WASHINGTON — An Orange County judge rejected the relocation order of sexually violent predator Lawtis Rhoden to Twentynine Palms on Thursday, May 27, in a major victory for the Twentynine Palms Community. U.S. Congressman Jay Obernolte (R-Hesperia) and several other local officials testified in a court hearing on Friday, May 22 against the tentative relocation order.
“I am delighted that Orange County’s judicial system make the right decision on this case. The entire Twentynine Palms community spoke with one voice in declaring that our community should not be a dumping ground for other county’s sexually violent predators. I look forward to continuing to fight alongside Twentynine Palms and all of the small and rural communities in California’s 8th District to ensure that justice is done and that our voices are heard,” said Rep. Obernolte.
In March, the Orange County Superior Court tentatively ordered the relocation of sexually violent predator Lawtis Rhoden to Twentynine Palms. Rhoden has no ties to San Bernardino County and had previously been convicted of crimes in Orange County and Los Angeles County, among others. He has served multiple prison sentences for convictions of child rape and has a long history of targeting children.
The placement of Rhoden into Twentynine Palms not only contradicted law that stated he should be placed in his most recent domicile of Orange County, but also posed significant problems for the unique community of Twentynine Palms, which is home to the largest Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in the United States. Numerous military families live in the area, including during service member’s deployments, while the proximity to Joshua Tree National Park draws over three million visitors annually. The proposed residential neighborhood for the placement was in close proximity to school bus and transit routes, feet away from a children’s play area, and across the street from the home of a thirteen- and seventeen-year old girl, both of whom are the same age as Rhoden’s prior victims.