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.


Someone had to destroy the crime scene photos of Ashley Estell's death. They were too volatile simply to throw away. Someone had to shred them. The job fell to Rosemary, who in that late summer of 1993 worked as a bookkeeper at a Richardson lab that processed crime scene photographs. Yes, Rosemary would do it.

What she saw--to this day she doesn't care to put into words, "out of respect for [Ashley]. For her and her family," she says.

The photos she destroyed weren't the worst of them; she will tell you that. The worst of them were exhibits in the trial of Michael Blair. But as Rosemary put picture after picture through the shredder, she thought about her granddaughters who lived in Dallas--not the leafy suburb of Plano where Estell was nonetheless kidnapped and strangled to death. Would her granddaughters be safe? Safe from lifelong pedophiles like Michael Blair? Would they be raped, as Rosemary was at 19, by a man who held a knife to her throat? What would protect her granddaughters from that fate?

Frank and Nikki Rodriguez of Caldwell live a normal life--except that Frank must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. His crime: having sex with Nikki when she was 16 and he was 19. Though the sex was consensual, Texas considers him guilty of felony sexual assault of a child.
Mark Graham
Frank and Nikki Rodriguez of Caldwell live a normal life--except that Frank must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. His crime: having sex with Nikki when she was 16 and he was 19. Though the sex was consensual, Texas considers him guilty of felony sexual assault of a child.
The Rodriguezes have three daughters: Analissa, 4; Francesca, 3; and Layla, 1. When Frank was on probation, he had to move out of his parents' home--because his younger siblings lived there.
Mark Graham
The Rodriguezes have three daughters: Analissa, 4; Francesca, 3; and Layla, 1. When Frank was on probation, he had to move out of his parents' home--because his younger siblings lived there.

Senator Shapiro's "Ashley's Laws" would, Rosemary thought. She wholeheartedly agreed with the bill's passing in 1995. Yet 10 years later, the Ashley Laws "are the very legislation that has my son sitting in prison for 25 years."

Let's call him "William." If his real name were used and other inmates read this story, read about the actualreason he's serving 30, "I'd be a dead man," he says on the other side of the visiting booth in this Central Texas prison. "There's some real monsters in here." (It's for this reason that Rosemary asked the Dallas Observer not to disclose her last name.)

He was 17 in the summer of 1995, about to enter his senior year at Dallas Can! Academy. At his father's trailer home in Seagoville on August 10, William decided to throw a party. Dad, after all, was out for the evening.

A girl he knew and a girl he didn't came over. The one William knew lived a few trailers away. Her friend flirted with William throughout the night. She said she was 17; William liked her, and why the hell not? He and Farrah, William's girlfriend, were, as he says, "off" at that time.

Everybody at the party got drunk. Some got high. People left. The party died down. The two girls went home. And then a while later, home alone, William heard a knock on the door.

It was the girl. She asked to come in.

William doesn't deny having sex. He used a condom and afterward walked her home. William says she went in through her friend's trailer home window because she'd sneaked out through there. (The Observer could not reach the girl, now a woman, for comment.)

A couple of months later, the girl pressed charges. William says it's because she threatened to "ruin my life" once he got back with Farrah. The girl said in a statement written at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office that William "hurt me bad and I want him dead."

William's current attorney, David O'Neal of Huntsville, recently hired a private investigator who came back with a statement from the woman in which she admitted to facts "indicative" of consensual sex, O'Neal says--the fact that he used a condom, the fact that he walked her home.

In any case, William wanted to go to trial. But his court-appointed lawyer, Julius Whittier, advised him against it: The girl's real age was 13. Whittier told William there wasn't a defense available and that he should plead. So he did. He pleaded in 1997 and got five years' probation and deferred adjudication.

But the terms of his probation: "I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy," William says. Nineteen at the time probation started, William was told he had to live in Dallas County, even though he had gainful employment in Temple. But he couldn't live with his older brother, Robert, because Robert had kids, and he couldn't live with Rosemary, because she helped raise them. He slept in his brother's attic some nights. He slept in the empty apartments at the complex where his brother worked maintenance. He moved out of one complex after someone scrawled "sex offender" on his car and smashed his windows. He eventually found a "trash-ass apartment," he says, in East Dallas and lived there with Farrah. (Farrah declined to comment for this story.)

For six months he couldn't find a job. Either William's probation officer wouldn't allow him to apply--minors are present at a lot of job sites for 19-year-old applicants--or employers wouldn't risk hiring a guy charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child. Robert says he pawned "everything" in his house to help William pay for the mandatory weekly therapy sessions, which cost $60 a visit, $240 a month. William paid $20 to the court every month, $40 to his probation officer, and had a $275 attorney's bill to pay off and 360 hours of community service to complete by February 1999. Rosemary left money and food by her door at night. Both would be gone by morning, but William kept falling behind.

By August 1997, William found work through a temp agency. Like his brother, he was a maintenance man at an apartment complex in Dallas. But he couldn't pay rent and his probation fees; he owed his sex offender therapist and the state of Texas $350. One day, fixing an apartment's door hinge, he noticed a box of cash inside. The next day he took it just as the renter, Maria Vargas, walked in.

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