It wasn't until police retraced Rodreick's steps to the YCFA Achieve Academy, a fourth-to-twelfth-grade charter school in Prescott Valley, 90 miles north of Phoenix, that they found their first victim. Rodreick was at Achieve for only one daythe day before his first and only day at the Mingus Springs school that did him in. At Achieve, a girl came forward, saying Rodreick had grabbed her buttocks. She'd figured he was just another horny teen.
But in a recorded interview, when two Yavapai County detectives inform the girl of Rodreick's real age, she bursts into tears. "I feel stupid," she says. "I knew he was older. I could tell he was older. But I don't know."
"We felt stupid too, thinking he was 12 years old," one detective assures her. "And even then, don't beat yourself up. You've never dealt with anything like this before. Have you ever heard of anything like this before? Somebody posing as a kid to be in school? Well, we do this for a living. I've never heard of it."
A second detective says, "We had detectives help me out on this case that have been detectives for 30 years and they've never heard of anything like this."
"So this is a learning experience for all of us," the first detective says.
By the time the "family" landed in Chino Valley and took up residence in the little home where they would be arrested, Rodreick was concluding what was, by any measure, a terrifying run on the Arizona school systemone that has led community members to question the relatively lax admissions policies of the state's more than 450 charter schools (some of which are for-profit institutions that receive funding on a per-student basis). How could he have gotten away with it for so long? "I can sit here and tell you all about how he pulled it offhow he kept the hat low over his head, how he used makeup, how he didn't say much," says Scott Reed, spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office. "But it still doesn't make any sense to me."
Yet for all the elaborate deception, outraged parents, and humiliated school administrators, other than a slap on the buttocks, police had no victimsnot in Arizona, anyway. Either nobody was coming forward or nobody had been victimized. Why would Rodreick take such big risks for such little apparent payoff?
No one doubts that Rodreick was a sexual predator. But given his artificial family of older menmen who say they believed they'd been having sex with him as a 12-year-oldit seems Rodreick was more preoccupied with becoming the prey. It's as though he'd found the right fantasy, but realized he'd been playing the wrong role.
"These guys were using him for sex," says Rodreick's court- appointed lawyer, Steve August, whose office is in Flagstaff. "In his head he was probably thinking he was 12. Who's taking advantage of whom here?" All four are scheduled to stand trial on multiple counts of fraud, forgery, and child pornography on October 16.