When Joanna Rogers went missing in May, 2004, police searched high and low for the Texas teen, but found nothing. It was as if she had vanished into thin air.
But in 2005, a gruesome discovery sparked a chain of events that led to the discovery of Joanna's body -- and, police say, of her killer.
It all started when police found the body of 26-year-old Summer Baldwin stuffed in a brand-new suitcase in the Lubbock city landfill. Inside the suitcase, investigators found a barcode, and they were able to trace it to a specific Walmart store in the area. Cops pulled surveillance video from the night Summer disappeared, and, sure enough, they spotted a man buying the suitcase that held Summer's body. Police identified the man as Rosendo Rodriguez III, and arrested him.
Cops say that as part of a plea deal, Rodriguez told them he'd also murdered Joanna. He told cops he'd put her body in a suitcase, just like he'd done with Summer, then tossed it in the trash.
Police had Rodriguez identify the dumpster he used, and investigators were able to trace that dumpster's activity to get an approximate idea of where in the city's landfill it was unloaded.
Investigators began an intensive search of the landfill in August, 2006 -- and finally found what they were looking for on October 24th. Flattened under 47,000 tons of trash was the suitcase Rodriguez described, containing Joanna's remains.
Rodriguez is in jail awaiting trial for Summer Baldwin's murder. Although part of the plea deal stipulated that Rodriguez would not be directly charged with Joanna's murder, investigators are using his confession to seek the death penalty in Summer's case.