Editor’s note: Disclaimer: This story has disturbing content related to threats of sexual violence.
The threatening letters began in March 2007.
They arrived in the mail at Eva LaRue’s home in Southern California – sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed – from an unknown sender who called himself “Freddie Krueger” and had sworn to rape and kill her and her young lady.
The letters — more than three dozen of them — kept coming for more than 12 years, a relentless psychological assault that scared the ‘CSI: Miami’ actress and her family out of their home.
At first, some letters mentioned LaRue’s daughter, then 5 years old. But in 2015, letters started arriving addressed to the child. The stalker also began calling LaRue’s daughter’s school, saying he was her father and was out to pick her up.
But with the help of genetic genealogy, a science that was first used in California to capture the Golden State Killer, the FBI was able in 2019 to take DNA from the casings and run it through a database, giving a list of the suspect’s relatives. This eventually led them to a small town in Ohio, where they arrested a 58-year-old man after extracting his DNA from a discarded Arby straw.
James David Rogers was sentenced Thursday to 40 months in federal prison. The Heath, Ohio man pleaded guilty in April to two counts of sending threatening communications, one count of threatening interstate communications and two counts of harassment.
“I forgive you, but I can’t forget,” LaRue told him during sentencing in a Los Angeles County courtroom. “Fear is with me forever.”
LaRue is a former beauty queen and longtime actress who for many years appeared as a doctor on the soap opera “All My Children.” She’s probably best known for her seven seasons in the crime drama “CSI: Miami,” which ended in 2012.
His character was a DNA analyst for the Miami-Dade Police Department, which became a bitter irony when authorities found DNA on envelopes containing the threatening letters but were unable to identify a suspicious.
LaRue was halfway through her second full season on “CSI: Miami” when the first letter arrived at her doorstep. Others soon followed.
“I will hunt you down until the day you die,” one said, according to a 2019 federal indictment against Rogers.
“There will be no place on this earth where I… (can’t) find you. I will rape you,” said another letter, in which the stalker also threatened to rape and impregnate LaRue’s daughter.
The letters were signed “Freddie Krueger”, the fictional killer from the horror film series “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Many were postmarked from Youngstown, Ohio.
LaRue told CNN she was so terrified that she eventually sold her house and moved her family to Italy, where they lived for several months with a friend. She then moved back to California and bought a new home under an LLC — a business entity that offers limited liability protection — to protect her identity, but the letters also started showing up at that address, she said. .
LaRue and her daughter “travelled circuitous routes home, slept with guns nearby, and had discussions about how to get help quickly if [Rogers] found them and tried to harm them,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
“They tried to anonymize their addresses as much as possible by avoiding receiving mail and packages at their real addresses,” prosecutors said. ” In vain. Every time they moved, [the] the letters – and the terror of the victims – would always follow.
In 2015, the family began receiving letters addressed to LaRue’s daughter. At the time, she was about 13 years old.
“I’ve been the man who’s been stalking for (the) past 7 years. Now I’ve laid my eyes on you too,” read the first, according to the indictment. Another read, “You look so beautiful on your photos on Google. Are you ready to be the mother of my child?
The FBI collected DNA from many envelopes, but didn’t know who it was until 2019, when it turned to the emerging field of genetic genealogy — the same method that had denounced the Golden State Killer the previous year.
Thanks in part to companies such as 23andMe, Ancestry and GEDmatch, genetic genealogy has become an invaluable tool for law enforcement trying to solve ancient crimes. Authorities upload a DNA data file to a public database to identify relatives of the person who may have submitted their DNA for testing. They then build family trees and narrow down possible suspects via old-fashioned detective work until a prime suspect emerges.
Even so, investigators still need to obtain a DNA sample from the suspect and make a match before they can make an arrest.
Once the evidence pointed to Rogers, FBI agents began monitoring him. FBI agents traveled to Ohio in the fall of 2019, former FBI special agent Stephen Busch and former FBI attorney Steve Kramer told CNN.
When Rogers quit his job as a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility and drove home to Arby’s, the FBI followed him and watched him eat his meal and throw the bag in a dumpster. garbage, Busch and Kramer said.
Officers raided the dumpster and extracted Rogers’ DNA from a soda straw in the bag, Busch and Kramer said. It matched DNA from envelopes sent to LaRue and her daughter, they said.
The FBI arrested Rogers at his home early one morning in November 2019.
Rogers’ sentencing marks the first time that genetic genealogy has solved a case at the federal level, Busch and Kramer told CNN.
During his sentencing on Thursday, Rogers told the judge via video link from Ohio that he grew up in an abusive home and was bullied at school. He said he was undergoing mental health treatment.
“I sincerely apologize for what I have done over the past 12 years, putting you and your family in hellish behavior,” he told LaRue. “I accept full responsibility. I hope you can put this behind you and at some point you’ll never think of me again.
LaRue later addressed Rogers in her victim impact statement, thanking him for his apology but telling the judge, “I’m so worried about what will happen when he comes out.”
She became emotional as she told the court how the repeated threats had affected her and her family and deprived them of basic freedoms.
“We had years of that,” she said. “It’s beyond deviant behavior.”
LaRue’s daughter, Kaya Callahan, now 20, also became emotional as she told the court how traumatized she had been by Rogers’ threats.
After Rogers contacted her school, she said there was such “paranoia” about her safety that she was escorted between the school building and the parking lot every day.
“I was scared for my life,” she said. Callahan said his fear still lingers.
“I want to feel good again,” she said. “Sure.”