The first-degree murder trial against Casey Lynn Rogers, 29, of Roanoke began in Henry County Circuit Court on Monday morning.
Rogers is one of four people who were charged related to the shooting death of Pamela Morse, and she is the last one to be tried.
In addition to first degree murder, Rogers is charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder, grand larceny of a firearm, grand larceny of a motor vehicle, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a violent felon.
Prior to a jury pool of 41 people entering the courtroom, it was stipulated that Rogers would enter a plea of no contest to grand larceny of a motor vehicle and the charge of possession of a firearm by a violent felon would be decided by Judge Marcus Brinks, who is presiding over the case.
Among the pool of 41 people, 24 were called to be considered by Rogers’ attorney, John Swezey, and Henry County Commonwealth’s Attorney Andrew Nester.
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Two jurors were excused for medical and transportation issues and the 24 were reduced to 12 jurors and two alternates, 11 women and three men.
Two hours after the proceedings began, the witnesses were sworn in and removed from the courtroom and at 11:07 a.m. the trial began.
“The is a case of betrayal and lies,” said Nester in his opening statement. “Two shots to the head — it was cold-blooded murder.”
Nester told the jury that Pamela Morse had been shot in the head and her house “looked like a bomb went off” with the contents strewn around and in disarray.
“The sheriff lived close by and was the second officer on the scene. He knew Pamela’s husband, David Morse, because David had been an investigator at the Henry County Sheriff’s Office and it wasn’t long before the sheriff started thinking something wasn’t right,” Nester said.
“When he decided David might be a suspect, his department backed off and they called the Virginia State Police.”
Nester said state police investigators found a throw-pillow with a hole in it and gun residue on it, and Pamela Morse’s Jeep was missing from the driveway.
But, Nester said, Pamela Morse had left her cellphone in the Jeep and investigators were able to ping the cellphone. Investigators followed the location of the cellphone and it took them to Holly Ridge Road in Franklin County.
“They passed a truck with Tanna Fitzgerald in it and something just didn’t look right to them,” said Nester. “They found the truck in a driveway of a residence nearby and learned that she was David Morse’s girlfriend, lover, paramour — whatever you want to call it.”
Nester explained to the jury that the investigators found Casey Rogers and her boyfriend, Collin Russell, at the home where Fitzgerald had parked and determined that Rogers’ mother had a boyfriend and was living at the house with him.
“Russell came out of the woods and that’s where they found the Jeep Compass, except it wasn’t burgundy anymore — it was black,” Nester said. “Rogers claimed she had been there the whole time and didn’t know anything about anything.”
Nester said police began searching a 13-acre wooded area and found multiple guns, paint cans and personal property of David and Pamela Morse.
“Off to itself, in a box, was a silver .357 magnum revolver that had been buried,” said Nester. “It was determined to be the murder weapon.”
As the investigation continued, Nester said, police obtained surveillance video showing Fitzgerald and Rogers at Dodge’s Store, Papa’s Pizza and the Speedway store in Bassett, and also the Cookout restaurant in Collinsville.
“Rogers was buying methamphetamines and heroin for Tanna Fitzgerald,” Nester said. “We know that Fitzgerald and David Morse tried to overdose Pam Morse on heroin.”
Nester told the jury that investigators accumulated more evidence over the next week and when they went back and talked to Rogers a second time she said she had been outside the Morse home when “she heard two booms and Tanna Fitzgerald came running out of the house, threw the keys at Rogers and Russell and said ‘Ya’ll get out of here.’”
“She’s not a killer, she just got caught-up in a terrible event,” said Swezey. “Tanna and David plotted to kill Pamela. She [Rogers] was 25 at the time and two months pregnant and living in Roanoke with Collin. He was a tattoo artist and they came down to Tanna’s house to do a tattoo.”
Swezey described Rogers as the “fall-girl” for Morse and Fitzgerald.
“She was not inside the house, nor did she see any part of it,” Swezey said. “This little girl’s life is on the line here. She’s not an angel, but she’s not a murderer either.”
David Morse was sentenced to a 30-year active prison sentence and Russell was sentenced to a 55-year active term.
Fitzgerald died in October 2020 while in the Henry County Jail after notifying deputies that she had taken an excessive amount of prescription blood pressure medication, a Henry County Sheriff’s Office release stated.
After opening statements, Rogers’ trial began on Monday with Nester calling 911 Director Tierra Dillard to the stand and playing the 911 call from David Morse reporting his wife’s murder.
The story will continue to unfold as the trial is scheduled to cover the next four days in Henry County Circuit Court.