LANCASTER — Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Wednesday urged community members to voice their concerns with the Orange County Superior Court following news of the potential placement of sexually violent predator Lawtis Donald Rhoden in the Antelope Valley.
Rhoden, now 72, committed several violent acts of sexual assault and rape against children in various states and counties, according to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, which successfully fought Rhoden’s proposed placement in Twentynine Palms this past May, along with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and members of the Twentynine Palms community.
“Enough is enough,” Barger said in a statement. “This is becoming an issue of equity and we cannot allow the north county to be a recurrent location for violent criminals who have no nexus or connection to the area.”
Rhoden’s proposed placement at 48040 25th St. East, in unincorporated Los Angeles County east of Lancaster, would be the second placement of a sexually violent predator in the Antelope Valley following the release of sexually violent predator Calvin Grassmier, who was recently placed in the Sun Village/Littlerock area.
The state of Florida in 1969 sentenced Rhoden to 14 months in a mental hospital and 12 years in state prison after Rhoden was convicted of one felony sex offense involving a child under the age of 14 years. While on parole from Florida, Rhoden sexually assaulted three children in California, according to the Los County District Attorney’s office.
While the California crimes were under investigation, Rhoden went to Nashville, Tennessee, where he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in December 1984 and was convicted in October 1985 by a jury of rape and use of a minor for obscene purposes. Tennessee sentenced Rhoden to 20 years in state prison.
Rhoden was subsequently extradited to California for prosecution. He was first prosecuted in Orange County for a sexual assault he committed against a 17-year-old on June 2, 1984, in the city of Anaheim, according to the LA County District Attorney’s office.
Rhoden was convicted by an Orange County jury of rape by force, forceful sexual penetration, and sexual battery in March 1988. The Orange County Superior Court sentenced him to 17 years in state prison (later reduced to 12 years on appeal).
Following prosecution in Orange County, Rhoden was transferred to Los Angeles County. There, he was prosecuted for sexual assaults he committed against two 14-year-olds on April 24, 1984, and June 18, 1984, in the city of Bellflower and another area of Los Angeles County, respectively, according to the LA County District Attorney’s office.
On May 20, 1988, Rhoden pled guilty to two counts of forcible rape in Los Angeles County Superior Court and was sentenced to six years in state prison, consecutive to his state prison sentence from Orange County.
In July 2013, an Orange County jury found Rhoden to be a sexually violent predator under the state Welfare & Institutions Code. Rhoden was then committed to the Department of State Hospitals for treatment.
In October 2019, Orange County Superior Court Judge Megan L. Wagner, ordered the conditional release of Rhoden into the community under the supervision of Liberty Healthcare. This past February the Orange County Superior Court found “extraordinary circumstances” existed to authorize relocating Rhoden outside of Orange County, according to the LA County District Attorney’s office.
On Sept. 28, the California Department of State Hospitals notified the LA County District Attorney’s office of Rhoden’s recommended placement at the Lancaster address.
“Rhoden is a sexually violent predator who has committed heinous crimes against women and girls across multiple regions over the past 50 years,” Barger said.
Barger added the Orange County Superior Court determined Orange County as Rhoden’s official “place of domicile,” and in 2019 ruled that he can be conditionally released to the community.
“Any proposed placements suggested by CONREP, the state contractor responsible for identifying possible locations, should be within Orange County,” Barger said. “I find it hard to believe that none have been found, forcing the search to extend to Los Angeles and other surrounding counties.”
Barger implored the community to voice their concerns with the Orange County Court in advance of Rhoden’s placement hearing, which is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., Nov. 5, at the Orange County Superior Court.
Virtual information: https://occourts.webex.com/meet/n10
Meeting number: 781 111 242
By phone: 650-215-5528 United States Toll
Concerns and comments should be sent before Oct. 19 to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which is compiling all submissions to share with the court, counsel for Rhoden, and the Department of State Hospitals.
To comment via email use Rhoden.Comments@da.lacounty.gov
Or sends comments via mail to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Attn: Jay S. Grobeson, Deputy District Attorney, 9425 Penfield Ave., No. 3210, Chatsworth, CA 91311.