Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 6:16 p.m.
When Rick Rogers needed a kidney transplant in 1998, a dozen of his former students from Gordon McCaw Elementary School in Henderson underwent blood tests to see if they would be a possible match.
“I have never seen a teacher who had such support,” said one of those students, Karen Watkins, now 23 and manager of a college bookstore in High Point, N.C.
Rogers, most recently a science teacher at Garrett Junior High School in Boulder City, was a major influence in her life, she said. She invited him to her high school and college graduations and they stayed in touch until two years ago, when she moved away.
“He was the best teacher I ever had,” she said.
That teacher and mentor bears no resemblance to the Charles Richard Rogers she has been reading about in the news lately — the one charged with child sexual assault and possession of pornography.
Charles Richard Rogers, 46, is sitting in a Clark County jail cell in lieu of $1.3 million bail until an April 21 preliminary hearing. He is charged with two counts of sexual assault with a minor, three counts each of lewdness with a minor and use of children in pornography, and 64 counts of possession of child pornography.
Watkins is not the only friend of Rogers who could not believe the respected teacher, soccer coach and foster parent would even be accused of such crimes.
The allegations so shocked the Boulder City community after Rogers’ arrest on March 26 that Police Chief Thomas Finn said some of his own officers did not think it was possible. Rogers even worked part time as a Boulder City police officer in the department’s reserves from June 1991 until November 1992.
Finn held a press conference to assure the public he had seen the evidence and it was real.
The evidence, according to arrest reports, consists of VHS tapes, DVDs, computers and computer storage devices, photos and other media that show preteen boys in various sexual encounters. They were confiscated from his home.
One tape in particular, police allege, starts out showing children playing soccer, but then switches to explicit child pornography that clearly identifies Rogers in his home.
It shows Rogers performing sex acts with boys believed to be between 6 and 12 years old, police say, and, in one case, filming it while laughing.
One clip shows several boys playing with condoms and engaging in sexual activity, according to an arrest report. Two other clips show Rogers performing sex acts on boys who appear to be sleeping or passed out, the report says.
The latest allegations seem to have shifted some of the initial community support for Rogers. Parents who wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt now say they want to see him get the maximum punishment.
Neighbors who at first voiced support for Rogers are now quiet. A BC United soccer league organizer who sang Rogers’ praises to the Boulder City News when Rogers retired from the league last fall now says she didn’t know him well and had nothing to say.
Watkins says she feels betrayed and sad.
“It’s a slap in the face,” she said. “He’s definitely not anyone you can trust kids with anymore.”
Kelly Bryant, 34, said the allegations make him sick to his stomach.
Rogers moved into the same apartment building in Boulder City as his family in 1980, Bryant said. Rogers was a Coast Guard enlisted man stationed in Searchlight. Bryant was 6.
“He was close with our family, our parents, my brother,” Bryant said. “As I got older, he was the soccer coach, and I wanted to be on his team. I wanted my son to be on his team.”
In all of the years he knew Rogers, Bryant said, he never saw any inappropriate behavior. Never a too-long hug, never an odd look. He asked his son if Rogers had ever done anything suspicious, like ask the boy to take off his shirts or show off his muscles.
“Nothing,” Bryant said. “There was nothing ever. He was the one person you would have never suspected.”
But the new allegations from police have changed his mind.
“The more I hear and as they depict what happened, it really makes me sick. ... It makes me feel that you don’t know who to trust anymore.”
Born in 1962 in Salem, Ohio, Rogers enrolled at UNLV in 1985 and graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
In January 1992, he was hired at McCaw Elementary under Principal Janet Dobry to teach fourth grade. He moved to Robert Taylor Elementary School in Henderson in 2002 when Dobry changed schools. Dobry said the School District has instructed her not to comment on the case.
He was one of two teachers who came up with the idea for the McCaw School of Mines, a scale mine that is a popular field trip destination for children all over Clark County.
He transferred to Garrett Junior High in 2006, where he was a popular science teacher. “Everyone wanted to get into his class,” Bryant said.
From January 1986 until his arrest, he worked for the Boulder City Parks and Recreation Department part time, helping organize league play. He was also a soccer coach in the Sagebrush League, which included BC United.
He was licensed as a foster parent for Clark County in 1994, though that license was automatically suspended when he was arrested. He fostered two children between 1996 and last June, county spokeswoman Christine Skorupski said.
County workers visited his home every 30 days while he had foster children, she said, and he passed both an initial FBI background check and annual criminal checks. The county has cooperated with police to identify and find the foster children, she said.
There are no marriage or divorce records for Rogers in Clark County, and people who knew him said they never knew of any girlfriends.
“He was singular,” said Sandy Miller, chairwoman of the McCaw School of Mines Foundation board. “He had limited contact with lots of people. I think you’ll find very few people who will say, ‘Sure, he came to my house for Thanksgiving.’”
In retrospect, Bryant said, the fact that Rogers always surrounded himself with boys could have been a clue — if the thought hadn’t been so preposterous.
“We thought that it was him and he cared for kids,” he said.
Watkins said she and her friends who had Rogers for a teacher at McCaw never noticed anything out of the ordinary or inappropriate.
“We would have spoken among ourselves,” she said. “We wouldn’t have stood behind him when he was sick. If he was, it wasn’t with his students, from talking with students who had him.”
That disconnect does not surprise Professor Scott Senjo of Weber State University’s Department of Criminal Justice.
“A pedophile is a master at being able to divide his or her life into various compartments,” he said. “Those two compartments will never mix, because a pedophile is so bright, he or she knows not to mix the two.”
Those who knew Rogers now say they find themselves looking back at his behavior.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Did we miss something? Was there some hint we missed?’” Miller said.
As details emerge, some are struggling to square the allegations about Rogers with the man they thought they knew for so many years.
“Now that everything’s coming out, it’s reality,” Bryant said. “It can’t seem real, but it is.”
Watkins said it’s difficult to read the news accounts, but she feels compelled to. “It goes to show you don’t know a person as well as you thought you did,” she said.