LANCASTER (CBSLA) – Elected officials are speaking out against a judge’s decision to allow a sexually violent predator to reside in the Antelope Valley.
Lawtis Rhoden, 72, was either convicted or pleaded guilty to multiple child rapes and other sexual assaults in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino counties and Nashville, Tennessee, beginning in 1969.
He was committed to California’s Department of State Hospitals after spending nearly 20 years in state prison. The Orange County Superior Court found him suitable for supervised release in 2019, setting off a long process in which officials worked to find a location for him to reside amid predictable opposition from residents and politicians.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Megan Wagner ruled Friday that Rhoden will be placed in the Antelope Valley under supervised release.
“With this ruling, Judge Wagner has made a decision that blatantly dismissed the concerns voiced by the community. I am frustrated and feel the concerns of my constituents fell on deaf ears,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Friday.
“It’s no secret — the Antelope Valley is being targeted for placements of sexually violent predators due to its rural nature. The current geography meets the legal requirements. But, children and families are the ones who will bear the true burden of the court’s decisions,” Barger continued. “This community deserves to feel safe and secure in their homes and in their neighborhoods. I am still hopeful that this decision will be reversed through the efforts of our county’s district attorney, who plans to file an appeal of this decision.”
State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said Lancaster has 426 registered sex offenders, or one for every 373 residents, which he called unfair for its residents.
“Today’s ruling is appalling and a slap in the face to the hard-working families living in the Antelope Valley who shared their concerns with the court. This is the second sexually violent predator to be foisted upon the families in my district in the last few months — a dangerous trend that completely disregards the concerns and safety of the community,” Wilk said.
“The continued placement of sexually violent predators like Rhoden in this one area of LA County is absolutely wrong and so unfair to the families in this working-class family-oriented community.”
Rhoden will be under the care of the state-funded company Liberty Healthcare once he is released.