On Tuesday night at Klassic Shotz, the normal crack of billiard balls competed with the buzz about part-owner Kenneth George Wade’s arrest on suspicion of rape, burglary and indecent exposure.
The regulars gathered around the 20 pool tables in astonishment that the easygoing Wade was being called a serial rapist by police 30 miles away in Orange County.
“I am in shock, man,” said James Garrison, 20 of nearby Murrietta. “He’s a good man. I consider him a friend. I can’t really believe what’s going on.”
But investigators allege that for eight years, the 45-year-old ex-con has been the stuff of nightmares.
During Wade’s off-hours from jobs at pool halls and cross-country trucking stints, investigators say, he slipped into Orange County and sneaked into homes, snatching up personal belongings, then taunting his female victims about their shoddy security.
Sometimes, police allege, the slender, hazel-eyed intruder would return weeks later to rape his victims as if punishing them for not keeping him out.
Police in Santa Ana, Orange, Anaheim and other cities say they have been baffled by at least 86 unsolved burglaries and sex crimes since 1987.
But until last week, when police arrested Wade, then pieced together a mind-numbing series of crimes they now allege he committed, no one was even looking for Wade.
On Tuesday, Santa Ana police called him a suspected serial rapist.
Wade’s friends in Temecula, where he has lived the past few years, said they could not fathom the charges against the fun-loving carouser, who had worked so hard to start his own pool hall.
“It’s just not even Kenny,” said Jan Pichel, 42, who used to date Wade’s brother, Bruce Wade. “I just can’t imagine. . . . He was extremely easygoing. I can’t imagine him even losing his temper.”
But court records and police and probation reports revealed an escalating series of crimes that began building in 1969, around the time Wade’s father, Bruce P. Wade, a former Anaheim trucking company owner, stabbed an Anaheim woman to death.
Bruce P. Wade, who took poison after stabbing Jeanette Engstrom, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to Atascadero State Hospital, according to an Orange County probation report filed after Kenneth Wade’s conviction on drug charges.
Kenneth Wade had led a hard life at least since his teen years.
Wade was born the second of three children of Bruce and Diana Wade and and grew up in Los Angeles and Orange counties. In his senior year in high school, he dropped out to help his dad in his trucking business, later completing high school in Anaheim by taking night courses, according to a probation report.
In 1965, Wade, then 15, was arrested for being in a riot and made a ward of the court in Orange County. In 1967, his parents separated. Shortly afterward, Kenneth Wade married his girlfriend of several years, who was pregnant at the time, according to court records.
A year later, Wade, who was working at a billiard parlor in Anaheim, and his wife separated, according to court records. Wade found it harder and harder to hold down a job, his drug habit increased and he had frequent contact with the police, according to a probation report.
In 1969, Wade had his first brush with the law regarding a sexual crime. In January of that year, he was arrested on suspicion of assault with intent to commit rape when he allegedly accosted a 22-year-old woman in her apartment and fondled her breasts and buttocks, according to court records. The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Later that year he was sentenced to nine months in jail and an additional three years of probation for selling drugs to a minor.
He told investigators at the time of a different drug conviction in 1969 that his arrest was an “isolated” event and said someone had set him up. Wade listed his hobbies as playing pool and bowling and told investigators he never smoked, drank only socially and used no hard narcotics, just uppers and downers.
But according to court records, the arrest wasn’t an isolated event. The next 20 years were a series of tangles with the law and stints behind bars.
He was arrested on suspicion of prowling and indecent exposure and, in 1983, for carrying a concealed weapon.
Then in November, 1990, Wade pleaded guilty to a residential burglary during which he terrorized a mother and daughter. He served two years at the California Institute for Men at Chino.
The police report in that case detailed Wade’s dead-of-night taunting of his victims.
A 24-year-old Anaheim woman told police she was sleeping in the apartment she shared with her mother on July 21, 1986, when she was awakened by Wade leaning over her bed, according to court records. Wade told the woman to “shut up” and then put on what appeared to be a white plastic cowboy hat and frameless sunglasses, the police report said.
Wade grabbed the woman’s wrists and put his hand over her mouth and partly over her nostrils, making it hard to breathe, according to the police report.
Wade allegedly told the woman: “Your mother knows me. . . . Shut up you dumb [expletive]. Your mother knows me. Close your eyes and go to sleep. If you make a sound, I’ll kill your kids and hurt your mother.”
