The Orange County Superior Court on May 27 reversed a March 12, 2021 relocation order that would have placed Lawtis Rhoden, a five-time convicted sex offender with a fixation on girls and young women, to Twentynine Palms.
Available information did not specify which judge or judges made the respective March 12 and May 27 rulings. The March 12 assignation of Rhoden, now 71, to Twentynine Palms was made despite his having no previous known connection with San Bernardino County.
His sex crimes span five decades. In 1969 in Cocoa Beach, Florida he lured a 13-year-old victim to his apartment and raped her on three separate occasions. For that he was convicted and sentenced to 14 months in a state mental hospital and 12 years in state prison. After his parole, Rhoden sexually assaulted four children in two states, including 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. Those involved 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. 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 older women in California, Florida and Texas of approximately $440,000. After his 2004 prison release, Rhoden was detained in the Orange County jail based on a sexually violent predator petition filed by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, and was found by an Orange County jury to be a sexually violent predator, which led to his commitment 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. That led to the order for his placement in Twentynine Palms.
San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson assigned deputy district attorneys Dan Ross and Maureen O’Connell to oppose, after the fact, the Orange County Superior Court’s March 12 order. Ross’s and O’Connell’s filings and arguments led to yesterday’s outcome.
“It’s been a very long and uphill battle,” said O’Connell. “One of the underlying objectives as a prosecutor is to protect our community and to advocate for our victims. This case did just that.”