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Most-Guarded Parolee Completes Sentence for Setting Son Afire

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Charles Rothenberg, the former New York City waiter who set his 6-year-old son on fire 10 years ago as the boy slept in a Buena Park motel room, completed his sentence Tuesday, ending his stint as the most closely guarded parolee in the state system.

Since his release from state prison 28 months ago, Rothenberg has worn an electronic monitoring bracelet, remained under 24-hour watch by a state parole agent, and was barred from returning to Orange County or contacting his teen-age son, who lives in the county.

Those restrictions ended at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

“He’s free to travel anywhere he wishes to,” said Department of Corrections spokesman Tipton C. Kindel. “He has served his sentence in the eyes of the law.”

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Rothenberg, in a telephone interview Tuesday, said: “I have no intention of going back to Orange County on or off parole. If my son ever decides he wants to see me, which I know is remote, it will be up to him.”

State officials would not disclose Rothenberg’s whereabouts at the time of his release from parole.

Rothenberg, 53, served about half of a 13-year prison term and was released in 1990. But he was back in prison about eight months later after officials said he managed to slip out the back of an Oakland doughnut shop--despite extraordinary round-the-clock supervision that was described as the toughest in the entire state system. He was released in May, 1991.

David Rothenberg, the son, and his family would not comment Tuesday on Charles Rothenberg’s parole release.

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“We have no comment on his release,” said David’s stepfather, Richard Hafdahl, a Buena Park police lieutenant who supervised the 1983 fire investigation and later married the boy’s mother. “We just have nothing to say.”

Rothenberg pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder and arson in 1983 and was given the maximum possible sentence of 13 years in prison because of an attack on his son that was described as a twisted plot to get back at his ex-wife.

The boy suffered third-degree burns over 90% of his body and has required years of surgery and recuperation.


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