Facing harsh criticism amid allegations that he sexually abused children in England, Scott Rogers fled to Texas in the mid-1990s before settling down in Baton Rouge, building from scratch a reputation as an ebullient local television host known for his extensive work promoting nonprofit organizations and civic agencies.
Until Wednesday, when the authorities said Rogers was fatally shot in what appears to be a murder-attempted suicide at his St. Gabriel home, the local celebrity’s history in England was unknown to even some of his closest professional associates. Recently, though, his past caught up with him, leading to a federal investigation into whether Rogers submitted fraudulent naturalization and adoption paperwork, said Seth Dornier, Rogers’ attorney.
On the same day a grand jury heard testimony related to the federal investigation, Rogers, 52, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said. Matthew Hodgkinson, Rogers’ son-in-law through what Stassi has described as a sham marriage to Rogers’ daughter, also incurred a gunshot wound inside that Daisy Avenue home that day. Sheriff’s Office reports indicate Hodgkinson shot Rogers then turned the gun on himself.
Hodgkinson remained hospitalized and on life support Thursday night. If Hodgkinson recovers, deputies would arrest him in Rogers’ death, Stassi said.
Stassi described Rogers and Hodgkinson as lovers who met years ago while Hodgkinson was a student at Rogers’ competitive dance academy in England. The sheriff described the marriage between Hodgkinson and Rogers’ daughter, Kimberly Ann Scott-Rogers, as a ruse to ensure Hodgkinson wouldn’t be deported.
When reached by phone on Thursday, Rogers’ daughter declined to comment.
Another man who lived in the St. Gabriel home with Rogers and Hodgkinson appeared on a public radio program Thursday morning, telling host Jim Engster that both he and Hodgkinson were sexually abused by Rogers as teenagers in England. The men moved to America with him, remaining entangled with Rogers for more than 20 years.
Less than two weeks ago, federal authorities took custody of two children living in Rogers’ home. One was Rogers’ 10-year-old adopted son, and the other was a 2-year-old boy Rogers was in the process of adopting, said Dornier, the attorney Rogers hired Monday to represent him in the pending child study case.
Bryan Cox, a spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement based in New Orleans, said the Homeland Security Investigations office in Baton Rouge assisted the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services with removing two boys from the home pursuant to a state court order.
Federal authorities did not release additional details about the case, which is not available for public review.
Baton Rouge knew Rogers as a gregarious and affable Brit who hosted scores of community events since his arrival about 15 years ago from the Dallas area. His self-produced local television show, “Around Town,” which was canceled this week just before his death, focused heavily on promoting local nonprofit organizations and other public agencies.
“Nonprofit organizations, charities, they can’t afford to pay for advertising,” said Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, a frequent guest on his show. “So he was very generous in affording nonprofit organizations, community organizations and churches the opportunity to come on and talk about their events.”
Broome, the Louisiana senate’s president pro tempore, said she knew Rogers only though their professional encounters. He always acted kindly and respectfully, she said. In 2011, Broome sponsored a three-page legislative resolution praising Rogers’ contributions to the city.
Rogers emceed numerous public engagements over the years. He read a poem at the annual remembrance event held by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. He also served as a volunteer chaplain for the agency.
For a time, Rogers was active in the Unity Church of Christianity, preaching often to the point of becoming a quasi-minister at the church, according to a church leader who declined to be named. Rogers participated in fundraising and improvement projects at Unity until he broke away to start his own church at Cortana Mall, near his television studio.
Members of the church, called the 13:34 Church of Christianity after a Bible passage from the Gospel of John in which Jesus commands his disciples to love one another, declined to comment when contacted on Thursday.
While Rogers enjoyed a glittering reputation in Baton Rouge for years because of his public work, his reputation could not have been more different when he left England roughly two decades ago.
In the mid-1990s, Rogers, then known as Richard Scott Rogers, was running a dance school in England’s Suffolk County that drew complaints from parents who, according to the London Daily Mail, accused him of manipulating children and dividing families through his cultlike program.
In articles published in November 1995, the Daily Mail noted that Rogers was cleared on accusations claiming he had molested a 13-year-old pupil two years earlier. In the aftermath of the scandal, parents of students at Rogers’ academy complained that he engaged in questionable behavior with their children. The parents said Rogers invited students to “slumber parties” where he’d spend the night cuddling with them in their sleeping bags, according to the Daily Mail.
The complaints about the dance school in 1995 led the Suffolk City Council to issue a statement warning parents not to send their children there because of its “unhealthy atmosphere” and “levels of intimacy” between an unnamed staff member there and pupils, the newspaper reported.
A man who described a more than 20-year abusive and intimate relationship with Rogers appeared Thursday morning on “The Jim Engster Show,” which airs weekday mornings on WRKF in Baton Rouge. The man, who said he lived in St. Gabriel with Hodgkinson, Rogers and two children, was not named but spoke with a British accent.
The man, who said he had been in federal protective custody since Monday, described meeting Rogers at the dance school in England, claiming Rogers initiated a sexual relationship with him when he was just 13 years old. The man continued having a sexual relationship with Rogers until just last week but said he had grown emotionally detached from the older man for many years.
The man said he heard about the shooting while he was waiting to testify at court on Wednesday.
The man said on air that he knew Hodgkinson, who also went by the last name Hodgkins, also had a sexual history with Rogers. But the man also said he believes the physical connection between Hodgkinson and Rogers ended as many as 14 years ago, which would have been about the same time they arrived in Baton Rouge.
Steve West, who met Rogers about 10 years ago after renting office space from him, said soon after that he began volunteering as a cameraman for Rogers’ “Around Town” show. West said he volunteered until about four months ago, when a falling out between Rogers and his daughter, who also worked on the show, prompted West to leave the show.
“They got mad at each other and stopped talking,” West said.
He described Rogers as a popular, community-oriented man who sometimes was stern in his perfectionism on the job. And while Rogers’ past intrigued him, West never pressed for details.
The day before Rogers’ death, West said he heard Rogers was sick, so he sent him a text message. They exchanged a few friendly text messages before wrapping up the conversation.
“It was just a good text,” West said. “He was doing better.”
Advocate staff writer Pam Bordelon contributed to this report. Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter @_BenWallace. Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.