To listen to Eddie's entire interview with investigators from the Riverside County District Attorney's office, click the audio link below.
To listen to Randy's entire interview with investigators from the Riverside County District Attorney's office, click the audio link below.
James' life started with many strikes against him. Born on the Santa Ysabel Indian Reservation in San Diego County, his mother and extended family members, not unlike most Native Americans on reservations, lived in extreme poverty and had a long history of alcohol and drug abuse. James never knew his father. When he was four, he and his older brother John, who was mentally retarded, were removed from their mother's custody and placed in foster care. "I remember I was riding my tricycle in the yard, and a lady came up to me and said we had to go. And then there was a sheriff who came and took me off the trike. I don't think I saw my mom for five years after that."
James and his brother were moved from family to family, and eventually separated. James ended up in several group homes, never staying in one place due to frequent arrests for petty theft and drug possession. He learned at an early age not to trust anyone, and that drugs and alcohol were the solution to one's woes.
In 1982, he moved to his sister Cookie's house in Riverside. And like everyone else that James knew, she too was a drug user. She introduced James to the neighbors across the street, Henry and Nancy Chapman, and their four children. The Chapman's house wasthe party house, where the children ran amok and everyone could smoke pot and shoot up meth, which was James' drug of choice at the time. It was a disaster in the making.
In 1984, the Chapmen children were removed from their parents custody and placed in foster care. Eventually they were placed in the custory of their aunt, Henry Chapman's sister, who was mildly schizophrenic. This is when the allegations were made by the aunt that 13-year-old Randy, diagnosed with mental retardation, had been raped by his father and 10 other men at a park in Riverside. Randy told investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department that his father and others had buried dead bodies at a park, and that he saw James raping a baby. He stated blood was smeared on the walls of the apartment, that dead bodies were in the trunk of a car, that his grandmother was raped by two men while his mother cooked a turkey in the kitchen, that James shot a substance in his penis, and other horrific unbelievable tales of sadistic abuse. Of course, no homicide investigation was ever done to determine if there were indeed dead bodies anywhere.
No one stood a chance.
James recalled the day he was arrested in May of 1985, and stated that he "couldn't believe what they were saying I had done! It's disgusting! I had a son, and I would never ever have done anything like that." He never made bail, and remained in jail until a preliminary hearing was scheduled in July. He was assigned a court-appointed public defender, who immediately urged him to plead guilty, otherwise he would get "hundreds of years." James asked his attorney to interview various individuals who had not been contacted by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, including his former girlfriend and mother of his son, and his current girlfriend, who could dispute what the victim was saying, but he was told there was no money or time for that.
James refused to enter a plea of guilty. At a preliminary hearing, Randy testified that he had been raped "40 times" by "40 people." Randy was unable to spell his name, or say where he resided. When asked to point out James Rodriguez in the court, he pointed to a woman. Randy was deemed a "competent witness." Randy's father, Henry Chapman, became distraught at watching his son testify and therefore decided to plead guilty. James was then informed that it was a "package deal" and that he had to plead as well. Later, at the sentencing hearing, James changed his plea from Not Guilty to Guilty. When the judge asked if James was coerced in any way to change his plea, James replied, "Yes. I was told I'd get 40 years to life." And the judge responded, "That's a matter of fact, not coercion."
Thus began James 13-year-tour of California's prisons, starting with Folsom. In 1987, he was called back to face charges claimed by Randy's younger brother, Eddie. James pled guilty and just wanted to get back to Folsom, where he could continue to live in a heroin-induced haze.
Finally, his parole date was approaching in May of 1998. Anticipating the call from the Correctional Officer to "roll it up" and get on the bus to Riverside County, the officer informed James that he had been placed on a "hold." James was transported to the Riverside County jail to await a trial on whether he met the criteria as a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP). If so, he would not be released but would be sent to a psychiatric state hospital for therapy. Thus, began the second leg of his nightmare .
Labeled A Sexually Violent Predator
In October of 1998, James had a civil trial under California's Sexually Violent Predator Act, which became law on January 1, 1996. As part of the process for civil commitment, James was evaluated by two state-appointed psychologists, with whom he declined to interview. Both evaluators found James to be a "sadistic pedophile" who was likely to re-offend if released to the community. A jury agreed. James was involvuntarily committed for two-years of treatment at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) under California's Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 6604. He would no longer be an inmate, but instead he would be a "patient," more specifically an "SVP." At the end of two years of therapy, James would have the opportunity to return to court and petition for his release. He arrived at Atascadero in December of 1998, and refused to participate in the court-ordered cognitive-behavioral relapse prevetntion therapy, claiming he was innocent. He was more than angry, and soon gained a reputation as a bully. He returned to court in 2000 and 2002, and both times he was recommitted as an SVP.
With no light at the end of the tunnel, James finally agreed in 2002 to participate in therapy. His psychologist was very pleased with this decision. In no time, the unit treatment team and staff began to notice a change in James' behavior. He was learning to cope with his anger, and was a meaningful participant in group therapy and in substance abuse treament, where he became a sponsor. But most importantly, he finally acknowledged committing the sexual offenses. It was in December 2003 when his clinical staff believed James could be safely released to his Indian Rservation in San Diego County and continue his therapy on an outpatient basis. While awaiting the trial, which was postponed by the District Attorney's office on several occasions, James was for no clear reason returned to Atascadero State Hospital. It was there, on March 30, 2004, when the direction of his life changed.
His psychologist had received an email that morning from James' public defender, stating that the DA's office had interviewed Eddie and Randy in February 2004. The brothers did not know each were being interviewed, which was done on separate days in different locations. Both recanted, insisting that the sexual abuse, allegedly perpetrated on them by their parents, uncle, and two other men, including James, "never happened." Although Randy's interview is difficult to interpret at times, the end is quite clear when he states, "Aunt Oma made me say it, say it, to make me to go to court." Eddie is adamant that the abuse never occurred.
The Nightmare Continues: Re-Arrested for Failure to Register
In 2005, James was arrested in San Diego County for "failure to register" as a sex offender. He was alleged to have been residing with his girlfriend, whose address he did not register with the sheriff's department. Facing more prison time, James was represented by a court-appointed public defender who urged James to plead guilty. James refused and the case went to trial. He was convicted on one count of failure to register, one count of arson, and one count of destruction of property. At the sentencing hearing, Deputy District Attorney Phyllis Shess requested that James be given "50 years." The judge, however, recognized that something was amiss about James' original conviction, even though it was not allowed to be discussed at trial. He sentenced James to 22 months in prison.
In May 2007, James was released and put on three years of "high-risk" parole and fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet. He had a 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. curfew, and another parole condition was that he attend outpatient sex offender therapy. After much vocal protestation, James was able to attend individual and group sessions instead.
The ankle bracelet was removed on April 14, 2010. He is now free, but is still required under California Penal Code 290 to register every 90 days as a Sexually Violent Predator. His name and address are listed on various sex offender websites.
In 2011, James married his former psychologist, Elizabeth Thompson. Click here to read the first 50 pages of Dr. Thompson's book, Please Don't Feed the Animals: A Psychologist's Memoir.
Off with the damn GPS ankle bracelet!