The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on March 4, 1990 · Page 577
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 577

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 4, 1990
Page 577
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A6 Sl'NlUY. MAIJIIM. I 'NO SI) IDS A(ii:i I S I IMI.S BOMBING: Mystery Remains One Year Later Continued from Al Uonal terrorism on U.S. soil. Investigators believed that the bombing might have been a direct retaliation by Iranian extremists seeking to avenge Rogers' order in July. 1988, aboard the guided missile cruiser Vincennes to blow up what turned out to be an Iranian Airbus flying over the Persian Gulf. A total of 290 civilians were killed. Despite the initial speculation that the van bombing was a terrorist strike, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which ranked the bombing as one of its top priorities, has yet to explain why Sharon Rogers was singled out for an attack. The investigators have not concluded that the attack was terrorism, nor have they determined whether it was the result of a personal grudge against the Rogers family. A Different Focus Except for a few fragments that appeared to be bomb components, authorities recovered little hard evidence at the scene. Last fall, the investigation turned away from terrorism, when attention focused on a commercial pilot in Georgia who raised allegations of an extramarital affair involving Capt. Rogers. But even that lead apparently led nowhere. A federal grand jury has asked for evidence, but as the first anniversary of the bombing nears, investigators continue to scratch for new leads. Two reward funds totaling $140,200 in the highly publicized case remain in the bank. "Nothing at all has been coming in on this," said Judith Ross, executive director of Crime Stoppers, which has tried to garner publicity and anonymous tips for federal investigators. "It's really been sad. It's been lost in the shuffle," Ross said. "And with all this speculation with what really happened, and with allegations of an extramarital affair, it's not sure any more what's happening." Ron Orrantia, an FBI spokesman, declined last week to discuss the status of the investigation, except to say that the bureau may release an update on the case soon. Dennis E. Usrey, regional director of the Naval Investigative Service in San Diego, said there "are still viable leads which are being pursued." "We're not exclusively focusing on any one particular possible motive," he said. "However, it would be inappropriate to say that we were no closer to a resolution than we were one year ago, as the extensive investigation to date has produced considerable detail concerning the incident." Many of those familiar with the investigation are unconvinced the case will be cleared. "There's nothing," said one agent close to the case. "Not a thing that directly ties anybody to the scene. And the feeling I'm getting is that it's going to go unsolved. "And that's not for lack of effort," he added. "They've really worked hard. But, until and unless somebody calls in some new information, the case is going nowhere. And that's the problem." Terrorist Aspect In June, FBI Director William S. Sessions acknowledged that the van bombing may never be solved, even as 15 additional agents were dispatched to San Diego to assist in the case. In November. Sessions expressed new confidence in the case being solved. Several sources, including national experts on cults and extrem ism, believe that, since the terrorism angle has not been proven, the bombing may be explained away as a personal attack against the Rog-erses. To be sure, it sometimes is more difficult to solve a crime committed by one person, as compared with an international terrorism network in which many people may have been involved. "Maybe that makes it even harder to clear," said one investigator. Bruce Hoffman, a RAND Corp. specialist on terrorism in the United States, said that, even if terrorism is eventually discounted, the intense publicity surrounding the bombing may have accomplished what terrorists want in the first place: to spread fear on U.S. soil. "My assumption is that terrorism has gotten us so wired in this country, and so on edge, that we're inclined to see almost any sort of violent incident as an act of terrorism." he said in a telephone interview from Santa Monica. "In that respect, the bombing of the Rogers van is probably the psychological repercussions of years of terrorist attacks against U.S. targets in the Middle East." Hard Feelings Sharon and Will Rogers were on the East Coast visiting their son and could not be contacted. But their close friends said the couple still clings to the hope that an arrest will be made in the bombing. "Sharon Rogers has this incredible faith that right things will be done," said Pat Shea, the attorney who represented her when she was dismissed by La Jolla Country Day School. "She believes that the right result will happen because that's the way God ordered the universe. She believes that, at some time, this will be resolved, because that's the right thing to happen." After the bombing, school ad ministrators ordered her off campus because of safety concerns there. Her teaching contract was bought out about six weeks after the bombing. Rogers received a lump sum of $135,000, plus $5,000 in legal fees to walk away from the school where she had taught for 12 years. She left with some hard feelings. "She justifiably is very disappointed with the way she was treated by certain individuals, some of whom are no longer with the institution," said Shea. Her main antagonist at the school was seen as Headmaster Timothy M. Burns, who has since announced that he too will leave the school after this academic year to take a position at an independent school in New York. Burns was sharply criticized by some parents and teachers over his handling of the Rogers incident. Administrators of other schools questioned La Jolla Country Day for being insensitive to Sharon Rogers, and even the White House called the dismissal "very disturbing." Today, the school has an enrollment of 748 pupils, just two under its maximum level, and administrators are working hard to improve the way the San Diego community views the campus. "The school's reputation is that people make jokes, that we're the school where the Sharon Rogers thing happened," said spokeswoman Kathy Williams. "But our reputation as an academic unit has never ever been faulted. We have had to come together because the stories that appeared about Sharon Rogers and the school were sometimes hurtful. So our faculty is working together even better now." 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