Parole Delayed for Man Who Set His Son on Fire

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Charles Rothenberg, originally scheduled to be paroled from prison in December for setting his 6-year-old son on fire in a Buena Park motel in 1983, will spend an additional month behind bars, a corrections official said Friday.

Rothenberg violated prison rules by using unofficial channels to send a letter to his ex-wife, Marie Hafdahl, according to Carol Pinkins, public information officer for the California Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo, where Rothenberg is serving a 13-year sentence for attempted murder. Rothenberg passed the letter through one of his visitors to give to his former wife, she said.

"He received disciplinary actions that resulted in loss of his work credits," Pinkins said. "Each day a prisoner works takes one day off of his sentence."

Rothenberg originally was scheduled for parole Dec. 11, but now will not be released until Jan. 9, officials said.

Rothenberg was sent to prison after he admitted to setting a Buena Park motel room on fire and leaving his son, David, inside to die. Rothenberg had brought David to Disneyland from New York because he said he feared his ex-wife, who had custody, would not let him see the child again. Rothenberg said he planned a murder-suicide so that they would not be separated but panicked and fled the scene after he started the fire. David suffered third-degree burns over 85% of his body.

According to officials, prison rules state that mail is supposed to be transported through the facility's mail room, but Rothenberg told authorities he gave the letter to a visitor in October because he did not have Hafdahl's address.

In the letter, Rothenberg reportly assured his ex-wife that he would not harass her once he was released.

Rothenberg's parole delay follows on the heels of an investigation into a threatening letter reportedly sent to Hafdahl in September. Rothenberg denied sending the letter and the investigation failed to link it to him.

Hafdahl family members say they are relieved that Rothenberg will be spending more time behind bars.

"At least we can get through one more Christmas without wondering where he (Rothenberg) is," said Dick Hafdahl, Marie's husband. "But we've known for sometime that his release is inevitable."

David Rothenberg, now 13, has undergone more than 50 operations since he was critically injured.

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