January 26, 2005


A Reviled Criminal Faces a Third Strike: Charles Rothenberg set his sleeping 6-year-old son on fire in 1983. Now he's back in court. (Lee Romney, January 26, 2005, LA Times)

He earned a place among the nation's most reviled criminals more than two decades ago when he set his sleeping 6-year-old son on fire in a Buena Park motel room, leaving the boy disfigured.

Under sentencing laws of the day, he served less than seven years in prison. After three more years of around-the-clock guard — the strictest parole in California history — Charles Rothenberg was free to live the life of his choosing. [....]

Even before Rothenberg doused his son David's bedspread in kerosene in the Buena Park Travelodge, lit a match and fled, the New York waiter had a criminal record in three states stretching back to 1958. There were convictions for armed robbery, forged checks and burglary, and a pending warrant for vandalizing and stealing from a Manhattan restaurant where he had worked.

After the 1983 blaze, Rothenberg openly expressed remorse for lashing out at the boy he said he was afraid of losing after his ex-wife threatened to cut off future visits. David received third-degree burns over 90% of his body and nearly died. His courageous recovery brought him international acclaim.

If we'd had the decency to execute him for what he did to his son the third strike would have been unnecessary.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 26, 2005 7:46 AM

burn him at the stake

Posted by: Palmcroft at January 26, 2005 9:14 AM

Back in 1985 I was working for a small software & hardware engineering company. One of the things we did was design and support call screening and program time management systems for talk radio programs.

One of which was the Michael Jackson (not the pop-singing molestor) show on LA's KABC.

One day as I approaching the studio to sit in on the program to do some performance assessment, David and his mother--guests on that day's show-- walked around the corner not five feet away.

Even now, twenty years later, I can not only bring that horrible image to mind, I can also re-experience the very real feeling of getting gut-punched.

I can only hope my demeanor, despite being caught so massively off guard, failed to display my surprise and horror.

I would like your suggestion much better if you would promise to do it slowly.

And find a way to do it twice.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at January 26, 2005 12:11 PM

I suggest a bath in liquid nitrogin.

Posted by: Phil at January 26, 2005 10:29 PM

Whatever your general view on capital punishment, it seems inescapable to me that the homicide-prone must be executed (after being accurately convicted).

Posted by: Harry Eagar at January 27, 2005 3:49 PM