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According to Rogers's narrative, the stepdaughter explained that the incident occurred the day after her 17th birthday: "She told me she had been out all night long because it was the night of her birthday. She stated that when she got home the next day at 4:00, her stepfather told the maid to leave and take the other children. She stated that he threw some notebook paper on the floor and told her to pick it up. She stated that she told him, 'No, if I pick it up, you are just going to hit me,' and he yelled 'pick it up.' [The girl] stated that she bent over to pick it up and her mother hit her, but she said her mother didn't hit her hard, and then her stepfather started hitting her. She stated that he hit her in the face with his fist, he kicked her in the side, in the stomach, and in the back. She said he threw her into the closet and kicked her while she was down. [The girl] stated that her mother was saying, 'That is enough, Gary, that is enough'...It is very obvious that [the girl] has been beaten by her stepfather. It is unknown the role her mother played in this." (Donna Hughes did not respond to requests for an interview.)
In a letter the girl wrote describing the abuse which is part of Rogers's report, she claimed that, after the beating, Ross "told me to take a shower, so I went to the shower and he told me I had five seconds to get my clothes off...so I got in the shower and Gary kept coming in and pulling the curtains away from me and he told me he was sorry and that he loved me."
Rogers stated in her report that she told the girl to see a doctor. The girl said she was making plans to stay with family out of state, and that she wanted to wait until she was out of Texas to see a doctor.
"She stated that her mother told her she could go and stay with her grandmother and father if she didn't tell anyone what had happened," Rogers wrote in the report.
Rogers states in her report that she took a male colleague to the girl's Sugar Land home for a late July interview with her parents, "as I had been informed by several of the neighbors that I should not go there alone, because the man was violent."
Rogers wrote that Ross wasn't home, but his wife Donna was, and she said nobody beat her daughter. Rogers spent the rest of July and most of August interviewing the girl's friends and family, as well as following up with the girl. She was able to interview everyone except Ross, who was now in St. Thomas.
Rogers's notes state that, on August 26, 1987, she received a call from Donna Ross: "She stated that Gary would not be coming back anytime soon, because he has a special project that looks real promising in St. Thomas." Donna Ross's main concern during the phone call was that, if it was found out that Ross had changed his last name, "he would not be able to get financing for the project."
In her findings, Rogers indicates that, at some point, Donna Ross corroborated her daughter's story: "Gary Ross is in the Virgin Islands, but physical abuse was verified by a written statement [from the girl] as well as verification from the mother. Mr. Ross has a quick temper and lacked physical and emotional control." It was a far cry from psychologist Richard Austin's 1980 evaluation of Ross as a guy who deserved hugs, not prison.
Apparently, Rogers's concern wasn't limited to Ross's stepdaughter. In September 1987, Ross's first wife sued to modify Ross's unsupervised visitation with their six-year-old daughter.
"I have reason to believe, and do believe, that he has been involved in abusive treatment of other children," she swore in an affidavit. "I derived this belief from my conference with Mable Rogers with Children's Protective Services, who has made an investigation of Gary."
The ex-wife also stated that Ross "is apparently moving his permanent address to the Pond Bay Club, St. John, Virgin Islands. He has taken my child out of this country during the 1987 summer visitation period. I fear, based on his past actions and involvement with drugs, the sale of drugs and other illegal activities, that his moving to the Virgin islands is to facilitate his continuation of these activities....I believe the foregoing history on the actions of Gary shows his complete disregard for the welfare of [his daughter] and that his unsupervised possession of and access to the child has a potential for bringing about immediate injurious harm."
While Rogers concluded that physical abuse was found in the case of Ross's stepdaughter, the case was closed because the perpetrator was not living in the continental United States and the victim no longer lived in Texas. Ross was free to embark on his most ambitious, lucrative plans to date.
In the early 1990s, Ross split his time between the Virgin Islands and Palm Beach, building a reputation as a colorful, resourceful real estate developer.
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