New Albany man found guilty of murder
A jury returned a verdict of guilty in the case of a New Albany man charged with killing his girlfriend and dumping her body in the Ohio River in Harrison County last year.
Clair Eugene Chaplin showed little emotion last Wednesday afternoon while sitting alone at the defendant’s table in Harrison Superior Court at the Justice Center in Corydon. The 61-year-old made eye contact with several people in the courtroom but said nothing while waiting for the jury, consisting of eight men and four women, to return after notifying the bailiff that a verdict had been reached. That word came about 2-1/2 hours after the jury began deliberations and had lunch.
Chaplin was charged with murdering Geneive Ann Rogge in June after her body was recovered from the Ohio River near the south end of Morvin’s Landing Road near Mauckport by Indiana conservation officers on June 28.
Rogge’s cause of death was determined to be strangulation following an autopsy by a medical examiner. The autopsy noted injuries to Rogge’s face, neck, eyes and lips.
The investigation by the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. discovered Rogge had two boyfriends, of which Chaplin was one. A search of Chaplin’s trailer in Floyd County showed signs of a struggle, with a broken lampshade and venetian blind, and blood on a couch and pillowcase. Another venetian blind, also with blood stains, was found in a nearby dumpster.
Also as part of the investigation, security video footage from Horseshoe Southern Indiana, which is located between Chaplin’s trailer and where Rogge’s body was found, showed a Ford F-150 pick-up truck like Chaplin’s traveling west on S.R. 111 at 11:37 p.m. on June 27 with an object in the truck bed; the vehicle is seen again, nearly an hour later, traveling east without the object.
The investigation further determined that the truck bed had lines similar to those found on Rogge’s back. Numerous bloodstains also were found on various places of the truck.
‘We were finally able to bring justice for Geneive Rogge and her family today,’ Prosecutor J. Otto Schalk said after the verdict. ‘After an initial ruling of drowning, Harrison County Sheriff’s Detectives Nick Smith and Chris Burks continued to investigate and search for answers.
‘Having left no stone unturned, their investigation led to the conclusion that this was not a drowning, but rather a heinous and violent strangulation,’ he said. ‘I am so proud of my staff and our officers that put their lives on hold during these past 10 days to assist me in prosecuting this trial.’
The trial, which began on Jan. 11 and was expected to last only a week, stretched into a second week due to other court matters, including a shooting in Palmyra that resulted in the death of 42-year-old Ralph Thomas and injured his wife, Rebecca A. (Becca) Thomas, 25, as well as the surprise request made by Austin Scott to withdraw his plea deal in the case of the August 2013 murders of 70-year-old Gary Henderson and 57-year-old Asenath (Senie) Arnold.
Special Judge Vicki Carmichael of Clark County was to rule on Scott’s request Friday afternoon, but a snowstorm that blanketed the area postponed that ruling until tomorrow (Thursday).
When asked what he believed convinced the jury of Chaplin’s guilt, Schalk said, ‘Based on the volume of testimony and exhibits that were admitted into evidence, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific thing that was the tipping point.’
Instead, he said he believes the amount of evidence presented left the jury with little room for doubt.
Chaplin’s sentencing date was set for March 21 at 1 p.m.
‘It is the State’s intent to seek a sentence that ensures Mr. Chaplin no longer poses a threat to those in our community,’ Schalk said.