Wrong Man season 2, episode 5 recap: Black or White

Starz series Wrong Man Season 2 looks at the case of Kenneth Clair, accused of killing Linda Rodgers with no physical evidence and an ignored witness.

Wrong Man Season 2 moves on from the Rorrer/Katrinak case, which left us with far more questions than answers.  Episode 205 looks at the case of Kenneth Clair, imprisoned for the murder of Linda Faye Rodgers in Santa Ana, California, in 1984.

Wrong Man Season 2 makes clear that Kenneth Clair was not necessarily a perfect angel. He admits to breaking and entering homes to steal money, although he insists he did it to feed himself. He also denies committing a brutal murder. The series also interviews relatives of Linda Rodgers, such as her brother, John Rodgers. We also hear from Scott Sanders, the Defense Attorney in the case.

The crime and the suspect

Linda Faye Rodgers worked as a live-in nanny for Kai Henriksen (a tow truck driver) and Margaret Hessling. On the night of the murder (Nov. 15, 1985), there were actually 5 children at home. How did Kenneth Clair become a suspect? The Henriksen/Hessling home had been burglarized on November 7th. Ken stole $400 from them, living in an abandoned home not far away.

While that made him a legitimate suspect, one of the children, Jarrod, told police that the perpetrator was a white man. While child witnesses are not always reliableWrong Man Season 2 informs us that Jarrod was even given a test to verify that he could differentiate various ethnicities, and he passed the test.

Specifically, Jarrod described a white man with a white shirt, a black belt, and white pants. Investigator Joe Kennedy believes Kenneth was target based on the previous burglary.

Debra Allen, a Private Investigator for Wrong Man Season 2, similarly thinks investigators had tunnel vision. Although, yes, Ken was released from jail on the night of the murder, it’s also true that Linda Faye Rodgers had a boyfriend. It seems the police barely investigated other possible suspects. Any follower of true crime knows this is a mistake.

In fact, it’s odd how often various credible suspects appear who actually didn’t do the crime. Mary Rife, the first responding officer at the time, states outright that she believes they imprisoned the wrong man. Wrong Man Season 2’s Ron Kuby notes that they did a good job gathering and testing forensic evidence — none of which Kenneth to the scene. Clair’s death sentence was overturned due to inadequate legal representation at the time, which leads the series’ investigative team to ask if Kenneth Clair can get a new trial.

New interviews

Joe Kennedy repeats that there’s zero physical evidence linking Ken to the crime. So he and former Police Detective Ira Todd interview people related to the case, starting with Kristy and John Rodgers. Kristy, who is Linda’s daughter, says that she remembers that, on the night of the murder, Margaret Hessling checked to make sure the kids were still alive.

The show also talks with local Private Investigator C. J. Ford Jr., who suggests “they took a thief and made him into a murderer.” Ford doesn’t think Kenneth killed her to eliminate a witness.

Clair himself notes that, had he gone around killing possible witnesses to his occasional burglary, there would have been more murders. Also, Kai was the actual witness to the robbery, who went to confront Kenneth Clair about it and who got him arrested.

While this doesn’t rule Ken out as a suspect, it does slightly augment the case against him. Had he been the killer, it would have likely been for some motive other than getting direct revenge against Linda Faye Rodgers.

Pauline Flores

Defense Attorney Scott Sanders talks about Pauline Flores, Kenneth’s girlfriend at the times, who cooperated with police. The series attempts to dissect the credibility of her testimony. Pauline had been hospitalized in a near-fatal bike accident and had learned that Ken slept with her friend during her hospital stay. In other words, she may have herself been motivated by revenge.

The series also shows evidence that the police may have encouraged her to adjust the timeframe of her story, as Kenneth was in jail at a time she claimed to have met him on the street.

Joe Kennedy notes how Margaret Hessling and Pauline’s verbiage in describing stolen jewelry matches almost too much — implying either Pauline had an incredible memory, had a bizarre psychic connection with Margaret or was somehow coached in her testimony.

Ron Kuby is highly skeptical that most people would describe items so similarly, with such detail. He notes how her testimony does not include anything that wasn’t listed and does not exclude anything, either,

Although Pauline died years later, her former friend, Barbara Perry, is still alive. Barbara maintains that Kenneth Clair had a “good heart” and that Pauline wasn’t the same after the head injury. To emphasize this possibility, Private Investigator Debra Allen meets Neuropsychologist Dr. Marcel Ponton. He says her brain was damaged, and she had a mental disability from the accident.

It’s concluded that she might have even confused burglaries due to memory problems. On top of that, Pauline Flores actually recanted her testimony 20 years later, stating at the time that she suffered almost a complete memory loss and required years of therapy.

Other possibilities

Wrong Man Season 2 lets us hear Pauline’s police recorded interviews with Kenneth. While he never admits to the murder, some of his word choices sound potentially damning, especially out of context. For example, when she mentions having blood on him, he suggests he doesn’t anymore. That could have been stated sarcastically, however. Kenneth Clair says he believes Pauline was coached.

Additionally, we learn that Janine Iwema, the new nanny, attested that the Henriksen house had lots of meth addicts. In fact, Kay Henriksen himself had been charged with voluntary manslaughter at one point. Kristy says she was afraid of Kai, who used to hit her with a belt sometimes.  That being said, she doesn’t think Margaret or Kai had anything to do with her mom’s death.

Either way, Ira and Joe head out to visit Kai, who agrees to an off-camera interview in a local restaurant. They don’t get many new details about the murder, but Kai apparently tells them that, had he not been at work on that night, he would’ve beaten the perpetrator. Oddly, they suggest Kai is confused when they mention Jarrod’s testimony of seeing a white perpetrator. The episode ends with their beginning and interview with Margaret Hessling.

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As an interesting aside: Kenneth Clair tells us the same Judge who married him to a woman named Liz also sentenced him to death.

What are your thoughts on Wrong Man Season 2 and this case?  Let us know in the comments!

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