HARTFORD, Conn. – A jogger who saved a suicidal teenager from drowning herself in a Connecticut lake was a convicted child molester on the lam from Georgia for six years, police said Wednesday.
Michael Rogers, 49, said shortly after the rescue that he could not bear to walk away and have the girl’s death on his conscience, and Hamden police said an officer involved in the rescue might have died without his help, too.
Rogers was being held without bond in Connecticut on Wednesday, one day after he was arrested at his sister’s Hamden home on a charge of being a fugitive from justice, police said. Georgia authorities said they planned to seek his extradition.
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Police say Rogers was convicted in 2001 of four counts of child molestation in Georgia, but left the state in 2005 against terms of his probation and had been sought since then. Details were not immediately available Wednesday about the Georgia crime or the jurisdiction in which it occurred.
Police in Hamden said they first encountered Rogers on Sept. 2 when he pulled the despondent, struggling 16-year-old from a murky lake and rescued a police officer who got stuck in deep muck during the rescue.
Rogers, who identified himself to police as Michael Patrick, told the New Haven Register afterward that he was jogging when he was flagged down by a crying staff member from a child therapy center who was beseeching the teenager to come back from the lake.
He told the newspaper that he scaled the fence around the lake and tried to keep her from going in, restraining her for more than five minutes until a Hamden officer arrived and jumped in the deep muck to join the struggle.
Patrick said it was an emotional encounter for everyone, and that the girl was begging him to let her go so she could die. At one point, police said, Rogers rescued the officer when that man became submerged so deep in the muck that he could not pull himself out.
Rogers eventually carried the 16-year-old to shore, where firefighters had arrived and cut a hole in the high fence to help the exhausted trio. The teenager was taken to a hospital and the officer was sent home for the day to tend to bruises and scrapes.
“If I walked away it would be on my conscience. I just couldn’t walk away from that,” Rogers told the Register, describing himself as an unemployed security sales consultant from Manhattan who was between jobs and spending time with his sister, a Hamden resident.
The grateful officer visited Rogers at his sister’s home to thank him afterward, and police said he was instrumental in saving the girl’s life — and, potentially, that of the officer, who is married with children.
Police learned his true identity on Nov. 23, but did not disclose Wednesday how they received the information.
A message was left Wednesday for a public defender assigned to Rogers’ case.
Information wasn’t available on when he might be returned to Georgia to face the charge of violating his probation.