Later Wade asked the woman if she wanted him to get her mother, the police report said. After the woman nodded, Wade left the room and fled the home, the police report said.
After Wade was released from prison, he tried to make a go of it in the billiards business. At first he worked for his brother Bruce in a now-closed pool hall in Riverside County, said friends, who did not know of Wade’s prison record.
In September, 1994, friends say, Wade was able to help open his own pool hall, Klassic Shotz, in a Temecula shopping center across from several auto dealerships and between a sandwich shop and a veterinarian’s office.
Tom Rippee, a volunteer worker at Klassic Shotz, said he couldn’t imagine when Wade would have found the time to commit the crimes.
Rippee said that since Wade helped open the billiards parlor he had spent virtually all of his time there.
“Business wasn’t so good,” said Rippee, who has known Wade for about two years. “He was here most of the time.”
But Rippee said that despite the pool hall’s financial problems, Wade was quick to help out friends with a loan. “He’s helped me out a few times,” Rippee said.
On Tuesday evening, the pool hall was filled mostly with teen-agers attracted by the row of pool tables, video games and the jukebox.
Many expressed disbelief that the friend they know as Kenny is connected with the string of rapes.
Garrison said Wade helped out patrons of the pool hall, once giving young people a ride home and another time paying for the lodging of a customers who couldn’t afford a motel room.
“He never asked for a penny,” Garrison said. “He never gave anyone a problem”
Michael Hanson, 19, of Temecula, added: “That’s not Kenny. That’s not the same person I know.”
Some Klassic Shotz patrons noted that Temecula police frequently entered the pool hall to make truancy checks. The police seemed to get along well with Wade, they said.
A neighbor at the Sycamore Terrace Apartments, where Wade lived less than a mile from the pool hall, said that Wade was engaged to be married in September but that he and his fiancee had broken up. A few weeks ago, they reunited and set another wedding date, the neighbor said.
“He was the perfect next-door-neighbor type of guy,” said the neighbor, who spoke on the condition that his name be withheld. “This is devastating.”
Times staff writer Susan Marquez Owen and correspondent Shelby Grad contributed to this report.
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Suspect’s Arrest Record
Here is a listing of Kenneth George Wade’s prior arrests or convictions according to Orange County Superior Court files, including a 1969 probation report:
* First becomes known to police when arrested for being involved in a riot. He was made a ward of the court.
* An arrest on suspicion of assault with intent to commit rape is dismissed for insufficient evidence. Records say he allegedly accosted a 22-year-old woman in her apartment and fondled her. The woman feigned interest and persuaded him to sit on a couch with her to talk. Soon afterward, her roommate came home and Wade promptly left, she told police.
* Sentenced to nine months in jail for “furnishing to a minor” in Anaheim.
* Sentenced to three years’ probation for selling 16 capsules of barbituric acid to an undercover Anaheim police officer. Was an unemployed truck driver at the time.
* At the end of the year, he is sentenced to six months of weekend confinement in Orange County Jail after pleading guilty to possession of dangerous drugs in Santa Ana with intent to sell.
* Sentenced to six months in jail for violating his probation by, failing 18 times to show up for his weekend confinement.
* Arrested in Las Vegas on charges of disorderly conduct and prowling. (Outcome of case not listed.)
* Arrested in San Gabriel for failure to make court-ordered appearance. (Outcome of case not listed)
* Given 24 months’ probation for exposing himself in a public place in Anaheim and for soliciting a lewd act.
* Arrested in Santa Ana for carrying a concealed weapon, a firearm in a vehicle. (Outcome of case not listed)
* Sentenced to two years in the California Institution for Men in Chino for residential burglary. Wade pleaded guilty to breaking into an Anaheim woman’s home and threatening the woman in her bed.
Source: Times reports
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Police have arrested a Temecula pool hall owner and identified him as a suspected serial rapist who is being investigated in connection with 86 crimes over the last eight years. Kenneth George Wade, 45, is being held on suspicion of rape, attempted rape, residential burglary and indecent exposure.
Here is a list of the communities where authorities allege that Wade committed the crimes:
Santa Ana: 24
Unincorporated areas: 2
Garden Grove: 1
Source: Santa Ana Police Department