MILWAUKEE - The family of Emily Rogers, 23, the Milwaukee woman whose body was found in St. Francis in May 2022, days after she disappeared from her Milwaukee home, gathered in Texas Wednesday, Jan. 4 to mark what would have been Rogers' 24th birthday.
This, as Rogers' ex, Nicholas Matzen, appeared in court in Milwaukee County, where it was determined he would keep his attorney.
Matzen, 36, faces one count of first-degree reckless homicide and one count of hiding a corpse, accused of strangling Rogers to death as she was breaking up with him. He pleaded not guilty in October.
He previously told the court he wanted to represent himself at trial, but during Wednesday's court hearing, Matzen and his attorney, Fred Klimetz, said it would be best if Klimetz stays on the case.
Matzen also asked for permission to utilize the law library to review discovery materials at the Green Bay Correctional Institution where he's being held pending trial.
A trial date was not set during Wednesday's court appearance. A hearing was scheduled for mid-February.
Search for Rogers
A friend reported Emily Rogers missing after not hearing from her for a few days. She had repeatedly reached out to Rogers on April 28, 2022, but did not hear back.
On May 2, 2022, a search for Rogers was conducted in the Burnham Park area near where the 23-year-old lived. A close friend told FOX6 News she had found Rogers' phone in some bushes near 36th and Branting.
Milwaukee police blocked off Burnham Park in all directions for most of the afternoon but did not confirm at the time that the search was connected to Rogers. The same day, police confirmed that Rogers' 1-year-old daughter was found safe after family said the girl was also missing.
Milwaukee police confirmed that same day that there was reasonable suspicion to believe that Rogers' disappearance was not voluntary and that she may have been the victim of foul play. A squad car was parked outside her home, and a detective was seen getting surveillance video from a nearby convenience store.
On May 5, 2022, police announced Rogers' body was found in a wooded area behind a building in an industrial park near Clement and Waterford in St. Francis.
Nicholas Matzen's arrest
Matzen was arrested for an unrelated matter in April 2022, charged in a hit-and-run crash. Rogers had planned to break up with him upon his release from custody.
Court documents say she messaged a friend shortly before her death:
- Rogers: "I literally had to force him to leave."
- Friend: "U Ok?"
- Rogers: "Not exactly."
- Friend: "What happened?"
- Rogers: "I'll call you in a minute."
- Rogers: "If I can."
That cryptic message was the last she would send.
On Emily Rogers' 24th birthday, ‘she’s not here'
Emily Rogers' 24th birthday
In Sherman, Texas, Rogers' family gathered Wednesday, Jan. 4 to mark the young mother's birthday. She would have turned 24.
"It's been hard on all of us," Rogers' grandmother, Tina Harvey, told KXII.
Rogers' birthday was celebrated by loved ones who decorated her Texas grave site, where she was laid to rest in May. KXII reports white balloons with handwritten messages were released "into a clear evening sky."
Emily Rogers' 24th birthday
Emily Rogers' 24th birthday
"She's not here, so we can't give her a party, so this is the closest thing we can do for her," Rogers' mother, Aimee Lyde Rogers, told KXII.
Rogers' mother said Rogers' daughter, Katie, who is 1, is "doing great."
"But unfortunately, she'll never remember her mother, but she'll never lack from love," said Lyde Rogers.
‘Lengthy’ domestic violence history
Prosecutors say Matzen has a lengthy, unreported or under-reported history of domestic violence.
"This does include a 2020 case that was dismissed in arson of property with the same victim," said Amy Spanczak, Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, during a court hearing in May, shortly after Rogers' body was found.
In that case, prosecutors said Matzen's mom called Rogers to come to a Cudahy home to check on Matzen, who was not waking up. Documents say when Rogers got there, he began yelling at her and tried to choke her but was unable to. Rogers packed up some things and left.
Rogers told investigators she later got angry messages from Matzen and photos of him burning her belongings in a garage.
Matzen was charged with arson and disorderly conduct, along with domestic abuse assessments, and a no-contact order was put in place.
A judge dismissed that case with prejudice after Matzen's attorney argued the state delayed bringing it to trial.
Matzen served time in the Department of Corrections after he pleaded guilty to shooting and wounding a man in Cudahy in 2010. Filings say he met a friend in a parking lot near Clement and Norwich in Milwaukee to ditch the gun.
Nearly 12 years later, another friend led police to a wooded area several hundred feet away where Rogers' body was found.
Prosecutors say Matzen told someone else Rogers was dead after he "expletive up" and "hurt her," breaking her neck. Another person told police they helped Matzen move the body after Matzen said he "lost it" and strangled her.
Matzen told investigators the "relationship wasn't working out" with Rogers once he was released from custody in April 2022. When detectives falsely told him he was seen on doorbell camera removing a body from the home, he claimed it was a "400-pound sex doll," court documents state.
Rogers' family eager for trial
Rogers' family said they hope the trial happens soon.
"The next court date is Feb. 17, and hopefully, the trial will start then," said Lyde Rogers.
In the meantime, they are raising money for a headstone for Rogers' grave site through a GoFundMe.com account and raising awareness of domestic abuse.
"If you’re in a domestic violence relationship, and you think it could go this far, please seek help," Rogers' mother told KXII. "There are groups out there. There are people out there willing to help you. Just speak up. Don’t hide it. My daughter hid it. No one knew about it. No one can help you if they don’t know," Lyde Rogers said.