Shadow Boxing

A blog that probes the mind's dark secrets

Murder of a Ghost Writer

Psychics claimed they solved it, but there's more to the story

When I was writing about ghost hunters back in the 1990s, I came cross an intriguing book, Phone Calls from the Dead, by D. Scott Rogo. He’d documented case after case of people who'd received calls from friends and relatives only to later learn that the caller had died before making the call. I’ve never received such a call, but I think it would be fascinating.

While researching for Blood and Ghosts with paranormalist Mark Nesbitt, I came across D. Scott Rogo yet again. Only this time, he was a murder victim. We were writing about paranormal forensics, so the case was perfect for us. I went through a number of sources that claimed that psychics had solved it - even more perfect! -- but when I dug further I discovered a real murder mystery.

Born in 1950, Rogo had an out-of-body experience when he was just eleven years old. He published his first of thirty books (including Phone Calls from the Dead) when he was 19. Rogo was interested in many “fringe” subjects, including reincarnation, ghosts, UFOs, and ESP. He soon made a name in the field.

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He lived alone in an upscale area of the San Fernando Valley. One day in mid-August 1990, a neighbor noticed that Rogo's sprinklers had been running for two days. Rogo was normally frugal and the LA area was under a water restriction, so the neighbor thought this was suspicious and notified the police.

Around 1:00 PM an officer went to Rogo’s home. No one answered his knock and the place was quiet. The officer noticed a side door standing ajar, so he entered. He walked around until he saw a body on the floor of the den, lying in a pool of blood.

Just 40 years old, Rogo had been stabbed to death. There was no sign of a break-in or struggle, so investigators surmised that he’d known his assailant. Friends were aware of how often he helped strangers down on their luck. They suggested that he might have picked the wrong person to assist.

Rogo’s parents described pawnable items that were missing from the otherwise orderly rooms, and Rogo’s wallet was empty. However, no one had gone through his valuable book collection or paged through his unpublished manuscripts.

When found, Rogo had been dead at least 12 hours, possibly as long as two days. The last time he was known to be alive was on August 14. He’d spoken to his publisher and volunteered that day at an AIDS hotline. The last person to see him alive was a bartender, who remembered that Rogo had been with a man.

Friends invited psychics to weigh in, and one was Armand Marcotte, a celebrity seer. He did several readings and for one he handled books that Rogo had treasured, as well as Rogo’s letter opener. He said that Rogo had known his killer, who was young and Hispanic. His name was Al or Albert and he wore a uniform for work. The crime had been spontaneous and passionate, escalating from an argument over money. A fingerprint on a glass in the home would identify the killer.

Other psychics had overlapping results. One person said that three men had been involved, but one had left before the murder. Most agreed that two men had killed Rogo.

The police eventually arrested John Battista, a 29-year-old Hispanic man. He went to trial. After a mistrial, he was tried again in 1992 and convicted of second-degree murder.

At this point, several psychics took credit for solving a crime involving one of their own. This "fact" shows up in several books and on websites.

For example, in The Psychic and the Detective (1995), author Ann Druffel states that Rogo had appeared to Armand Marcotte in spirit form, describing where the other men involved could be found (a farm in the Ventura area). Numerous psychics predicted that they would be caught.

However, nothing of the sort ever happened. In fact, in 1996, due to prosecutorial misconduct, Battista's conviction was overturned. The fingerprint on the glass did not match Battista. Nor did any prints lifted from the wall, and police could not track down any of "Rogo's" vague leads.

Thus, the case remains open.

I had to wonder, if Rogo did indeed return from the dead to bring the perpetrators to justice, why didn’t he place a few of those phone calls? Imagine the records we'd have in this digital age! At the very least, why didn’t he keep visiting one of the psychics until the murder was solved? And why did he offer such vague information about an accomplice?

Maybe there's still hope for solving it. Maybe he's just looking for the right person to help. I’m waiting by my iPhone right now.

Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D., an expert on murder and other shadow themes, teaches forensic psychology and has published 46 books.

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