published Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lost campsite blamed for fight that led to death of Cleveland man

One of the two men accused of killing a 46-year-old man and leaving him in a drifting boat last week told investigators that the victim was attacked after he could not locate a campground they were trying to find.

Chance A. Loftis, 24, and Travis Hayes Jenkins, 28, were arrested April 25 -- the same day two fishermen discovered Donald Rogers' body dangling over the side of an aluminum boat near the Grasshopper Creek Recreation Area at Birchwood.

Hamilton County Sheriff's Office detectives said Jenkins told them during initial interviews that Loftis had gotten angry at Rogers because he "could not find the campground," an affidavit of complaint states. Jenkins told officials that Loftis "attacked [Rogers] until he was not moving," the report states.

A Hamilton County medical examiner's report shows Rogers died from strangulation and a bludgeoning so severe his skull was fractured.

Both Loftis and Jenkins have been charged with criminal homicide and are in custody at the Hamilton County Jail, each held on a $1 million bond. Their next General Sessions Court date is set for May 14.

Rogers' brother, reached Friday, said his family was not yet ready to speak about his brother's death and was requesting privacy as they coped with their loss.

After abandoning Rogers and setting the boat adrift in the Tennessee River, both men fled to Bradley County, the affidavit claims. Both men are from Cleveland, Tenn.

"Neither Mr. Jenkins nor Mr. Loftis attempted to render aid to the victim or attempted to report the incident or call for assistance for the victim," the affidavit states.

When deputies caught up with the pair, Jenkins was dressed in bloody clothes and Loftis was wearing clean clothing, the affidavit says, but deputies found bloody clothing and a hammer in his bedroom.

During the course of the investigation, witnesses told investigators they heard Loftis admit, "Something bad happened last night," and "I killed him," the affidavit says.

Loftis refused to speak with authorities and requested a lawyer, according to the affidavit.

Contact staff writer Kate Harrison at kharrison@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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