exposing the dark side of adoption
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Author: Jane M. Von Bergen, Inquirer Staff Writer

Jury selection is scheduled to begin in Camden today in the Superior Court trial of Mimi Rohrer, the wife of a prominent South Jersey politician who is charged with killing the couple's 2 1/2-year-old adopted son nine years ago.

Rohrer, 43, is the wife of William G. Rohrer, who has been mayor of Haddon Township for 37 years. She pleaded not guilty Dec. 17, 1982, to murder in the death of William G. Rohrer 3d, who died May 28, 1975. The boy had been adopted in El Salvador three months earlier.

At the time of his death, Camden County Medical Examiner William T. Read said the child's death was due to "severe contusions of the brain" that had been "self-inflicted." That investigation, conducted by the Camden County prosecutors' office, was closed.

But a 1979 report by the State Commission of Investigation (SCI), a New Jersey standing investigatory agency, said Camden County investigators had failed to resolve discrepancies in Mrs. Rohrer's statement concerning the boy's death.

The SCI report sparked a state grand jury investigation, and Mrs. Rohrer was indicted in 1982 in the death.

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

If convicted, Mrs. Rohrer could be sentenced to 30 years in jail. She has been free on her own recognizance.

Deputy state Attorney General Anthony Zarrillo, who will be prosecuting the case, said he expected the trial to last three or four weeks. Superior Court Judge David G. Eynon will hear the case in his fourth floor courtroom in the Camden County Hall of Justice.

The Rohrer case has been listed for trial several times since 1982, but has been postponed due to conflicts in the schedules of lawyers.

A "final" trial date was set for April 4 of this year, but Rohrer's attorney, Raymond A. Brown Jr., was defending Albert Daidone in a six-month murder trial in Philadelphia. Daidone and Raymond "Long John" Martorano eventually were found guilty of hiring a gunman, Willard Moran, to murder Roofers Union leader John McCullough in 1980.

Rohrer's hearing date was postponed until May 28, but on May 22, Brown's son, who represented Mrs. Rohrer when her plea was entered in 1982, told Judge Eynon that Mrs. Rohrer preferred to be represented by his father.

The judge granted another delay, but set today for the trial.

1984 Sep 10