By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
When he was very young, Rodriguez’s mother moved her children off the reservation, “thinking she was going to get us a better life in the city. But it didn’t work out like that.” She was an alcoholic and unable to support the kids. When he was 4, Rodriguez and his brother were sent to a foster home. The foster family beat them regularly with hoses, boards, “whatever they could find,” Rodriguez would later testify in court. When Rodriguez was 9, he was moved to another home. He started smoking pot at 11 and shooting heroin at 14. Burglaries and drug arrests landed him in juvenile hall and in a series of group homes. Between 1977 and 1982, Rodriguez was arrested eight times, mainly for thefts and drug charges, but once for an assault, and once in connection with a murder investigation, though he was not charged in either of those cases.
By the time he moved into his sister’s place on Pepper Court, Rodriguez was, he says, “a garbage pail,” drinking and using constantly. “I did not know what sober was.” He fit right in at Henry’s house, where the atmosphere was, to put it mildly, unrepressed. Drug use was constant and open. Rodriguez had sex with Nancy, Henry’s wife. So did Henry’s brother. They stayed friends. Some things did seem a little strange to Rodriguez, he later told the authorities: Henry shared a bed not with his wife but with his two youngest sons. Both Nancy and her daughter Theresa would tell police that they had heard Randy screaming behind the bedroom door. Nancy explained that she “never checked to see why Randy was crying, because she wanted to make sure that Randy found out just how his father really is.” But Rodriguez would maintain for years that he never witnessed anything sexual occur between adults and children.
In March of 1984, Nancy called the police on Henry for beating Randy with a belt. The county took Eddie and Randy away from their parents and moved them to Chino to live with their aunt Naoma, Henry’s stepsister. About one year later, Naoma went to the police, telling them that Randy had told her he had been sodomized by his father and by Rodriguez, and, according to a probation report, that Eddie “has nightmares that he has been raped by James and by his father, but cannot remember whether or not it actually occurred.” When police asked her to take the boys in for a medical exam, she initially refused, but a month later (and more than a year after the boys left their parents’ home), she changed her mind: “The findings were positive for evidence of sexual abuse on both Eddie and Randy, including repetitive forced sodomy on each of the boys.” On May 2, 1985, the day Riverside police arrested James Rodriguez, they set up a photo lineup for the boys. Randy failed to identify Rodriguez.Back on the reservation: Rodriguez getting to know his grandson James
At a preliminary hearing six weeks later, Randy took the stand. This time he was able to point to Rodriguez in the courtroom, though he could not spell his own last name, or recall the name of his school, or which grade he was in. Whenever he was asked a quantitative question (such as how many times he had been assaulted, or by how many men), he answered “Four,” except once, when he claimed that either 40 or 41 of Rodriguez’s friends had been in the room when Rodriguez raped him. He called the house on Kansas Street “the haunted house,” and said it was haunted not by ghosts but by “naked people,” and that there had been blood on the walls and on the stairs for four years until the landlord washed it off. His testimony was vague, contradictory and largely incoherent, except on one point, that he had been repeatedly and forcibly sodomized by Rodriguez and by his father. No other witnesses were called.
His lawyer, says Rodriguez, “swore I couldn’t beat these cases,” and told Rodriguez that if the case went to trial, he would face hundreds of years in prison. He pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of 16 years. Henry and the others took similar deals. Contacted prior to their sentencing hearing, Henry’s stepsister Naoma said, “They should get the maximum. No child will be free from harm on the streets as long as they’re out. At least 11 children were involved, including James’ 18-month-old baby.”
About a year later, after Rodriguez had already been sent to Folsom, Eddie stepped forward. When his turn came to take the stand, prosecutor Paul Grech asked the boy about four occasions. On the first, Eddie said, his father and uncle, dressed for a fishing trip in long rubber pants, took turns sodomizing him at his grandmother’s house. On another he was smoking pot with his mother, when his father, uncle and Rodriguez came home from the golf course and commenced shooting up. His mother injected him with heroin, Eddie said, and he passed out. When he woke, his father was raping him while the others held him down. On a third occasion, the family was living in a car parked in his grandmother’s backyard, and, Eddie testified, his mother stripped off his clothes and his father raped him in the back seat. Finally, he said, the day before the county separated him and Randy from his parents, he was watching Scooby-Doo on TV when his father and Rodriguez came in, threw him against a wall, fed him “a little white pill” that paralyzed him, and then took turns sodomizing him. Eddie’s testimony was far more detailed and consistent than his brother’s. He contradicted himself only on one point: When Rodriguez’s attorney cross-examined him about the only occasion on which he alleged that Rodriguez had raped him, Eddie told the story a second time, and said that Rodriguez had only held him down.
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