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Local crime gets national-television attention

The Dakota County Sheriff's Department hopes an appearance on national television will inject some new life into an old investigation. They're looking for a man responsible for a kidnapping in Empire Township and a bank robbery in Apple Valley.

And now they've got America on the case.

In September of 2007 a man posing as a police officer kidnapped Janet Erickson and her grandson from an Empire Township home and used them as leverage to get the Erickson's daughter Janet Hatch -- the boy's mother -- to withdraw money from the TCF Bank branch where she worked. He told the woman to drop the money behind Schmitz-Maki Arena in Farmington, then dropped his two captives at the Farmington Kindergarten Center, triggering a lockdown there.

Dakota County investigator Jim Rogers spent months tracking down leads. There were several at first. The man was a little over six feet tall. He was balding and had close-cropped hair. He suggested he was once a Marine and Rogers had a recording of the man's voice from a previous call he'd placed to the bank, claiming there was a bomb there.

None of the leads led Rogers to a suspect, though, and eventually they dried up.

That's around the time Rogers sent an e-mail to America's Most Wanted. Rogers wanted to get the case out in front of the public, and he figured that was the best way to do it.

"I just really felt it was a solvable case," said Rogers, who said he still pulls the case out every once in a while or asks someone else to look at it. "It's not like the crime of the century. Nobody was killed or anything. I was just looking for different options how to get the information out there."

Rogers exchanged a few e-mails with the show's producers. He sent information about the case. And in early 2008 an America's Most Wanted crew came to town to conduct interviews.

America's Most Wanted producer Evan Marshall said the local case had some interesting elements.

"Anytime someone tells you you can successfully rob a bank without ever having walked inside a bank, it's a compelling story," Marshall said. "This was a well planned out case.

"The other thing was kind of what he put this family through.... The bank manager was basically fighting for her mother, her son's life."

Those interviews were the last Rogers heard of it until last week, when producers called to let him know the segment would air Saturday. The show flew Rogers to Washington, D.C., over the weekend to work in a phone bank Saturday with other detectives whose cases were featured on that night's show.

The show included interviews with Rogers and with Hatch and Erickson.

Rogers said about 20 tips came in immediately after the show aired, though only three or four were worth following up on.

It's not a lot, but Rogers said he's happy to have new information to work with.

"It's a case that really affected the family," he said. "They're a nice family. You'd like to see it solved for them. It's hard to believe this guy has not done it before or since then."

Rogers wants to make sure he doesn't do it again. And he's hoping a little national exposure will make that possible.

If you'd like to see video from the America's Most Wanted segment or hear a clip of the suspect's voice you can visit