Scott Rogers, supposedly terrified that his past would catch up with him, sure chose an odd line of work in Baton Rouge.
He hoped to lie low while hosting a TV show. Ratings would have to be really dismal for that to work.
In his former life, Rogers was Richard Scott-Rogers of Bury St. Edmunds in England. That’s far away, but business or pleasure must take many people there from Louisiana. Shoot, yours truly was there a couple of weeks ago. Rogers was never going to keep his secret buried forever.
We don’t know who tipped off the authorities, or whether some viewer recognized him from the old days. But every time Rogers looked into the camera, he must have wondered if this was the day he would be fingered. He knew the game was up, and federal charges were in the offing, a couple of weeks before his murder.
Rogers, known as the genial host of “Around Town” in Baton Rouge, in his previous life ran a dance school in Bury and evidently neglected no opportunity to seduce children who enrolled. He emigrated amid the resulting scandal in 1995.
One of his pupils was Mathew Hodgkinson, who maintained a sexual relationship with Rogers into adulthood and followed him to America. Hodgkinson wound up living in St. Gabriel with Rogers, who had a 10-year-old adopted son and a 2-year-old foster son. The state Department of Children and Family Services seized the boys a few days before Hodgkinson shot Rogers in his bed before turning the gun on himself last week.
Hodgkinson left what was intended as a suicide note. “They broke our happy loving home. They do not get to take Scott too,” it read. Hodgkinson is in critical condition.
Rogers stood trial for child molestation in England, but the jury could not reach a verdict. The Suffolk County Council, however, remained convinced that Rogers was not only guilty but the Svengali of pedophiles. The council issued a statement warning that goings-on at Rogers’ Academy of Dancing and Performing Arts were “reminiscent of those cases in which parents sought to extricate a child from the influence of a religious, or supposedly religious, cult.”
Rogers told the English press that he had parents’ consent for sleepovers at which he “cuddled” children. When parents heard that, they established a support group. The council statement concluded with an apophasis, accusing Rogers of “conduct” at the academy to which it was “not at liberty to refer.” The academy duly closed down and Rogers hightailed it to America.
He dropped the double-barreled name, and became naturalized, along with his daughter, Kimmy, who eventually married Hodgkinson. That was not a marriage made in heaven, but a sham to ensure that immigration authorities would let Hodgkinson remain in this country. The real object of Hodgkinson’s affections remained his father-in-law.
Rogers meanwhile seemed the model citizen, an affable and mild-mannered soul who hosted charity events and promoted good causes on his TV show. He was a volunteer chaplain for the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office and earned a commendation from the state Legislature.
But Bury St. Edmunds came back to haunt him, and at the time of his death, a federal grand jury was considering whether to indict him for concealing his identity and falsifying immigration and adoption applications. Mr. and Mrs. Hodgkinson had both testified under subpoena.
Hodgkinson, who produced “Around Town,” called the TV station to say he was canceling the show because “Scott is facing a family catastrophe.” Catastrophe arrived the next day in the shape of a bullet to the head.
“Around Town” aired only on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but it attracted enough viewers to make Rogers a local celebrity. He could hardly have chosen a more indiscreet lifestyle, so maybe he had a subconscious desire to be caught. Every time he looked into the camera, it must have occurred to him that sooner or later, someone would be reminded of events long ago in Bury.
James Gill’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.