North Carolina: Hayden Rogers Had Menendez Brother for College Suitemate

(Courtesy the Daily Princetonian)
(Courtesy the Daily Princetonian)
Posted March 8, 2012 at 4:00pm

Remember the case of Lyle and Erik Menendez, the brothers who murdered their parents with shotguns in cold blood? Congressional candidate Hayden Rogers (D) does.

Rogers, retiring Rep. Heath Shuler’s former chief of staff who is running to succeed his ex-boss in the Tar Heel State, lived in the same suite as Lyle Menendez for a time at Princeton University. Rogers worked for Menendez at a restaurant he bought after receiving money from his parents’ life insurance policy. And Rogers was in the car with Menendez the day Menendez was arrested in 1990.

Rogers was never implicated, implicitly or explicitly, in any wrongdoing. He served as chief operating officer of Mr. Buffalo’s, the New Jersey establishment Menendez bought after killing his mother and father, but before he was arrested for the infamous crime.

“He called me up and — I was working in construction — and he called me up and asked me if I would be interested in managing a restaurant he was looking at buying,” Rogers explained to Roll Call earlier this week. “I went up, talked about it, decided it was a good opportunity, so I went to work for him.”

Later, on a trip to seek out potential expansion opportunities for the restaurant business, Rogers and another associate were in the car with Menendez when he was arrested.

“We had actually gone out to California, he and I and another fella’, to, if I remember, looking for another location to potentially expand the restaurant somewhere near UCLA up there and that’s why we were there,” Rogers said. “It was a pretty unusual situation to find yourself in, but we were with him on our way to eat lunch when he got arrested.”

“It was quite dramatic: they hauled him off, hauled the jeep off and left us standing there in the road,” Rogers recalled.

A 1991 article in Playboy described the scene like this:

Lyle, in his brother’s tan jeep Wrangler, was driving down North Elm Drive and found a blue Ford Taurus blocking his path. Lyle backed up. As he did, he rammed the bumper of a van directly behind him. Shotgun-toting Beverly Hills cops wearing bulletproof vests jumped out yelling, “Get the fuck out of the car and lie down on the ground.”

The friends, Glenn Stevens and Hayden Rogers, were handcuffed and forced to lie face down in the street with guns at their heads. Lyle was handcuffed and read his rights.

He explained that he didn’t work at Mr. Buffalo’s for long after the arrest.

“I don’t really think Mr. Buffalo’s had a long tenure after that,” Rogers said. “And you got to keep in mind, [I] was 18 or 19 years old, I’m 41 now. I don’t recall having a long stand in the restaurant business after that. I think after he got arrested, I went home.”

Asked by Roll Call whether he thought his fleeting association with Menendez could become an issue during the campaign, Rogers, who was endorsed today by the conservative Blue Dog political action committee, said he had never made a secret of his college years. And he noted that it wasn’t by choice he was Menendez’s suitemate — Princeton placed the two of them and some other people together.

“It’s not something I’ve hidden,” he said of  the connection with Menendez. “People who have known me at home know about this story already.”

“I never testified at the trial. I wasn’t arrested or charged. I mean, you know, had this not been as high-profile of a situation,” Rogers said, “you and I wouldn’t be talking about it now.”

Photo used with permission of the Daily Princetonian. The full newspaper from March 10, 1990, the issue in which this photo was published, can be accessed here.