Hearing held for Mark Rodgers Jr. in overdose death of 16-year-old
Murder defendant Mark Anthony Rodgers, Jr., 33, of Minot, was allegedly accompanied by a 16-year-old girl and her 17-year-old cousin on a trip to Detroit, Mich., to buy illegal drugs in the first week of December 2020. By Dec. 14, 2020, the 16-year-old girl had died of a drug overdose in a Minot hotel room allegedly rented by Rodgers, who is accused of injecting her with a “hot shot” mixture of methamphetamine and fentanyl.
Rodgers has pleaded not guilty to Class AA felony murder as well as to Class C felony tampering with physical evidence, Class C felony corruption of a minor, Class C felony maintaining a premises for the use, storage, or sale of controlled substances, and Class A misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Potential witnesses in Rodgers’ upcoming murder trial testified at a hearing on Tuesday in district court in Minot before Judge Stacy Louser. The prosecution wants to introduce testimony about Rodgers’ previous behavior as evidence that the overdose was not an accident.
Neither the 16-year-old deceased girl or her 17-year-old cousin have been identified by name in open court or in court records. At the hearing on Tuesday, the 16-year-old’s cousin testified that the two girls had met Rodgers through a man who obtained drugs through Rodgers and Rodgers had been nice to them and her cousin was growing closer to Rodgers. She said her 16-year-old cousin, who came from a troubled background and had felt rejected by her father, was willing to trust someone who seemed to care about her. The cousin testified that Rodgers had offered to shoot her up with drugs soon after they met him and that he did inject her cousin with drugs on that occasion. Both girls drank alcohol and had used drugs prior to meeting Rodgers but the 16-year-old purported victim had not previously used heroin or fentanyl, according to her cousin. “She was the experimental type,” the cousin explained, and had been mainly a user of “city drugs” like Xanax, “acid” or “‘shrooms,” and “weed,” not the kind of drugs that are commonly found in this area. The 16-year-old commonly smoked or snorted the drugs and did not inject herself with them, according to her cousin. The young woman testified that her cousin did not like needles. “She didn’t even like getting her flu shot,” the cousin testified.
The young woman testified that the two teenagers had a fight with their family in early December 2020 and decided to run away and go to Detroit with Rodgers, who said he needed a driver on his trip there to pick up some drugs. The cousin said Rodgers learned the two girls were both underage during that trip. The older girl didn’t want the younger one to take cocaine and told Rodgers why. The older girl became unnerved when Rodgers, who was driving on their way back to North Dakota, shot himself up with drugs and refused to let her take the wheel. She testified that she arranged for a friend to pick up her and her cousin when they made it back to Bismarck and give them a ride home. But the younger girl still trusted Rodgers and viewed him as a friend. The older girl testified that she and her cousin had a fight and the 16-year-old said Rodgers was going to pick her up and drive her to Minot. That was the last time the older girl saw her cousin, though she spoke to her on the phone the day before her death. When she called Rodgers to ask where her cousin was, she testified that Rodgers told her the younger girl had overdosed and was on her way to the hospital.
A second woman, who said she also had used drugs with Rodgers on different occasions, testified Tuesday that Rodgers knew how to use Narcan, a drug that is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. She testified that he called the woman on Dec. 14 and asked her to bring him Narcan because the girl had overdosed. When the woman arrived at the hotel several minutes later, the girl was lying unclothed on the hotel floor and did not appear to be breathing. The girl did not respond to the Narcan or to Rodgers’ efforts to resuscitate her. The woman testified that she was going to call for an ambulance and Rodgers begged her “not to do that to him.” Rodgers allegedly told the woman that the girl had been sitting in the Jacuzzi when she lost consciousness and slid beneath the water. Rodgers allegedly also said he had given the girl a “hot shot.” The woman testified that she left the hotel room and spotted Rodgers rushing from the room, carrying a pile of his own clothing and clothing that looked like it belonged to a girl.
At a previous hearing, investigating officer Det. Robbie Sumlin testified that Rodgers had told at least two other friends he had been having sexual relations with the 16-year-old girl. Rodgers had also reportedly called other friends to ask them to bring Narcan to the hotel but did not call 911. One of the other friends reportedly called 911 himself. However, the 16-year-old could not be revived.
No date has been scheduled for the murder trial for Rodgers, who has an extensive criminal history including past convictions for drug dealing, and is in custody at the Ward County Jail.