Facing the rest of her life in prison, Sandra Rogers looks back and sees mistakes she's made in the last 20 years. She struggled to be a good mother. She said she's caring to a fault and sometimes lets people get the best of her. And, she had allowed the boyfriend of her 13-year-old daughter to move in with her family.
What she won't admit to is using an 8-pound sledgehammer to attack her ex-husband and his new wife in the bedroom of their Lincolnshire home just before dawn on May 19, 2003.
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"I absolutely did not do it," Rogers said from behind thick glass in the Lake County jail during an interview with the Daily Herald this week. "I will go to my grave saying I didn't do it."
A jury disagreed.
It took less than three hours on Feb. 7 for jurors to find her guilty of trying to kill Rick Rogers and Angela Gloria.
Lake County Judge John Phillips sentenced Sandra Rogers to 24 years in prison for the attack on Gloria, 22 years for the attack on Rick Rogers, and 15 years for conspiracy to commit murder for bringing her daughter's then-boyfriend -- Jonathon McMeekin -- in on the plot.
The sentences must be served consecutively, but she is credited with nearly 10 years for time already served.
Rogers and her attorney Gillian Gosch are appealing the verdict.
The sentence was harsher than the 30 years she agreed to in a 2004 plea deal under which she spent nearly a decade in prison. Rogers got a shot at a jury trial after Phillips ruled last year that prosecutors withheld evidence that would benefit the defense.
During that nine-day trial last month, Sandra Rogers did not testify.
She agreed to an interview to tell her story days before being sent to a downstate prison.
"I'm still in shock" over the sentence, she said during the 45-minute interview. "They believe this story that I'm a horrible person."
Prosecutors' description of the saga of Sandra, Rick and daughter Robyn Rogers sounds like a tale out of a movie on Lifetime Television.
According to prosecutors and court testimony, the problems started in 1996 when Rick and Sandra Rogers divorced. Their children -- Amber and Robyn -- initially lived with Rick but eventually moved in with their mother after Rick married Gloria in 1998.
While living with Sandra, Robyn's grades tumbled, more so after she met McMeekin, who lived nearby and became a family friend. He was 16, she was 13.
After McMeekin's parents left Illinois to care for a family member, McMeekin moved in with Rogers in fall 2002 and began sleeping in the same bed as Robyn.
Sandra Rogers and her daughters soon were near eviction from their Libertyville apartment, and Sandra and Robyn moved to a one-bedroom unit in Mundelein. Amber instead moved to Rick Rogers' Lincolnshire home, where Gloria and her two young boys were living.
That's when Rick Rogers heard about the sleeping arrangements involving McMeekin and Robyn. He forced Robyn to move to Lincolnshire and tried to cut off her contact with McMeekin.
But Sandra Rogers let the relationship continue, including allowing Robyn and McMeekin to sleep together when Robyn visited her on weekends.
Rick Rogers threatened to call police on May 17 -- two days before he and Gloria were attacked.
Claims of innocence
Sandra Rogers, now 56, said allowing McMeekin to move in was the mistake that landed her behind bars.
"I was a bad mother for letting Jon live with us," she said. "I tried to be a good mom. I tried to raise a good family. I did everything for those kids."
She wears blue scrubs, and often clenches her hands together tightly when speaking.
"If I had to describe myself, it would be that I'm caring to a fault. I care over and over until it hurts," she said. "There are several young girls in here that are just like me."
She says she was home sleeping the night of the attack, and that it was Robyn Rogers who assisted McMeekin.
She also admitted McMeekin is the only person who could back up her alibi.
"Jon is still protecting Robyn for what they did," Sandra Rogers said. "His story changed a lot. He was so well rehearsed by the (Lake County) state's attorney's office when he was on the stand. He spoke with no emotion. It was clear they worked on his testimony."
Sandra Rogers said it was Robyn who unlocked a window in the basement of Rick Rogers' home and let McMeekin inside, and it was McMeekin who swung the hammer that nearly killed the victims.
"I love my daughter. But, do I want to spend the rest of my life in prison for the bad decision my 14-year-old daughter made?" she said. "I will love my children forever, even if I don't ever see them again. But, I know what Robyn did. I know in my heart she did it."
Her opinion is not echoed by many others.
Prosecutors said Sandra Rogers' money struggles and the threat of Rick Rogers calling police sent her into a tailspin that led to the attack.
"Her version is a complete, 180-degree different version than the facts and evidence showed at trial," said Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Pascucci.
Robyn Rogers was not charged and in court, she strongly denied allegations she played any role in the attack. In the 911 tapes recorded the morning she discovered her father and stepmother covered in blood, she sounds like a terrified girl screaming at dispatchers.
McMeekin, who has served 10 years of a 20-year prison sentence since pleading guilty to attempted murder, told jurors Sandra Rogers broke into the house, unlocked the door and let him in.
McMeekin also testified he was having sex with Sandra Rogers, and she used that relationship to force him to participate in the plot.
Sandra Rogers denies both allegations.
"I didn't break into their window well. I wouldn't know how," she said.
"I did not sleep with Jon McMeekin," she said. "Jon was like a son to me. He had long been living with us as a son. He stayed at my house, sure, and yes, he borrowed my car. But we never slept together."
Sandra Rogers also refuted testimony that she smoked marijuana. She said she never let McMeekin smoke pot in her home and never let Robyn and McMeekin drink alcohol.
"I tried so hard to keep those kids (her daughters) happy," she said, wiping away tears. "I drove myself crazy trying to keep up with their events. They were in traveling soccer, and water polo and other things. I didn't do anything unless it was for my kids."
In the end, Pascucci said, it's a story the jury didn't believe.
"What the defendant says now, as a convicted felon, is irrelevant," she said. "The jury spoke volumes when they found her guilty of every charge."