A 59-year-old Bakersfield woman — accused of betraying an old friend by lying, stealing and eventually killing him — was sentenced Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court to 21 years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
Mary Inez Sanchez, 59, declined to speak during her sentencing in Judge Charles Lee’s courtroom. Her public defender, Tomas Kunder, said his client agreed to a plea agreement in an effort to resolve the case. Prosecutor Liz Owen said that after speaking with family members this was the most appropriate resolution.
The body of 67-year-old Steven Rogers was found by police in his Clovis home on Dec. 18, 2021, after family members became worried he was missing.
His daughter, Nicole Rogers, wrote an 11-page statement that spoke about the painful loss of their loved one, who was considered the pillar of support for the family.
“I have moments of panic knowing I will never see him again,” wrote Rogers, in a statement to the court. “I have times of sorrow knowing that I will never be able to hug him ever again.”
The daughter alleges in her statement that her father was duped by Sanchez, a woman he knew since the 1970s, but who he had not spoken to in 20 years.
Sanchez had a troubled past that included allegations of lying, drug use, and theft, according to her letter.
Her father believed Sanchez had changed and was a different, better, person. She said he championed the underdog and wanted to give people second chances.
It took just a few months for Nicole Rogers to begin noticing unusual things happening. Her father became a victim of identity theft, followed by a home break-in. Then a large sum of money “just vanished” from a recently deceased relative’s bank account that Steven Rogers was overseeing as the executor.
The financial crimes continued, Rogers wrote in her statement. Personal items went missing and soon creditors began calling, looking for the money to pay off the phony credit cards Sanchez was accused of obtaining.
“Even 19 months later we are still getting more phone calls about yet another debt, or statements from the credit bureaus as we start through probate,” Nicole wrote in her statement.
Once it became clear to her father that Sanchez hadn’t changed at all and was up to her old ways, he decided he wanted her out of his life. He bought her an airline ticket to Michigan and drove her to the airport.
Nicole Rogers wrote that her father felt a tremendous sense of relief.
“It was the first time in months of trauma and drama that I head my dad sound so happy,” she wrote.
The feeling of relief soon turned to panic.
On Dec. 12, 2021, Nicole Rogers received a phone call from a friend of her father who told her she was afraid her father was in danger.
Worried, Nicole Rogers began trying to track him down. She thought he was spending time on the Central Coast, but there was no trace of him.
Six days later, police searched Steven Rogers’s Clovis home where they found his lifeless body on the bedroom floor.
“I am tortured at the thought of what he endured. As I play it out in my mind, I go through the terrible sequence of events. I wonder when he realized he was in mortal danger. I wonder what Mary said to him when she shot him multiple times in the back,” Nicole Rogers wrote in her statement.
Sanchez was arrested Dec. 23, 2021, in Bakersfield.
The judge said he was touched by the the statement from Nicole Rogers.
“I get the sense of who your father was by the comments and the letters on his behalf,” Lee said. “Clearly, he was someone who worked hard and cared for his family very much.”