Police say Scott City man faked drowning

Friday, June 1, 2007
Charles Rothman

A Scott City man under investigation on child sex charges tried to mislead police by faking an apparent drowning and was tracked down in Poplar Bluff, Mo., when he used his ATM card, police said.

Charles E. Rothman, 65, was arrested Thursday by a plainclothes deputy for the Butler County Sheriff's Department, Scott City police chief Don Cobb said. Officers began tracking Rothman's movements after obtaining a subpoena that morning to monitor his cell phone use and ATM transactions.

Rothman faces nine felony counts of statutory rape and statutory sodomy of a 13-year-old girl, according to a sworn statement by Scott City police officer Gina Cook. The sexual abuse, according to court documents, took place between Feb. 25 and May 25.

Rothman is being held in the Scott County Jail on a $250,000 cash-only bond. No court date has been set.

The abuse investigation began Tuesday after Cook received a report from a Texas probation officer. One of the probation officer's clients is Rothman's son Bobby, who told the officer that his father was treating the girl "like his wife," Cook wrote in her probable-cause statement. Cook found the girl and took her for an exam at the Network Against Sexual Violence. Under questioning, the girl reported that she had numerous sexual encounters with Rothman.

Cobb said police believe Rothman was aware of the investigation before he disappeared. "We believe he was tipped off by one of the witnesses in the case," Cobb said.

The search for Rothman began after a boat registered in his name was found drifting in the Diversion Channel that separates Cape Gir?ardeau and Scott City. A driver on Highway 25 reported the drifting boat about 5 p.m. Wednesday, Missouri Department of Conservation agent D.J. Pettit said.

The search began in earnest by 6 p.m. Wednesday and resumed Thursday morning, Pettit said. The search emphasized trying to rescue a potential drowning victim.

Over the two days, rescue workers from the Missouri State Water Patrol, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the conservation agency, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department, the Scott City Police Department, the Cape Girardeau Sheriff's Department and the Scott County Sheriff's Department all responded to the scene.

The boat was drifting with the propeller in the water, the key in the "on" position and the throttle fully engaged, said Lt. David James of the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department.

Police became suspicious, Cobb said, after a close examination of the fishing equipment in the boat by Cape Girardeau County Sheriff John Jordan. "He didn't find any fish or bait in the boat, or any wet line," Cobb said. "I really feel for the water patrol guys. They had to stay even when we knew Rothman wasn't in the water."

The search at the Diversion Channel was called off shortly after noon, James said.

Once the identity of the boat owner was known, Cobb said the search continued as part of the police plan to arrest Rothman.

"We were almost certain he wasn't in the channel," Cobb said. "But when a suspect goes to ground, you have to play dumb so they won't know you're onto them and stop using their cell phone and ATM card."

Through the subpoena, police tracked Rothman through transactions and calls in Advance, Dexter and finally Poplar Bluff, Cobb said.

Southeast Missourian reporter Rudi Keller contributed to the report.

pwylie@semissourian.com,

335-6611, extension 127

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