I was appalled, yet somehow not completely surprised when I read the article Arrested Development from the Phoenix New Times online. In this article, a 29 year-old man was found to be posing as a 7th grader, enrolled at a small junior high school just north of Prescott, AZ. He had been attending the school for almost 2 months before anyone noticed that something was wrong. Teachers noticed his older appearance, but were not alarmed by it since he was using makeup, hats, and glasses to hide his face. Apparently, the school secretary was the first of several small schools across the country where the man had enrolled, to take a closer look at his paperwork. She noticed that there were two different birthdays listed for him on the documents, and that his birth certificate said he was born in Germany, yet it listed the weight/height in pounds and centimeters instead of using the European metric system. They began to suspect that he was a kidnapped child living under a false identity, and police went to the house to investigate.
They found the boy living in a trailer with two older convicted sex offenders, Lonnie Stiffler and Robert Snow, who were also convinced that “Casey” was a 12 year old boy. The story came out that they had met him on the internet and taken him into their custody because his parents had abandoned him. There was loads of child pornography in the house, and they had both been having sexual relations with “Casey”. Little did they know, they had been scammed by the 29 year old Neil Rodreick. Police Officer Diskin, who questioned the men, reported that “Stiffler did not appear embarrassed about having sex with a 12 year old, but he appeared ashamed that he had had sex with a 29 year old”. The motives for the scam were unclear, but the men had bought “Casey” presents such as a flat screen TV and video game system which were in his room. Police also found a video of Neil engaging in sexual acts with a young boy in a hotel room.
What would make a person want to pose as a 12 year old, going so far as to enroll in schools as a 7th grader? Steve August, Rodreick’s attorney, has some ideas. An aunt of Rodreick said that Neil was sexually abused as a child, and his mother died when he was 14. The lawyer suggests that Neil suffers from a mental disability that has not let him mentally progress past adolescence. Police did say that Neil acted very juvenile, looking down and not speaking directly, insisting that he was 12 years old and crying when he finally admitted he wasn’t. If Neil truly believed he was 12 years old, August suggests that he should be viewed as a victim who was coerced by the older men. They are using the Missouri case of the boy who some believe stayed with his abductor voluntarily, as grounds to save Neil from a life sentence. However, if Neil was able to admit that he was not actually 12, it does not seem that he will meet the criteria for any Dissociative Disorders, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder, although more information would be needed to determine if he suffers from Dependent Personality Disorder, or other disorders that could have made him act like a teen.
I think that many sex offenders who target children have some sort of developmental issues that keep them from identifying sexually with people their own age. This, however, should not excuse them from receiving full consequences for their crimes against children. I do not believe they should be treated inhumanely, but because evidence has not shown much success in rehabilitation in this area, these people should not be out in public where innocent children are likely to fall into their hands. I don’t have an answer for where they should be put. Prison is often not a safe place for this type of inmate, but a traditional mental facility may not be appropriate either. I think it is very difficult for most people to empathize with these types of criminals, but I have worked closely with several teenage sex offenders in my counseling experience, and it is hard to feel the same disgust a person might have for older offenders. Having known them well, and observing their developmental delays, it is easier to see what motivated them to commit these crimes against other children, yet still impossible to excuse.