that there had been attempts to manipulate the scene and apparently clean it to remove or destroy evidence. They also noted that there was a significant amount of sand located in the bathtub.
FIRST DEGREE INTENTIONAL HOMICIDE
Rogers is charged with First Degree Intentional Homicide, a Class A Felony, and upon conviction shall be sentenced to imprisonment for life.
Rogers is scheduled for an intial hearing later today.
Pursuant to the direction of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as found in Supreme Court Rule 20:3.6, Trial Publicly, you are advised that a charge is merely an accusation and that a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.