Real Name: Sharon Rogers
Case: Terrorism, Attempted Murder
Location: San Diego, California
Date: March 10, 1989
Details: In the summer of 1988, in the Persian Gulf, a U.S. ship had recently been attacked, so U.S. Naval boats and aircraft patrolled the gulf to protect U.S. ships. One of the main naval ships was the U.S.S. Vincennes, which was fully equipped with surface-to-air missiles.
On July 3, 1988, the U.S.S. Vincennes was travelling through the Persian Gulf when it received word from the U.S.S. Montgomery about attacks from Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships. A reconnaissance helicopter was attacked by several Iranian gun boats. An unidentified aircraft showed up on the Vincennes's radar screen; it was increasing speed and apparently heading towards the Vincennes. Captain William C. Rogers tried to contact the aircraft, but was unsuccessful.
After several unsuccessful contact attempts, Captain Rogers fired missiles on the aircraft in fear that it may strike the Vincennes. The aircraft was struck and crashed into the Persian Gulf; just minutes later, the Vincennes crew members were disturbed to learn about an Iranian passenger plane that had failed to reach its destination. They soon realized that they had shot down Iran Air Flight 655, a commercial passenger plane with 290 passengers and crew aboard; tragically, all were killed.
Most people accepted the downing of Iran Air Flight 655 as a tragic error; the flight was not running at its scheduled time, it was not responding to repeated attempts to identify itself, and the Vincennes could not tell the difference between the plane and a fighter jet. Inside Iran, however, the response was different; the people refused to forgive, and claimed their right to revenge.
Meanwhile, in San Diego, California, Captain Rogers's wife Sharon, a fourth grade teacher, tried to cope with the news of the incident. A week later, at around 1 am, the phone rang, and a man with a Middle Eastern accent asked Sharon if this was the home of Captain Rogers; he then asked her "Are you the wife of the murderer?" to which she hung up the phone. Sharon was afraid that someone was planning retribution against her.
The Naval Investigative Service was called in to the secure the Rogers home. Agents checked the mail and monitored incoming phone calls. They asked Sharon to always keep her van in the garage. Ten weeks passed and no further threats were received. On October 24, 1988, Sharon was at the dock to welcome the U.S.S. Vincennes and her husband home. Despite the lack of threats, the Rogers still kept their guard up and always remembered to place their vehicles in the garage.
On March 9, 1989, however, they forgot to pull Sharon and William's car and van into the driveway. At 7 am the next morning, William drove Sharon's van to a local market to pick up breakfast pastries. After having breakfast, Sharon left in the van for school. At a red light, an explosion occurred in the back of Sharon's van; the van engulfed in flames and Sharon had difficulty exiting due to her seat belt. She was able to free herself with just seconds to spare.
The Naval Investigative Service and the FBI were immediately called in to investigate the explosion. The investigation determined that a large pipe bomb had been strapped to the underbelly of the van. The blast had gone just behind Sharon's seat and out the roof, barely sparing Sharon's life.
The FBI learned from neighbors that about two months prior to the bombing, a stranger had been asking questions on the Rogers's street. The Middle Eastern man asked the neighbors if a Captain lived on the street. He also asked if a Middle Eastern family lived on the street, to which the neighbors pointed to another house. The man has never been located or identified, and police are uncertain as to his involvement in the case.
Suspects: A composite was made of the man, who was described as 5'9", thin build, with dark hair and eyes and a receding hairline. He had a thick middle eastern accent. A second man waited for him in a BMW with California license plates. The BMW was an unusual color, bronzette beige. Both men were believed to be in their thirties at the time. Neither individual has been identified, and police note that the men are not suspects, but only wanted for questioning in the case.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the February 17, 1993 episode.
Although not mentioned in the segment, authorities also investigated the possibility that the attack was a personal vendetta against Captain Rogers, unrelated to Iran Air Flight 655.
Results: Unresolved. Investigators eventually came to believe that the bombing was a result of a personal vendetta against Captain Rogers. The statute of limitations expired in this case in 1994; however, the bomber was never identified.
- William Rogers on Wikipedia
- USS Vincennes on Wikipedia
- Bomb Blows Up Van Driven by Wife of Vincennes' Capt.
- Estranged Wife Discounts Bombing Suspect's Story About Rogers Love Triangle
- Year later, bombing of Navy wife's van unsolved
- San Diego's explosive past