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Trouble Started Early in Life for Rape Suspect

Son of a soldier killed in Vietnam, the man held in Belmont Shore case was arrested several times as a teen.

November 20, 2002|Nancy Wride and Jose Cardenas | Times Staff Writers

The woman still lives in the same Belmont Shore house. She got a dog and an alarm system and has healed since that balmy summer night. Thirteen years ago, as her three children slumbered, a man pounced on her in her darkened bedroom. He wore only gray underwear.

"I talked him out of it, before he tried anything," the woman recalled last week. "I told him my kids could wake up, that my husband would be home soon."

"Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me, I have three little kids," she remembers telling him.

"He said, 'I won't hurt you. I'm just hungry.' "

Padding into her kitchen, the near-naked intruder held her wrists high behind her. She offered to cook something.

The man stared into the freezer, and a few minutes later, clutching frozen tortillas, sliced turkey and blue ice pops, walked out the back of her house.

Mark Wayne Rathbun, then 19, was arrested about an hour later, just down the street. A month later, he pleaded guilty to burglary and false imprisonment by violence. After 10 months, he was out of jail.

Today, Rathbun, 32, will be arraigned on 64 counts of burglary, forcible rape, rape with a foreign object, oral copulation and sodomy. The charges cover just some of the 31 attacks police attribute to a single man, widely referred to as the Belmont Shore rapist, because many of the attacks occurred in that area of Long Beach. Rathbun is being held in lieu of $11-million bail.

The crime against the Belmont Shore woman, who asked not to be identified because of her children, was possibly Act One. Although no sex crime occurred, the incident chillingly resembled the later attacks, in all of which the man was nude or in briefs.

The case indicates that Rathbun -- the son of a soldier killed in Vietnam and a deeply religious mother who supported them as a waitress in the Philippines and cafeteria cook in Long Beach -- was troubled early on.

At 15, he was arrested on suspicion of being a peeping Tom. Shortly after turning 18, he pleaded guilty to two charges of misdemeanor trespassing.

Five months later, he was arrested after he sneaked into a Belmont Shore house and took a beer. He pleaded guilty again to misdemeanor trespassing and spent a month in County Jail and a year on probation.

He was 19 when he leaped onto the Belmont Shore woman as she slept.

This from a man who, as a boy, had encouraged his mother to evangelize with a Catholic group called the Legion of Mary.

Rathbun's tale begins around 1967, when his mother, Alice Rathbun, now 75, met Joshua Godined while he was stationed at a naval base in the Philippines. She was a waitress at the base. They dated for a year or so, but never married, and in 1969 Godined was killed in an ambush at the Mekong River.

Mark was born Jan. 20, 1970. He was 5 when Alice told him about his father, about how he died. Mark's longing for a dad, she said, was a lifelong ache.

"He wanted to have a father," Alice Rathbun said, "and after that he always blamed me that he didn't have a father."

An Average Student

Alice raised Mark alone in the city of Olongapo. Mark learned English from American neighbor children, and a teacher thought Mark had leadership potential because of his English. But Mark was comfortable, she said, being an average student.

He would ditch school to surf in his teens, but even in grade school, Mark had cut classes.

"Sometimes when I'd say, 'How come you didn't go to school?' " Alice Rathbun said, "he says, 'If I had a father, he would spank me.' "

Alice had two sisters in Long Beach. When Mark was 14, she decided to move there. As a ninth-grader, Mark attended Rogers Middle School. In August 1985, a month before he started at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, police arrested him for the first time.

To boyhood friends, he was known as a peaceful guy with a big grin, a clean-cut guy who never expressed anger.

When the others partied using heavy drugs, Mark was the one who stayed clean. "We partied and we were up to no good," said Chris Van Mulligen, a boyhood friend. "Mark wasn't."

His junior yearbook photo is of a grinning Mark, age 17, in the white uniform of the junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. But before his senior year he dropped out. He eventually earned a diploma through adult school. He jumped from job to job -- bagging groceries, grooming dogs, delivering Christmas trees, working as a helper to a handyman and a plumber.

In the mid-1990s, he moved to Seattle. Alice Rathbun remembers that a flier advertising get-rich commercial fishing jobs in Alaska prompted his move.

A flurry of traffic citations places Rathbun there by Oct. 1, 1995. Police cited him repeatedly for driving without a license, without insurance, with an open container of alcohol -- so many tickets and failures to appear that bench warrants were issued for his arrest. On various traffic stops he was arrested and jailed a day. Then he would plead guilty, get credit for the night spent in jail and be released.

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