The resettlement of a convicted sexual predator is being fought in the high desert.
In Twentynine Palms, outrage has sparked over 71-year-old Lawtis Rhoden, a convicted violent serial child rapist who is said to be moving into the neighborhood.
Officials in San Bernardino County said the man has no ties to Twentynine Palms, did not commit his crimes there, was not jailed or treated there, but is expected to be released in the city.
“They’re trying to move him right across from me. So if he ever gets dragged into there, I wouldn’t be comfortable even if I left my house,” said Allysen Kipfer. She said it was too close to comfort it – she is only 17 years old. “Even if I check the mail, it’s right by his house, so I wouldn’t be comfortable doing any of it,” she said.
Kipfer is within Rhoden’s target age. He was convicted of raping five girls aged 13 to 17 more than 35 years ago. A Californian jury decided it was a sexually violent predator in 2004.
An emergency community meeting was held in Twentynine Palms on Thursday with senior San Bernardino County officials, including District Attorney Jason Anderson.
“The problem is why the risk must be in this community if he has not committed any crimes in this community and has no contact or connection in this community,” Anderson said.
The house Rhoden is to move into is at 2626 Lupine Lane. It’s eligible property as there are no schools or parks within a quarter mile, but county officials are concerned about a kid’s swing next door that is within sight of a sliding glass door on the house.
Now the battle is on the Rhoden keep in Los Angeles or Orange after an OK court clears his move to another location.
“It is a risk for me to be a potential victim of his,” said Kipfer. “If I went outside, he could grab me at any moment.”
The high desert has been through this before. San Bernardino County officials won the battle against a sex offender who was relocated to Joshua Tree.
They said Thursday that it was the little details that made the difference in this case – and now they are urging residents to write letters to a judge ahead of an April 16 court hearing.