exposing the dark side of adoption
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By Matthew Purdy

Inquirer Staff Writer

Mimi Rohrer, the wife of a prominent South Jersey politician and banker, pleaded not guilty yesterday morning to a charge of killing the couple's 2 1/ 2-year-old adopted son in 1975.

In a brief arraignment in Camden County Superior Court, Judge A. Donald Bigley set Mrs. Rohrer's bail at $5,000 and released her on her own recognizance. He did not set a trial date.

Mrs. Rohrer, 41, of the Westmont section of Haddon Township, is the wife of William G. Rohrer, who is chairman of the board of directors of the First People's Bank of New Jersey and mayor of Haddon Township.

Her plea on the murder charge was entered by her attorney, Raymond M. Brown, son of the nationally known defense attorney Raymond A. Brown Jr., whose Newark firm will handle the case.

If convicted, Mrs. Rohrer could be sentenced to 30 years in jail.

Martin J. Milita, the deputy attorney general, asked that Mrs. Rohrer be released on her own recognizance "given the nature of the case and the age of the case."

A state grand jury indicted Mrs. Rohrer on Dec. 3 in connection with the death of her son, William G. 3d, who died May 28, 1975. He had been adopted in El Salvador three months earlier.

At the time, Camden County Medical Examiner William T. Read said that the child's death was due to "severe contusions of the brain" that had been ''self-inflicted."

Thomas J. Shusted, who was then the Camden County prosecutor and is now a Republican Assemblyman, continued the investigation through the summer of 1975, when it was closed.

The state began its three-year investigation after a 1979 report by the State Committee on Investigations (SCI), a standing investigatory agency. That report cited the Rohrer death as one of six sudden deaths in the Camden area that appeared suspicious. The SCI report said the county investigation failed to resolve discrepancies in Mrs. Rohrer's statement's concerning the boy's death.

Mrs. Rohrer, who was questioned by local and county authorities immediately after the boy's death, told investigators that he had "fallen out of a high chair" or "fallen down a stairway" or "banged his head against the back of a high chair" or "was retarded" or "was self-destructive," according to the SCI report.

1982 Dec 18