Locals Question Rationale For Locating Sex Offender In 29 Palms

In Twentynine Palms there is concern about the anticipated release of a convicted sex offender into the community.
San Bernardino County officials have been notified that Lawtis Donald Rhoden, who has at least four convictions for sex crimes involving minor victims, has been consigned by the Orange County Superior Court to reside in Twentynine Palms.
Rhoden’s criminal record extends back more than 50 years.
Rhoden, now 71, has committed multiple rapes of children. In Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1969, he lured a 13-year-old victim to his apartment and raped her on three separate occasions. Rhoden was convicted through a plea agreement of one felony relating to lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 years. He was sentenced to 14 months in a state mental hospital and 12 years in state prison. Rhoden was treated, apparently unsuccessfully, in the state mental hospital for his inability to control his sexual urges toward young girls.
After serving his prison sentence, he was paroled.
While on parole, Rhoden sexually assaulted four children in two states. Rhoden was convicted of rape by force, forceful sexual penetration, sexual battery, and two counts of forcible rape stemming from crimes he committed in Orange County and Los Angeles County in April and June 1984. These sexual assaults were committed in three separate incidents against two 14-year-old girls and one 17-year-old girl. While those crimes were under investigation, Rhoden went to Nashville, Tennessee where he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in December 1984 and was subsequently convicted of rape and use of a minor for obscene purposes. In all four instances of sexual assault, Rhoden held himself out as a photographer and, in an effort to lure in his victims, offered them modeling photoshoots.
Rhoden drove up to each of his three sexual assault victims in Orange County and Los Angeles County while they were on foot when attempting to entice them into his car.
The State of Tennessee sentenced Rhoden to 20 years in state prison, the Orange County Superior Court sentenced him to 12 years in state prison, and the Los Angeles County Superior Court sentenced him to six years in state prison.
From March of 1983 until his arrest in Tennessee, Rhoden also defrauded people in California, Florida and Texas of approximately $440,000. Rhoden’s grift involved inserting personal ads in newspapers, creating a relationship with women answering the ads, holding himself out as an investment broker or lawyer, and convincing the women as well as their friends to provide him with large sums of money to invest.
Rhoden was released from state prison in 2004 and detained in the Orange County jail based on a sexually violent predator petition filed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. He was later found by an Orange County jury to be a sexually violent predator under the state Welfare & Institutions Code and committed to the Department of State Hospitals for treatment.
On October 25, 2019, the Orange County Superior Court ordered Rhoden released into the community under the supervision of Liberty Healthcare.
On February 5, 2021, the Orange County Superior Court found “extraordinary circumstances” existed to authorize relocating Rhoden outside of Orange County.
On March 12, 2021, the Orange County Superior Court tentatively ordered Rhoden to live at a residence in Twentynine Palms.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson has assigned deputy district attorneys from his office’s sexually violent predator unit to appear before the Orange County Superior Court on April 16 and oppose Rhoden’s release into San Bernardino County.

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