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 swore he was going to rape and kill her and her daughter. .
The letters — more than three dozen — kept coming for more than 12 years, in a relentless psychological attack that made the “CSI: Miami” actress and her family afraid to leave their home.
At first, some letters mentioned LaRue’s daughter, who was then five years old, but in 2015 letters began to arrive directly addressed to the girl. The harasser also began calling LaRue’s daughter’s school, saying that she was her father and that he was out to pick her up.
With the help of genetic genealogy, a science first used in California to catch the so-called “Golden State Killer,” the FBI was able to take DNA from the envelopes in 2019 and run it through a database, which released 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 straw at an Arby’s.
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 stalking.
“I forgive you, but I can’t forget,” LaRue told him at sentencing in Los Angeles County court. “Fear is with me forever.”
twelve years of terror
LaRue is a former beauty queen and longtime actress who appeared for many years as a doctor on the soap opera “All My Children.” She is probably best known for her seven seasons on the crime drama “CSI: Miami” which ended in 2012.
Her character was a DNA analyst for the Miami-Dade Police Department, which became a bitter irony when authorities found DNA in the envelopes containing the threatening letters but were unable to identify a suspect.
LaRue was halfway through her second full season on “CSI: Miami” when the first letter turned up at her house. Others soon followed.
“I’m going to harass you until the day you die,” read one, according to a 2019 federal indictment against Rogers.
“There will be no place on this earth that I … (can’t) find you. I’m going to rape you,” read another letter, in which the stalker also threatened to rape and impregnate LaRue’s daughter.
The letters were signed by “Freddie Krueger,” the fictional killer from the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series of horror films. Many of them 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 house through a limited liability company (a type of company known as an LLC) to protect her identity, but letters started appearing at that address as well, she said she.
LaRue and her daughter “would take convoluted routes home, sleep with guns nearby, and have arguments 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 keep their addresses as anonymous as possible by avoiding receiving mail and packages at their real address,” prosecutors said. “To no avail. Every time they moved, (the) letters—and the terror of the victims—always followed them.”
In 2015, the family began receiving letters addressed to LaRue’s daughter. At that time she was about 13 years old.
“I am the man who has been stalking you for (the) last 7 years. Now I have my eye on you too,” the first said, according to the indictment. Another read: “You look so pretty in your Google photos. You’re ready to be the mother of my child.”
How the FBI caught the stalker
The FBI collected DNA from many of the envelopes but didn’t learn whose it was until 2019, when it turned to the emerging field of genetic genealogy, the same method that had pinpointed the Golden State Killer the year before.
Thanks in part to companies like 23andMe, Ancestry and GEDmatch, genetic genealogy has become a valuable tool for law enforcement trying to solve old crimes. Authorities upload a DNA data file to a public database to identify any relatives of the person who may have submitted their DNA for analysis. They then build family trees and narrow down potential suspects through old-fashioned detective work until a prime suspect emerges.
Still, investigators must obtain a DNA sample from the suspect and match it before they can make an arrest.
Once the evidence pointed to Rogers, FBI agents began surveillance on him. The agents traveled to Ohio in the fall of 2019, former FBI special agent Stephen Busch and former FBI attorney Steve Kramer told CNN.
One day, Rogers left her job as a nursing assistant at an assisted living facility and stopped at an Arby’s on the way home. The FBI followed him and watched as he ate himself and discarded the bag in a dumpster, Busch and Kramer said.
Agents raided the container and extracted Rogers’ DNA from a soda straw in the bag, Busch and Kramer said. And it matched the DNA on the envelopes sent to LaRue and his daughter.
The FBI arrested Rogers at his home one morning in November 2019.
Rogers’ conviction marks the first time genetic genealogy has solved a case at the federal level, Busch and Kramer told CNN.
Your fear persists
At his sentencing Thursday, Rogers told the judge via video from Ohio that he grew up in an abusive home and was a victim of bullying at school. She said that she receives mental health treatment.
“I sincerely apologize for what I have done over the last 12 years, putting you and your family through hellish behavior,” he told LaRue. “I accept full responsibility. I hope he can put this behind him and at some point not think of me again.”
LaRue then turned to Rogers, thanking him for his apology but telling the judge, “I’m really worried about what might happen when I get out.”
LaRue was shocked as she told the court how the repeated threats took a toll on her and her family and deprived them of basic liberties.
“We’ve been like this for years,” he said. “This goes beyond deviant behavior.”
LaRue’s daughter, Kaya Callahan, now 20, was also emotional as she told the court how she was traumatized by Rogers’s threats.
After Rogers contacted her school, she said there was such a “paranoia” about her safety that she was being escorted back and forth from the school building to the parking lot every day.
“I feared for my life,” he said. Callahan assures that the fear of him still persists. “I want to feel good again,” he said. “Safe”.