PHOENIX – A youthful-looking sex offender who enrolled in a charter school northwest of Phoenix spent one day in the seventh grade while pretending to be a 12-year-old boy, school officials said Monday.
The Mingus Springs Charter School in Chino Valley, about 90 miles northwest of Phoenix, allowed Neil Havens Rodreick II into school last week. But director Dawn Gonzales said officials called authorities when a man posing as his grandfather presented guardianship papers and a birth certificate that looked phony.
"We thought we had a child abduction here," Gonzales said.
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office later arrested Rodreick, who is actually 29. The man posing as Rodreick's grandfather, Lonnie Stiffler, 61, also was arrested with two other men, Brian J. Nellis, 34, and Robert James Snow, 43.
Snow, Rodreick and Nellis are all sex offenders, according to authorities. They were held on $50,000 bond for failing to register with local authorities. Stiffler was booked on two counts of forgery and one count of hindering prosecution and ordered held on a $100,000 cash bond. The men are expected to be in court on Thursday.
The Yavapai County Public Defender's Office did not immediately return a telephone call from The Associated Press on Monday.
Gonzales said Rodreick was busy taking a battery of introductory reading tests as well as hearing and vision tests while he was at the school last week. He doesn't seem to have interacted with students, she said.
"I've spoken to all of the students as a group, the middle school students, to see if there was any contact of any kind, and there's no evidence of anything," Gonzales said. "Everybody said he was very quiet, kept withdrawn, kept his head down."
On Monday, Gonzales called a parents meeting to talk about the incident.
Meanwhile, authorities in the surrounding counties are checking how many schools Rodreick was able to get into.
Before their arrest in Chino Valley, investigators said the men lived in the Phoenix area and Payson. Detectives have evidence that Rodreick was enrolled in other Arizona schools, possibly in Payson, El Mirage and Prescott Valley.
Rodreick, who went by the name Casey Price, kept a youthful appearance by shaving his body hair and using makeup, the sheriff's office said.
"He looked older, but we were thinking 14, 15" years old, Gonzales said. "He did not look to be an adult."
The sheriff's office said Rodreick came to Arizona from Oklahoma after conning Stiffler and Snow into believing he was a child. Deputies said he moved into their home and had a sexual relationship with them.
Though Stiffler and Snow told police they were duped into believing Rodreick was a preteen, Yavapai County sheriff's spokesman Scott Reed said Rodreick may have been part of a scheme to meet school children.
"The possibility certainly exists that they were trying to recruit other kids and maybe groom other kids, leading them into harm's way, possibly molesting them," Reed said. "That hasn't been confirmed yet."
According to the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, Stiffler and Snow met Rodreick through an Internet chat about two years ago, and they began to trade sexually explicit photos. Stiffler and Show went to Oklahoma and met Rodreick at a hotel, then brought him back to live with them in Arizona.