A former babysitter — hired from the world’s largest online family care platform, Care.com, and charged with two counts of sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy she cared for — was sentenced to five years for each count on Tuesday.
The defendant, 28-year-old Zoya Grace Rogers, was also sentenced to 18 months in state jail for abandoning and endangering the teen’s 10-year-old autistic sibling, whom she left home alone while taking the teen on a joy ride to a Longview strip club.
Rogers, who is also a former Court Appointed Special Advocate for CPS cases and past child director for Rahab’s Retreat in Kilgore, pleaded guilty to all three charges before 71st District Judge Brad Morin, who assessed her punishment. The sentences will run concurrently. In addition to jail time, Morin also ordered Rogers to register as a sex offender for life.
“It’s a scary thought,” Morin said of Rogers’ actions, noting that it particularly concerns him since she wants to work with children and was also pursuing a degree in child psychology.
According to her indictment, the sexual assault incidents occurred on June 16, 2018, with a child younger than age 17.
The indictment goes on to say that on June 15, while the defendant had custody, care or control of another child who was younger than age 15, she intentionally abandoned the child in a place under circumstances that exposed the child to an unreasonable risk of harm.
“The defendant was aware that (the child) was autistic and left him alone and sleep at home for several hours, and the defendant did not voluntarily deliver the child to a designated emergency infant care provider under Section 262.302 of the Texas Family Code,” the indictment states.
During Tuesday’s open plea and sentencing hearing, Judge Morin noted that while he didn’t see any evidence of coercion or threats made on behalf of the defendant, the judge said the fact that the teen victim is in counseling shows that Rogers’ actions impacted him.
“This is a scary situation that you want to deal with children,” Morin told Rogers.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the victims’ mother took the stand, detailing her sons’ personalities.
Getting emotional, she described the teen victim as a loving, caring, compassionate and innocent child, who works hard in school and loves his family. She shared that her younger son has low functioning autism and is non-verbal.
“He’s very dependent on us; he requires constant supervision,” the mother said.
Because he needs constant supervision, she said she hired the defendant to help watch him.
The mother shared that she thought she found a perfect fit in Rogers.
“She talked about her skill set; she talked how she was in CASA and came to court,” the mother recalled.
The mother said the fact that Rogers attended church and shared a mutual friend also made her an attractive candidate as well as the fact that they were from the same area. Overall, Rogers had passed her test.
“Everything went well,” the mother said. “I was pleased.”
She said all was well until they let her stay overnight with their children while they went out of town for Father’s Day weekend. Her oldest son had just turned 16.
“This is the first time my husband and I ever left our family and this is what we came home to,” the mother said.
The mother said she learned of the incident that July through a relative who was told by Rogers’ roommate, who found out through Rogers’ friend. The friend had witnessed the sexual assault.
The mother noted that the revelation made her realize why her son was out of character — not wanting to stay alone with the babysitter anymore and even drinking one night.
“Now I know why. He didn’t know how to deal with being in a home where she is still present,” the mother said.
“He was ashamed, embarrassed, didn’t know what to do,” she said.
She said she was in court speaking on behalf of her son Tuesday because he’s still affected by the encounters.
“She needs to learn her lesson,” the mother said, expressing she wants the defendant to serve time. “She has no remorse — none whatsoever.”
Addressing the defendant, the mother shared how hurt she is that the sitter, whom they considered family, betrayed their trust, taking advantage of their teen son and leaving their autistic child home alone.
“He could’ve died. I can’t believe you left (him) overnight,” the mother said, expounding how Rogers knew that he was a runner and is on the level of a toddler.
Longview PD Detective Deborah Stiles, who investigates crimes against children, recalled how the sexual assault victim had a difficult time discussing the account during his interview at the Child Advocacy Center.
Stiles said the brothers’ sister, who wasn’t present at the time, noted the strange feeling she had towards the babysitter.
“She noticed Zoya would hang out in her brother’s room and she felt that was weird,” the investigator said. “She also noticed that her brother wanted to go with her and her mom a lot and didn’t want to stay home with Zoya”.
Stiles said she discovered more about the incident through her working relationship with Rahab’s Retreat, a facility in Kilgore that helps women escape the sex industry.
“I knew Darlene and Zoya had been involved in that place before,” Stiles said, noting Darlene was the witness to Zoya’s crimes.
After getting in touch with Darlene, Stiles learned that Darlene had visited Zoya the Father’s Day weekend the defendant was babysitting.
Darlene advised that she and Zoya had been drinking. She also noted Zoya’s flirtatious behavior towards the teen, and told the investigator that the defendant suggested that they danced for him. Instead, the three left the home, leaving the special needs child alone.
“Darlene wanted to go to a strip club that night. Zoya wanted to pick up some marijuana,” the officer said, noting they used the teen for directions to the strip club.
“They talked someone into letting (the teen) in the club while they danced,” Stiles said the investigation revealed. They left after 2 a.m.
The detective said Darlene saw Zoya continue to flirt with the victim when they returned.
