A 58-year-old Fort worth man who was arrested but never prosecuted in the slaying of a teenage friend 42 years ago is back in jail, again accused in the case.
Melvin Linn Knox was 15 when his friend, 14-year-old Donald Bryan Rodgers, was found fatally shot and stabbed on Aug. 7, 1973, inside the Knox family’s home in the 2300 block of Faett Court.
At the time, Knox had blamed the slaying on an apparent intruder. He was arrested days after the slaying but the case was later dismissed for what the Tarrant County district attorney’s office deemed “insufficient evidence.”
Cold case detectives reopened the case this spring and on Thursday, officers arrested Knox at his Fort Worth home on a murder warrant. He has since confessed, police say.
“It was unclear exactly what the motive was but he did admit to stabbing and shooting the victim,” said cold case Detective M.J. McCormack.
Because Knox was a juvenile when the offense occurred, police say they must first seek to have him certified as an adult in the case.
‘Made this story up’
Police say Knox and Rodgers were neighborhood friends.
According to Star-Telegram articles published after Rodgers’ death, Knox’s father had told police that when he and other family member had left the home on the night of the slaying, the two boys were outside playing basketball.
Knox told police that he had shown Rodgers inside his home after his friend said he needed to use the restroom. Knox said he was waiting outside when he heard the sound of glass breaking.
He said he then fled to a relative’s home after running to the rear of the house and hearing a gunshot ring out, according to the Star-Telegram articles.
Knox’s returning family members found the Rodgers’ body inside a bathroom a short time later. The Forest Oak Middle School student had been shot once in the face with a shotgun and stabbed repeatedly — a butcher knife was still protruding from his chest.
Inside the house, police found a large rock that had been thrown through the home’s sliding glass doors. A television set had been tossed to the floor and knives from a kitchen drawer scattered about.
The family’s 16-gauge shotgun, which appeared to have been recently fired, was found in a bedroom closet of the home, the article states. Police said Thursday that the shotgun was later determined to be the murder weapon.
Police say they believe Knox staged the crime scene to try to fit with his claim of an intruder. Investigators say no other evidence indicated that an intruder was responsible.
“He had made this story up and he had stuck with it through all the years,” said homicide Sgt. Joe Loughman.
McCormack had begun re-investigating the case this past May after one of Rodger’s brothers called him, saying he had recently learned that Knox had never been prosecuted in the slaying.
McCormack said he located and re-interviewed witnesses from the case, the majority of whom were still alive.
Those interviews included talking to one of two men who had previously told police in 1973 that Knox had pointed the same 16-gauge shotgun at them, separately, on the day before Rodger’s death.
The man told McCormack that Knox had pulled the trigger when aiming it at him, but the shotgun only clicked.
“Everybody I’ve talked to about this case remembers it very clearly because it was so graphic,” McCormack said. “The boy, now man, who had the shotgun pointed at him remembers it like it was yesterday. He was very clear and his story was similar to the original story.”
McCormack said he also located a new witness, who provided additional evidence in the case. Police declined to elaborate.
McCormack said he had first interviewed Knox in late July, when the Fort Worth man was still blaming an intruder.
“He stuck with the story of the intruder and actually added to it to where he actually saw the intruder this time. In the original story, he never saw the intruder,” McCormack said.
The detective said Knox also denied ever pointing a shotgun at the two other boys the day before the slaying.
Past criminal history
Tarrant County court records show Knox has had several other run-ins with the law.
Three years after Donald’s death, Knox was convicted of theft, for which he received probation.
In the late 1980s and early ’90s, he racked up felony convictions for burglary, possession and delivery of a controlled substance —resulting in prison time.
In 1999, he received a 5-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Most recently, Knox was sentenced to one year in state jail in 2010 on convictions for possession and delivery of a controlled substance, records show.