EL MIRAGE, Ariz., Jan. 31 — To neighbors, Casey Price was a seventh grader with acne and a baseball cap who lived an unremarkable life among a bevy of male relatives.
He built the occasional skateboard ramp and did wheelies on his bicycle down the streets of this subdivision of stucco homes north of Phoenix.
In nearby Surprise, where Casey was enrolled as a 12-year-old in a public school for four months, he was regarded as a shy, average student with chronic attendance problems. A man identified as his uncle had registered him, attended curriculum night and e-mailed his teachers about homework assignments.
Now Casey is in jail, and his former neighbors and classmates have learned the unthinkable: Not only is Casey not Casey — his real name is Neil H. Rodreick II — but he is also a 29-year-old convicted sex offender who kept a youthful appearance with the aid of razors and makeup.
And the men known as his uncle, grandfather and cousin, who until recently shared a three-bedroom house with him here, were not family at all, but a web of convicted sex offenders and predators, law enforcement officials say, preying in part on one another.
A retracing of Mr. Rodreick’s tracks over the past several years shows that he is under investigation in three states. The authorities in four jurisdictions say he repeatedly failed to register as a sex offender, housed a large cache of child pornography in his computer and, based on videos found by the police, had sex with at least one boy.
“Obviously there are a lot of emotions to work through,” said Mindy Newlin, the mother of a kindergartener at Imagine Charter School, the school in Surprise where Mr. Rodreick posed as Casey. “We are just shocked.”
Robin Kaiser’s daughter Kaitlin shared a class with “Casey,” but he failed to make an impression, Ms. Kaiser said. “She remembers him, that he was quiet and sat in the back of the classroom,” she said. “She said he looked like he had been held back.” ...
Mr. Rodreick spent seven years in prison in Oklahoma for making lewd and indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys. After being released in 2002, law enforcement officials said, he was able to convince Lonnie Stiffler, 61, and Robert J. Snow, 43, who had been trolling the Internet for boys, that he was a minor. ...
Mr. Rodreick continued the charade as a minor for nearly two years, the authorities said, registering at four charter schools in Arizona, until this month, when school administrators in Chino Valley called the sheriff.
The police and school officials in each location where “Casey” enrolled said they knew of no children harmed, although the indictment against Mr. Rodreick includes an assault count. The authorities are trying to determine, with the help of videos confiscated from the men, if there were victims in the schools.
“With boys it is a really tough deal,” said Lt. Van Gillock of the Police Department in El Reno, Okla., where Mr. Rodreick is believed to have posed as a 12-year-old to ingratiate himself with boys at church. “If they did it voluntarily, they have the stigma of homosexuality, and if it is forced, well, boys are supposed to be tough and the things the boys have on them gives them an embarrassment factor.”
Though many parents have publicly praised the Surprise school’s handling of the deception, Mr. Rodreick’s enrollment has raised questions about admissions procedures, which officials at Imagine, one of the state’s largest charter schools, said they were reviewing. Arizona, the nation’s fastest-growing state, is a leader in charter school enrollment, with more than 450 schools that account for 8 percent of the state’s total student body.
“He probably thought that a charter school was easier,” said Candace Foth, another parent in Surprise. “It is not really difficult to enroll.” ...
He was 18 in 1996 when the authorities in Chickasha, Okla., charged him with making lewd and indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and released after serving 7. ...
Mr. Rodreick next made his way to Kingfisher County in Oklahoma, where, according to the sheriff, Dennis Banther, he registered as a sex offender. Soon, he was joined in his mobile home in a secluded area by Mr. Nellis, who had served three years in prison after a conviction for lewd molestation, Sheriff Banther said. The two gravitated among fast-food restaurant jobs, the sheriff said, and were seen at a school playground, a library and parks. ...
While looking for Mr. Rodreick, Lieutenant Gillock stumbled upon his new life. He learned he had been posing as a 12-year-old named Casey and befriending families at a local church. He had spent the night with at least one boy, the lieutenant said, and traveled to the Grand Canyon, with Mr. Nellis in tow as his uncle, with another boy. ...
When Mr. Rodreick arrived in Arizona, he is believed to have first enrolled at the Shelby School in Peyson, where administrators say he attended under the name of Casy Rodreick for 21 days in 2005.
The next stop was Surprise, where the same “uncle” played the role of enroller again, presenting Mr. Rodreick as a 12-year-old. His concocted name, Casey Price, was that of a child in Oklahoma, the authorities there said.
“He absolutely looked age-appropriate,” said Rhonda Cagle, a spokeswoman for Imagine Charter School, of Mr. Rodreick, who is listed on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Web site as 5 feet 8 inches tall and 120 pounds. “We have several seventh-grade students who are taller and of a larger build than this individual.”
Ms. Cagle said he was quiet and participated in no after school activities, eventually being expelled by school officials for poor attendance.
“He took all of the subjects our students take — math, social studies,” she said. “By all accounts from the teachers, he was fairly quiet and withdrawn. He turned in homework, certainly didn’t come off as brilliant or as someone needing extra help.”
After another effort to enroll in a school in Prescott Valley, the police say, Mr. Rodreick headed a bit north, to the Mingus Springs Charter School in Chino Valley, and this time, his “grandfather,” Mr. Stiffler, took him to enroll on Jan. 16 toward the end of the day.
But administrators and staff members quickly grew suspicious, said Dawn Gonzales, the school director.
“The person posing as the child obviously looked older than 12,” Ms. Gonzales said, although he was allowed to start class while they looked over his paperwork. Things were not right, there, either. Some records had Casey, others Casy. Different birth dates emerged.
The next day came, and so did Casey. “He did have the demeanor of a kid,” Ms. Gonzales said. “He played that part very well. He appeared to be very shy. He kept his head down and spoke softly.”
It wasn’t working. “Every adult that encountered him said something here is not right,” she said. “He just looked older. They kept saying, ‘Are you sure he is 12?’ ”
When information on his enrollment forms turned out to be fiction, school officials, believing they had an abducted older child on their hands, called the Yavapai sheriff’s office.
“In my wildest imagination I could not have dreamt up,” what was discovered, Ms. Gonzales said.
The authorities said Mr. Stiffler and Mr. Snow were shocked, too, and angry about being duped by an adult posing as a minor.
Ms. Cagle said her school in Surprise learned about their “Casey” on the evening news. “Needless to say, our staff is devastated,” she said. “This individual violated a sense of community that we all share. This is something that is bigger than our school. It affects the way we live and the way we look at each other.”
February 01, 2007
Surprise and Imagine, indeed
From today's New York Times, "Posing as a Family, Sex Offenders Stun a Town" (as usual, all italics and bold mine, all mine):