January 23, 2014
Jury selection is expected to begin this morning in the trial of a Perth Amboy man, who authorities charge raped and murdered an Old Bridge woman in her bedroom, then set her room on fire to cover up the crime.
Robert Hayes, 36, is charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated sexual assault, burglary, arson, desecration of human remains, hindering his own apprehension or prosecution and hindering the investigation into the death of Petra Rohrbaugh, 52.
The trial is before Superior Court Judge Michael Toto in New Brunswick.
Hayes denies the charges that he raped and murdered Rohrbaugh.
Rohrbaugh, a music teacher, moved to the Cliffwood Beach section of Old Bridge only months before her death in April 2010 to be closer to her family, relatives said after Hayes was charged.
Rohrbaugh’s daughter, Annika Werner, 28, a nurse, found her mother’s body the morning of April 8, 2010 when she arrived at the house to drop off her two children. Rohrbaugh babysat for her grandchildren several days a week, her daughter said in 2010
Hayes was arrested hours after police were called to Rohrbaugh’s house at 8 a.m. He was first charged with giving police false information during the investigation.
Authorities said Hayes, who was charged with the murder about a week later, was living in the house next door to Rohrbaugh occasionally.
Former Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Nicholas Sewitch said when Hayes was indicted on the murder charges that the house where Hayes stayed was for sale and the owners of the vacant home “allowed him to stay there. He knew the owners and they were trying to help him out.”
Werner could not be reached for comment, but friends said shortly after her death that Rohrbaugh played the organ at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Keansburg.
Werner said her family moved from Trier, Germany, where her mother was born, to Havre De Grace, Md. 12 years before her death when Werner’s stepfather, who was in the Air Force, was reassigned.
She said her mother “taught music to children” while in Maryland.
After separating from her husband, Rohrbaugh decided to move closer to her daughter and grandchildren in New Jersey. She also had a son who was a surgeon in Germany.
Hayes has been held in the Middlesex County jail in lieu of $3.2 million bail since his indictment on the murder charges.