10/31/2013

Fugitive Calif. rapist caught after publicized search

A citizen who recognized Dennis Michael McKenzie, 58, from photos in the media tipped off deputies, and a SWAT team took him into custody

By Tami Abdollah
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES  — A publicized search for a paroled rapist who authorities say cut off his ankle monitor and harassed the family of his 80-year-old victim ended Wednesday after he was spotted on a Palm Springs street.

A citizen who recognized Dennis Michael McKenzie, 58, from photos in the media tipped off deputies, and a SWAT team took him into custody, San Bernardino County sheriff's spokeswoman Jodi Miller said.

Police had asked for the public's help to find McKenzie, who disappeared from a Long Beach halfway house after getting rid of his GPS tracking device.

McKenzie's parole agent received a tamper alert Oct. 1 and immediately requested a warrant for his arrest, said Luis Patino, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation.

Over the past month McKenzie made more than 50 threatening and obscene phone calls from the Long Beach area to the victim's family home in the San Bernardino Mountains, Miller said. She said the victim's family discovered the threats, which were "graphic, very harassing" on a voicemail machine last week and alerted sheriff's officials.

The calls amplified the push to find McKenzie.

"This individual has been convicted of a rape. He's a mandatory registrant now out of compliance," Miller said earlier. "He's cut his GPS tracking device off, so there's a concern for public safety, and we urge anyone who might see him to call their law enforcement agency and report it."

McKenzie was convicted of raping the woman and sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006, according to state records. He had been found mentally incompetent and committed in 2004, according to court documents.

McKenzie was paroled in 2010 and released to a state hospital, Patino said. McKenzie remained under the supervision of doctors at the facility until March, Patino said.

Long Beach police Sgt. Aaron Eaton said McKenzie had been living in a halfway house since November 2011.

The California Department of State Hospitals cannot confirm whether someone has been a patient because of privacy laws, but the agency has a conditional release program that allows for outpatient treatment for mentally disordered sex offenders.

McKenzie was arrested in August and September for parole violations, Eaton said. Details on those violations weren't immediately available, but Miller said McKenzie was jailed for five days for one of the violations.

According to the state sex offenders' database, McKenzie's likelihood to reoffend was determined to be a low-moderate risk in December 2009 prior to his release.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press

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