MADISON, Wis. — A Tennessee girl found alive after a two-week disappearance was with a stranger who picked her up after she told him she was being raped at home — and he asked for and kept video of the alleged abuse before he acted, authorities said.
Bryan Rogers, a Wisconsin man who said he’d been messaging the 14-year-old through online gaming, drove to Tennessee in mid-January, picked the girl up and took her to his home, federal authorities allege in court.
Investigators found the girl in Rogers’ home in Madison on Thursday night, days after her family reported her missing. She was discovered hiding in a closet after Rogers claimed she wasn’t there, authorities said.
Rogers is now among at least two men criminally charged in the case:
• The girl’s adoptive father was arrested last week and charged in Tennessee with raping her.
• Rogers, 31, is charged in federal court with sexual exploiting a child, accused of persuading her to record video of her abuse.
The girl sent Rogers a video and he picked her up without alerting authorities about the alleged abuse, an affidavit filed in court on Monday said.
“Rogers stated he did not ever send the video to any law enforcement because he thought it would not stand up in court,” the affidavit said.
The FBI and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee declined to comment on how investigators learned the girl was at Rogers’ home.
Rogers and the girl connected through an online game, feds say
The court document doesn’t say exactly how or when Rogers and the girl first contacted each other.
But Rogers, after his arrest Thursday, told investigators that they’d been in contact through the Roblox online gaming platform as well as through Facebook and an encrypted messaging system, the document said.
According to the affidavit:
• Rogers said the girl told him that she was being molested and he said he instructed her to get video of the rape.
• Investigators found a phone that shows chats between Rogers and the girl, starting on Dec. 24. The messages indicate the girl asked him for help.
“I know you don’t want to do it but … we need clear video evidence,” reads one of the messages — which the affidavit said Rogers sent to the girl. The messages urge her to make a recording with a phone.
• Rogers told investigators the girl emailed him such a video.
“He saw the video and said it was blurry,” and claims he couldn’t give it to law enforcement because he didn’t think it would be useful in court, the affidavit said.
After she recorded video, he picked her up, feds allege
After receiving the video, Rogers drove to Tennessee and picked her up, authorities allege. She was reported missing Jan. 14, a day after last being seen at her home in Madisonville, in eastern Tennessee between Chattanooga and Knoxville.
Rogers told investigators he “avoided tollways and gas stations with surveillance, and smashed (the girl’s) phone, so that he would not be traced,” the court document said.
By Thursday, investigators came to believe the girl was with Rogers in Wisconsin, some 700 miles to the north of her home.
On Thursday afternoon, FBI agents went to Rogers’ home, where he told them that he’d been in contact with the girl online and that she’d given him video showing her being sexually assaulted, the affidavit said.
But he told them that he had never met the girl in person and that she was not in his home, the document said.
Four hours later, investigators went back to the home and found the girl hiding in a closet in Rogers’ living area in a basement, the affidavit said.
Investigators found the video on Rogers’ computer, authorities said.
Rogers is due in court Thursday afternoon for a detention hearing.