An Ohio man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison after 12 years of harassing actress Eva LaRue and her daughter. Authorities said he threatened them, via letters and phone calls, with torture, murder, and rape.
Judge John A. Kronstadt of the US District Court for the Central District of California on the man, James David Rogers, was sentenced to 40 months in prison Thursday for what prosecutors described in the sentencing memo as a “campaign of torture” that “terrorized a mother and daughter.”
Rogers, 58, pleaded guilty on April 28 to “two counts of sending threatening letters by mail, one count of threats through interstate communications, and two counts of stalking,” according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.
Ms. LaRue is best known for her roles as DNA Analyst Natalia Boa Vista in the crime series “CSI: Miami” and Maria Santos in the TV series “All My Children”. Court documents said her daughter Kaya Callahan was five years old when the threats against her began. She is now 20 years old, and Mr. Rogers wrote threats to Ms. LaRue’s partner at the time as well.
Waseem Slahi, a lawyer representing Mr. Rogers, said in an email that Mr. Rogers had not taken any steps to approach or harm Ms LaRue or her daughter. He added that the court provided Mr. Rogers with psychotherapy and counseling while the case was being heard.
“We remain optimistic that the behavior he did – for which he accepted full responsibility – will not happen again,” he said.
In March 2007, he began sending threatening letters to the family, court documents show, and the stalking behavior continued until his arrest in November 2019. Between March 2007 and June 2015, Mr. Rogers mailed approximately 37 handwritten and written letters with threats. Many letters signed in the name of Freddy Krueger, a fictional serial killer from the horror movie “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.
“I want to make your life so miserable that you cannot bear it,” he wrote in one of the letters, according to court documents. Another read, “You must be very afraid.”
The messages were sent first to Ms. LaRue’s publicist, and then to her manager, she said. Finally, I received her at her husband’s home and office at the time.
“The letters were anywhere from three to six or seven pages in length, detailing the most wicked, wicked, vile and perverse ways, and how he wanted to kidnap me and my five-year-old daughter at the time,” she said.
She said the family moved several times in the hope that Rogers would never find their address again, even deciding to sell a house during the 2008 financial recession. They also avoided receiving mail and parcels at their home address.
“They drove roundabouts into the house, slept with weapons nearby and had discussions about how to quickly seek help if the defendants found the defendants and tried to harm them,” prosecutors said.
Mrs. LaRue never knew where the person writing the letters lived. She said in an interview that she worked as if he could be around the corner at any time.
During the “CSI: Miami” hiatus, Ms LaRue said she had fled the country. She and her daughter lived temporarily at a friend’s house in Europe because they were afraid he would come to her house.
In October and November 2019, Mr. Rogers called the school where Ms. Callahan attended 18 times, often pretending to be her father and asking questions about her whereabouts, according to court documents. In another incident, he left an audio message at school with obscene threats, and identified himself as a nicknamed serial killer. Ms. LaRue said she was a high school student at the time.
Weeks later, when he was arrested, his call history was erased. But prosecutors said the phone was registered to the same number he called the school from. It also had pictures of Mrs. LaRue and her daughter.
Until his arrest, Mr. Rogers worked as a nurse’s assistant in a nursing home, according to court documents. He said he was the shepherd of his mother.
Mr. Rogers said in his relief that he grew up a social outcast with difficulties with his parents and struggled at school, according to court documents. He also said his movement is limited, but prosecutors said the FBI found that claim to be false. Ms LaRue said he said at sentencing that he was receiving mental health treatment.
Prior to the sentencing, Mrs. LaRue and her daughter had only seen a picture of Mr. Rogers. They didn’t want to see him in person but decided to go to the courtroom when they learned that he would be joining via video conferencing. They left nervous.
“One time, my brother was holding my hand because I was shivering,” she said. “And that’s not me. No one or anything bothers me easily.”
Mr. RogersStephen Bush, a former FBI special agent who worked on the case, said that in 2019, the accused was identified using genetic genealogy, which uses databases to match DNA with a large network of people. The authorities used the DNA left on a straw lying around for him, which led to his arrest.
“Forensic genealogy is the greatest investigative technique since law enforcement imprinting,” said Mr. Bush, who is now CEO of DNA Investigations. “And we’re just scratching the surface with it now.”
Genetic genealogy has been used to solve several high-profile issues in recent years, including in 2018 to identify Joseph James D’Angelo as the Golden State Killer. In “CSI: Miami,” Ms. LaRue played a DNA analyst who performed work similar to the one used to solve the issue, she said, except that the technology wasn’t advanced at the time.
“It’s strange that DNA has just played such an interesting role in my life in so many ways,” she said.
Miss LaRue is writing a presentation that is partly autobiographical about her experiences over the past 12 years and will delve into some of the new DNA methods.
Mr. Rogers apologized to Ms. LaRue in the sentencing video conference Thursday. But for Mrs. La Rue and her daughter, the damage has been done. Ms La Rue said they lived in fear and paranoia after more than a decade of threats.
Every school Mrs. Callahan attended had to be notified of the stalking, and she and her daughter were surrounded by security.
“These were her formative years,” Ms. LaRue said.
“I was afraid for my life” her daughter He said in court.
The FBI investigated the case, and the Organized and Violent Crime Division of the US Attorney’s Office prosecuted him.