“Darlene felt like Zoya wanted a three-some, but Darlene didn’t feel comfortable with it. She told Zoya a million times: ‘He’s too young and we don’t need to do this,’” Stiles said.
Stiles said Darlene said she retreated. When she walked back through, she noticed they were having intercourse.
Stiles said in her interrogation with Rogers, the defendant initially portrayed herself as the victim.
“At first, she said that he raped her,” Stiles said. “But when she talked about the sexual intercourse, she didn’t seem like she was mad about it.”
Stiles said cell phone records also show that Rogers wasn’t a victim.
“Zoya had texted Darlene and in her text she implied they had sex again the next morning,” Stiles said, noting the victim’s interview at the CAC corroborated the fact.
Cell phone records also showed a missed call from Rogers to the victim, following the sexual assault, and a second call between the two.
Stiles said a few days after the incident, on June 20, Rogers texted the victim that she was “so sorry about everything,” and promised that the sexual assault would not happen again. Stiles said she sent him another text, informing that she was staying at his mother’s that night and asked did she know about the incidents.
“He says, no, and she’s not gonna and she got to stop doing this,” Stiles said.
Stiles said a text sent from Zoya to a friend, also on June 15, noted that she asked him to engage in intercourse again, bragged about the encounter, and also stated that she hated herself. The detective also noted other explicit texts, including a revealing picture, that the defendant had sent the teen.
Stiles said Rogers also attempted to contact the victim several times after being terminated.
In her testimony, the defendant noted that she was born in Russia, became an orphan at a young age and was placed in an orphanage where she lived for seven years.
At some point, she was adopted and moved to Dallas. Later in life, she said she ended up at Rahab’s Retreat in Kilgore after seeking refuge at a church, following a short stint of drugs and prostitution.
Answering questions from her court-appointed attorney Craig Fletcher, Rogers, who has been incarcerated since her July 2018 arrest, said she’s had time to reflect on her poor choices.
“I know I made a rash decision being intoxicated,” she told the judge. “I know that decision was not smart and hurt a lot of people. I shouldn’t have left a child alone sleeping in bed. I shouldn’t have taken a 16-year-old with us nor done the following acts after.”
She said her actions hurt because she loves working with kids, particularly since she was a foster child, and realizes she won’t be able to anymore.
Answering questions from her attorney, Rogers agreed that the children in the case were victimized by her and that she must face the consequences.
She asked the judge to give her probation.
“I’m not that kind of person. I just made a mistake for being intoxicated,” Rogers said. “Please give me a chance to get back on my feet again … and contribute to society any way I can.”
Answering questions from Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood, Rogers said things just happened fast that night.
“It’s not like I planned it,” she said.
In his closing arguments, Fletcher, representing Rogers, admitted it was a hard one to represent.
“It’s tough to sit here, as a parent, and listen to (this) talk about what happened to one or more of her children,” the attorney said. “We are all very protective of our children.
“What I can say is my client, Ms. Rogers, hasn’t had the most pleasant life in the world. Is that an excuse? No,” he said.
Fletcher said Rogers seemed to love working with children, but made some stupid mistakes.
“Those stupid mistakes got her to where she is today,” he said.
He noted a couple of misdemeanor offenses in her past, but no felonies.
“She stood before you as a grown woman (saying) I made a mistake and am guilty as charged,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher asked the court to give her probation and the counseling she needs.
“Let her pay her debt to society, prove to (the court and society) that she can be a productive member,” Fletcher said. “She can’t do that if she’s locked up.”
In her closing arguments, Hood reminded that the defendant was hired to babysit and that the family entrusted her with their children.
“She came into their home,” said Hood. ‘She took advantage of them in the worst imaginable way.”
Hood argued that Rogers did, in fact, plan to have sex with the teen. She recounted testimony revealing that Rogers had intentionally gotten the younger child tired that day.
She further noted that she had paid the teen before to watch the younger sibling, but decided to take him out that night, abandoning the autistic child.
“That was not a (decision based) on an intoxicated night,” Hood contended. “She had sex with him the day after.
“This 16-year-old kid is telling this 28-year-old woman that ‘You got to stop this,’” Hood said. “It was like he was a prisoner in his own home,” she said.
Hood argued that Rogers’ friend witnessed her in the act, undressing the victim. Hood reflected on the vulgar text messages the woman sent the teen.
“She has had a hard life, yes, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior,” said Hood. “She’s a manipulator.”
Hood asked the judge to treat the case no different than if it was a female victim involved.
“The statute says children. Under the law, children under age 17 cannot consent,” said Hood. “It’s affected him, his family. It has had long effects.”
Hood further noted that all of this happened while the babysitter left the autistic child at home.
“So all this talk about wanting to help kids, look at her behavior … and how she treated a (special needs) kid,” said Hood.
“It’s up to you whether that defendant gets a pass or (not),” Hood told the judge. “Enforce a firm sentence and stand behind the law and enforce it.”
Sexual assault of a child is a second degree felony, which carries a punishment range of two to 20 years in prison. Abandoning/endangering a child with criminal negligence is a state jail felony with a punishment range of six months to two years confinement.