Jailbait

Frank Rodriguez faces a lifetime on Texas’ sex offender registry for having sex with a 16-year-old—who is now his wife. He’s not alone.


If he hadn't loaned his sister the car nine years ago, none of this would have occurred. "Everything would have been fine," Frank Rodriguez says, a wry smile on his face. "Everything would have been fine."

Instead, in early May, the state revoked Frank's drivers license. Sex offenders are to renew theirs every year, but because the renewal place is open only on Tuesdays in Caldwell, a small town an hour and a half east of Austin, and Frank's birthday fell on a Wednesday--well, in any case, Frank just felt like letting it slide this year. To see how the state would respond.

These days, it's the little things that get him. Like this license renewal. It's only $25 to do it, but when Frank didn't, sure enough he got a curt letter from the Department of Transportation saying his license was revoked, because he'd failed to comply with the sex offender registry's regulations set forth by the state of Texas.

Nikki and Frank Rodriguez are more 
or less stuck in small-town Caldwell, where "everybody 
knows our situation," Frank says. That's better than 
moving to a new locale and having vigilantes for 
neighbors.
Mark Graham
Nikki and Frank Rodriguez are more or less stuck in small-town Caldwell, where "everybody knows our situation," Frank says. That's better than moving to a new locale and having vigilantes for neighbors.
Phil Taylor, a licensed sex offender treatment provider in Dallas, says, "It just amazes the fool out of me that more high school seniors aren't arrested."
Mark Graham
Phil Taylor, a licensed sex offender treatment provider in Dallas, says, "It just amazes the fool out of me that more high school seniors aren't arrested."

The registry. That maddening registry. That's why he's telling his story.

Frank returns to his seat and rests his meaty forearms on the kitchen table. He's a brahma bull of a man, with shoulders as thick and round as anyone this side of the NFL. Sitting next to him is his wife, Nikki, the "victim" of Frank's "sexual assault" nine years ago and today the mother of his three children, all of them playing in the living room.

"We had gone to the fair that night," Nikki says. She's telling the story because she's better with the details than her husband, who listens and drinks his iced tea.

The county fair is a big deal in Caldwell, the county seat of Burleson County, whose population has yet to reach 17,000. Frank and Nikki stayed at the fair till midnight that Saturday in 1996. Then Nikki had to make curfew. She was 16 that fall; Frank was 19. He'd graduated from high school four months earlier. They had dated for two years.

The two, in Frank's mother's car, took Frank's older sister, Donna, home with them. Frank dropped Donna off first. But she wanted to see her relatives, who were in town for the weekend and staying with Frank and Donna's grandmother. The house wasn't far away, but she needed the car to get there.

"I'm just coming and going," Donna told Frank. He tossed her the keys.

An hour passed. Melissa Wielderhold, Nikki's mother, phoned, irate. Nikki's sister, Lauren, was still at the fairgrounds.

"What were y'all doing?" Melissa said. "What has taken so long?" She thought Nikki had known about her little sister still at the fair. Nikki didn't know about Lauren, didn't know she was to have taken Lauren home that night. Melissa thought Frank and Nikki had sex instead.

They were sexually active, had been for more than a year, when Melissa took Nikki and Frank to Planned Parenthood to put her daughter on the pill. But that night, Melissa thought she had two teenagers out of control.

Frank called Donna, still at her grandmother's.

"You don't understand. I need the car now," he said.

"I'll get there when I get there," Donna said. The dominoes game with her cousins had just started.

A little past 1 a.m., Melissa Wielderhold roared up Frank's parents' gravel driveway, dirt and rocks spewing into the lawn. She slammed the door and found Frank and Nikki waiting on the porch. Nikki got in the car without saying a word.

An hour later, with both her daughters home, Melissa wouldn't listen to Nikki's story. She wouldn't listen to Jim Wielderhold, Melissa's husband, as he pleaded with her to wait till morning to press charges against Frank.

No, Melissa said. They needed to learn a lesson. She called the sheriff's office; Frank was charged with sexual assault of a child.

"Knowing my mom," Nikki says today, "I think it was just a scare tactic...I don't think she knew what all would happen. She didn't know the law. I didn't know the law."

Melissa went to the courthouse Monday and asked to retract the charges. Too late, she was told. The case was in the state's hands now.

No one knew its severity until Frank's sentencing October 14, 1996. Frank thought he'd get a couple of years' probation, maybe some community service--a hassle, but no big deal. Instead, his court-appointed lawyer told him he could face 20 years in prison if he fought the thing. If he pleaded, the lawyer told him, he'd get seven years' probation and deferred adjudication.

"Give me the probation," Frank said.

But it wouldn't be easy probation. More than 36 months separated Frank and Nikki in age, so Frank, in the eyes of Texas, was as deviant as the worst pedophile. Therefore, no contact with Nikki until she turned 17. No living with anyone under the age of 17. Don't go near a park. Don't go near a school...

As the terms of probation were reeled off, Frank, sitting in a room with others who had just pleaded guilty to various charges, saw Mike Brandhuber, a guy he knew in high school. Mike's sexual assault plea had been heard that morning, too. Like Frank, Mike was 19. Like Frank, the "victim" of Mike's "sexual assault" was his girlfriend of three years, Jenifer Tamplin. Like Nikki, Jenifer was 16 but more than 36 months younger than her boyfriend.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...