Rothenberg Reportedly in Bay Area

January 27, 1990|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A newspaper said that Charles Rothenberg, who severely disfigured his 6-year-old son by setting him on fire seven years ago, may be in the San Francisco Bay Area, but a state Department of Corrections spokesman refused to confirm or deny the the report.

The report about Rothenberg came in today's editions of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The newspaper said a law enforcement source said that Rothenberg will be or already has been taken to Oakland.

"We are not disclosing his location," Mike Van Winkle, the department spokesman, told the paper. "The local police are informed, but it is our policy not to say publicly where any parolee is."

Van Winkle said the department did not want the Rothenberg case to "turn into another circus like the Singleton case because of the media."

He referred to Larry Singleton, who raped a teen-age girl and left her for dead after hacking off her forearms with an ax. He was driven from Northern California communities by an outraged public and eventually served out his one year on parole in a trailer at San Quentin Prison.

Rothenberg, 49, was released on a three-year parole from the California Men's Colony in San Luis Obispo Wednesday after serving 6 1/2 years following the bungled murder-suicide attempt.

His son, David, now 13, lives in Buena Park with his mother, Marie Hafdahl, and her new husband, Police Lt. Richard Hafdahl, who handled the criminal investigation of the case.

The son told a news conference Wednesday that he wished his father could be jailed for life. The boy said he would never forgive him and would fear him "as long as I live."

The father poured kerosene around the bed where the boy slept in a motel, lit a match and left.

Alameda County Supervisor Don Perata said he received reports on Friday that Rothenberg was or soon would be in Oakland.

"From a number of inquiries I have made, I think it is likely Rothenberg's intended location is Oakland or Alameda County and I think it is outrageous," Perata said.

"I find it curious that people tried and convicted of heinous crimes like this never end up in Beverly Hills or the suburbs of San Diego, but they do end up in Oakland, Hayward or Martinez. I think we as a community need to do more research on this and mount the necessary protest."

Van Winkle said "not disclosing a parolee's location gives them a better chance of success."

The nation was outraged by the crime and ABC-TV produced a 1988 movie called "David," starring Bernadette Peters and John Glover.

If convicted today, Charles Rothenberg would be imprisoned for life. But determinate sentencing laws in place at the time forced the state to release him.

He set fire to the boy after an argument with his ex-wife. "If I can't have him, nobody else can," Rothenberg was quote as saying..

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