MARCH 13, 18:57 EST

Widow Charged in Husband's Death Associated Press

TROY, Mich. (AP) — A 61-year-old woman was charged Tuesday with murdering her husband to get money for her nephew's sex-change operation.

Billie Jean Rogers was accused in the August slaying of Donald Rogers, 74. An autopsy showed he was smothered in the couple's home.

Prosecutors said that soon after, Mrs. Rogers bought her nephew, Harry Titlow, a car and gave him $70,000 for surgery to turn him into a woman. The money came from the Rogers' joint checking account.

Titlow, who is also known as Vonlee Titlow, was charged with murder in January and jailed without bail.

Mrs. Rogers is charged with first-degree premeditated murder. She and Titlow, 33, face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted.

``We intend to prove that they both took an active part in smothering the victim,'' said James Halushka, director of warrants and investigations for the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office. ``They both actually laid hands on the victim.''

Bond was set for Rogers at $100,000. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Rogers' defense attorney, Walter Piszczatowski, said prosecutors were attempting to convict his client based on hearsay evidence.

``The co-defendant, Titlow, made a statement to a third person who he was romantically involved with,'' Piszczatowski said. ``There is no evidence whatsoever tying Ms. Rogers to the crime except that statement.''

Titlow's attorney, Richard Lustig, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press.