A jury will decide if a 46-year-old registered sex offender went to the home of a 16-year-old girl two years ago to act out his fantasies, or to give her a bible as he claims.
Trial began last week for Rennard Cawkwell, now 48, who took the witness box to tell the jury, “Yes, this is my Precious Moments Bible, that’s the Bible I had in my hand when I went to (her) house.” The defendant told the jury that he was not bringing a new cell phone to the child so they could continue to communicate secretly, as the prosecutor had asserted.
Prosecutor Keith Watanabe said it was in 2015 when Cawkwell posed as a 17-year-old boy on a dating app, MeetMe. At that time he was on parole for a prior sex-offense conviction; in 2009 Cawkwell met an 11-year-old girl online and had inappropriate sexual conversations with her; he travelled from his mother’s home in Oceanside to San Diego to meet the child in person, and attempted to have sex with her. Cawkwell was found guilty of those acts, plus possession of child porn, according to the prosecutor. For that 2010 conviction, Cawkwell was sentenced to four years eight months in California state prison.
It was March of 2016 when Cawkwell went to the home of his new young friend he hoped to see, but was instead met at the door by her older brother. The brother escorted Cawkwell off the property and took down his license plate number and gave that information to Escondido police.
The prosecutor alleged that Cawkwell actually told his intended victim in advance that he could not see her naked until March, because that was when his parole officer was scheduled to remove the GPS monitor from his ankle.
The prosecutor asked Cawkwell, while he was in the witness box, why he didn’t want to go to the girl’s house before his GPS monitor was removed. “Because parole, they don’t let me make friends,” the defendant replied. “I don’t care about parole conditions, I'm going to go out and make friends anyway.”
Cawkwell's public defender says Cawkwell is a high-functioning autistic and has low IQ.
Forensic psychologist Dr. Bruce Yanofsky testified for the defense, for one hour. The doctor said that when Cawkwell was born the oxygen was cut off to his brain for some time during the birthing process, and he did not have a male figure in his home growing up, and “in general terms he seemed immature and childish.” He found that Cawkwell’s use of the internet trying to make friends was not unique. “I really don’t think his intention was to have sex,” the doctor testified, “I don’t know if he can really tolerate a lot of touch, which is part of his autism.”
When the doctor was asked about the photos of naked children on Cawkwell’s phone, and whether he considered Cawkwell sexually deviant, the doctor commented: “The (porn) collection is not huge, not typical for a child pornographer.”
Rennard Cawkwell pleads not-guilty to felony contact of child with intent to commit sexual offense, and child pornography with a prior conviction for same. The jury is expected to get the case to deliberate sometime Monday, March 26, in San Diego’s North County Superior Courthouse in Vista.