They came in the mail at Eva LaRue’s Southern California home—sometimes handwritten, sometimes typed—from an unknown sender who called himself “Freddie Kruger” and vowed to rape and kill him and his young daughter.
The letters — more than three dozen of them — kept pouring in for more than 12 years, a relentless psychological assault that terrified the “CSI: Miami” actress and her family from stepping out of their home.
Initially, some letters mentioned LaRue’s daughter, then 5. But in 2015, letters addressed to the child began to arrive. The pursuer starts calling Laru’s daughter’s school saying that he is her father and is out to pick her up.
But with the help of genetic genealogy, a science that was first used in California to catch the Golden State killer, in 2019 the FBI was able to take DNA from envelopes and run it through a database, providing a list of Is. Suspect’s relatives. This eventually led them to a small town in Ohio, where they arrested a 58-year-old man after pulling his DNA from a discarded arabic straw.
“I forgive you, but I can’t forget,” LaRue said during his sentencing in the Los Angeles County Courtroom. “Fear is always with me.”
12 years of terror
LaRue is a former beauty queen and longtime actress who appeared as a doctor on the soap opera “All My Children” for several years. She is perhaps 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 officers found DNA on an envelope containing threatening letters, but could not pinpoint a suspect.
LaRue was in the middle of her second full season on “CSI: Miami” when the first letter showed up at her home. Others soon followed.
According to a 2019 federal indictment of Rogers, “I’m going to chase you a**king until the day you die,” said one.
Another letter read, “There will be no place on this earth where I can … (not) find you. I am going to rape you.”
The letters were signed by “Freddie Kruger,” 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 scared she eventually sold her house and moved with her family to Italy, where they lived with a friend for several months. She then returned to California and bought a new home under an LLC — a business entity that offers limited liability protection — to shield her identity, but letters began appearing at that address as well, she said.
LaRue and her daughter “walked the winding roads of the house, slept with arms nearby, and discussed how to get help quickly if [Rogers] found them and tried to harm them,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo.
“He tried to anonymize his address as much as possible by avoiding receiving mail and packages at his real address,” prosecutors said. “To no avail. Every time they left, [the] The letter – and the terror of the victims – will always follow.”
In 2015, the family began receiving letters addressed to LaRue’s daughter. At that time, she was about 13 years old.
According to the indictment, the first one reads, “I am the person who has been following for the past 7 years. Now I have kept an eye on you too.” Another read, “You look so beautiful in your pictures on Google. Are you ready to be the mother of my baby.”
How the FBI caught the stalker
The FBI collected DNA from several envelopes, but didn’t know whose it belonged until 2019, when they turned to the emerging field of genetic genealogy—the same method that fingered the Golden State killer last year.
Thanks to companies like 23andMe, Ancestry and GEDmatch, genetic genealogy has become a valuable tool for law enforcement officers trying to solve chronic crimes. Officials upload a DNA data file to a public database to identify any relatives of the person who may have submitted their DNA for testing. They then build family trees and narrow down potential suspects through old-fashioned detective work until a prime suspect is revealed.
Even so, investigators still have to obtain a sample of the suspect’s DNA and match it before making 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 Bush and former FBI attorney Steve Kramer told CNN.
When Rogers quit his job as a nurse’s assistant in an assisted living facility and ran across an Arby’s on his way home, the FBI followed him and saw him eating his food and dumping the bag into the dumpster. Thrown, Bush and Kramer said.
Agents raided the dumpster and extracted Rogers’ DNA from soda straws in the bag, Bush and Kramer said. They said it matched the DNA of the envelopes sent to LaRue and her daughter.
The FBI arrested Rogers at his home in the early hours of November 2019.
Bush and Kramer told CNN that Rogers’ conviction marks the first time genetic pedigrees have resolved a case at the federal level.
their fear still remains
Upon his sentencing on Thursday, Rogers told the judge via a video link from Ohio that he grew up in an abusive home and was bullied at school. He said that he is undergoing mental health treatment.
“I sincerely apologize for what I did over the past 12 years, inflicting hellish behavior on you and your family,” he told LaRue. “I accept full responsibility. I hope you can put this behind you and never think about me again at some point.”
LaRue then addressed Rogers in his victim impact statement, thanking him for his apology but telling the judge, “I am very concerned about what will happen when he is out.”
She became emotional when she told the court how the repeated threats had taken a toll on her and her family and deprived them of basic freedoms.
“We have many years of this,” she said. “It goes beyond deviant behavior.”
LaRue’s daughter Kaya Callahan, now 20, also became emotional as she told the court how she was hurt by Rogers’ threats.
After Rogers contacted her school, she said she had such “paranoia” about her safety that she was driven from the school building to the parking lot every day.
“I feared for my life,” she said. Callahan said her fear still lingered.
“I want to feel fine again,” she said. “Safe.”