PHOENIX — A charter school alerted authorities to a 29-year-old sex offender who tried to enroll there, pretending he was just 12, in what sheriff's officials said Friday may have been an attempt to lure children into sexual abuse.
The Yavapai County sheriff's office also said Neil Havens Rodreick II conned two men he was living with and having sex with into believing he was a young boy. One of them, 61-year-old Lonnie Stiffler, called himself Rodreick's grandfather when he tried to enroll him at Mingus Springs Charter School as "Casey Price."
"This is the weirdest case I've seen in 18 years," sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Quayle said. "If it wasn't so sad it would be funny."
A total of four men were in custody in the case Friday on various charges, including fraud, forgery, identity theft, and failure to register as a sex offender.
Officials at the charter school in Chino Valley, about 90 miles northwest of Phoenix, told deputies that papers the "grandfather" presented appeared to be fake and that "boy" looked much older than 12.
Stiffler and Robert James Snow, 43, "were very upset when the detectives told them they had been having a sexual relationship with a 29-year-old man and not a pre-teen boy," Quayle said.
Detectives have evidence that Stiffler and Snow enrolled Rodreick in other Arizona schools, and have notified law enforcement in those jurisdictions, Quayle said.
It was unclear whether Rodreick had actually attended any schools, but Quayle said, "I think what we're looking at is that he's being used to troll for other kids."
She said detectives learned in interviews with the men that Rodreick convinced Stiffler and Snow that he was a boy after meeting him two years ago over the Internet. Rodreick apparently shaved his body hair and used makeup to keep up the guise.
Deputies who served a search warrant at a Chino Valley home Thursday found Stiffler, Snow, Rodreick and Brian J. Nellis, 34. Quayle said Nellis was apparently Rodreick's cell mate in an Oklahoma prison, where both served time for sex offenses.
Stiffler was booked on counts of forgery and hindering prosecution and was being held on $100,000 bond. Each of the three others was being held on $50,000 bond on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender. Prosecutors said decisions on any additional charges would be made by Monday.
All four men made initial court appearances Thursday and were assigned public defenders. County Public Defender Janet Lincoln said her office had not seen any reports or met with the men by Friday afternoon and would have no comment.