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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
September 29, 2006

Date robbers

Men seeking Internet hookups are finding baseball bats instead

by Eric Resnick

Columbus--After working through the night, Mark was looking forward to stopping by the home of a man he had met online.

He had not met �bitchboi0241� in person yet, but he had been chatting with him on for three months and he�d made a date with him on the phone to go out for breakfast.

But when Mark arrived at the South Ohio Avenue house shortly after 6 am on August 20, his date didn�t come outside and get in his truck as planned. Instead, he came to the door wearing shorts and a T-shirt, but no shoes, and told Mark he wasn�t ready yet.

Then he asked Mark in, shut the door, picked up a baseball bat and said, �Give me your fucking money.�

Mark--he asked that his last name not be used--had just become the latest man to fall victim to a group of robbers that are using online personal ads to meet their victims.

Columbus police have arrested his date, Bryan Tazwell Roe, age 32--not 22 as his online profile said--and he is currently in the Franklin County jail, charged with aggravated robbery and felonious assault. His trial is October 4, but other victims say that there are more men doing the same thing.

Mark is the first victim to create an audio recording of the incident.

After Roe demanded his money, Mark reached into his pocket and told Roe he wasn�t carrying any. But he kept his hand in his pocket and dialed 911 on his cell phone, putting it on speaker. The 911 operator heard Mark say where they were located and that he was being held up with a bat.

Police were dispatched. Before they arrived, the 911 system recorded Roe insisting that Mark give up his wallet, and the fight that took place when Roe grabbed for it.

Roe hit Mark in the left ear with the bat, and Mark punched Roe. Police caught Roe running outside with Mark�s credit card.

Before he was arrested, Roe told police that Mark was an intruder.

Former officer is among the victims

Four days earlier, police received a letter detailing a similar incident at the same address from another victim--this one a former police officer and current security industry professional.

The letter, sent anonymously, is very detailed, including phone numbers and descriptions of property and people.

It tells police of Chris Vickers� August 1 incident at the same house, after chatting with the same profile, though Vickers says his assailant was not Roe.

Vickers did not file a police report because he fears it could be used against him in an employment discrimination lawsuit he has against Fairfield General Medical Center in Lancaster, where he worked as an officer. That suit is currently on appeal to the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati.

Vickers says the letter, though unsigned, contains the details needed for police to begin surveillance of the house or to check it out by posing as a trick.

Vickers said he also feared for the safety of officers as well, and included a warning in the letter that he believes the assailant is extremely dangerous and would kill for money. He is also certain that his attacker was on drugs, and possibly robbing men to feed his habit.

Vickers thinks his assailant�s name is �Zack.� He said he was threatened with the bat, but was able to escape by convincing his attacker that he had money in his truck.

Mark and Vickers connected with each other later through mutual friends who put their stories together and introduced them.

Vickers expects to testify for the prosecution at Roe�s trial. He believes that Mark would not have been attacked had police acted sooner on his letter.

Phone and profile are still online

Columbus police spokesperson Betty Schwab said police did not respond to Vickers� letter because it is not a police report and they did not consider him a victim.

�Police respond to tips like that all the time,� said Vickers, listing several examples.

Vickers has also been investigating on his own and says he thinks there are two more men operating out of the South Ohio Avenue house, because of conversations in gay chat rooms and because the phone number and on-line profile are still active, and have been active since Roe went to jail.

Mark and Vickers both say they have seen �bitchboi0241� online after Roe was jailed, as recently as two weeks ago.

Other victims have posted warnings on other websites.

Craigslist�s Columbus site carried a message on September 25 describing an incident that could be Mark�s, at the same South Ohio Avenue house.

That posting has since been removed, but it warned readers not to meet anyone with the e-mail address �,� which is not the address used by Roe, according to Vickers and Mark.

This reporter responded to that email address with a fictitious profile and got a response almost immediately, asking to hook up for sex.

A fourth man, who asked not to be named, says he knows Roe and Zack and thinks that Zack is �up to his old tricks,� including calling him and asking for money.

Schwab says no other police reports have been filed on the South Ohio Avenue address or on Roe, �but that picture [Roe] posted is meant to attract men who like young ones, so we understand that people are not likely to come forward or file reports.�

Schwab said the investigation is still being conducted by detectives in the robbery and vice units.�

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