Notorious SF: Charlie Charles

Empire Court apartments, southeast corner of Bush and Leavenworth.

Neighbors in the area of Bush and Leavenworth were surprised to discover that a notorious criminal was living in their midst when Charley Charles, a resident of the Empire Court apartments, was arrested here for arson, burglary, weapons charges, and other offenses in June, 2001. Seems that Charley, who worked as a handyman at the building and as a waiter at the International House of Pancakes on Lombard, was none other than Charles Rothenberg, the infamous Orange County arsonist who doused his six-year-old son with kerosene and set him on fire during a custody dispute with his wife in 1983. Rothenberg served about seven years of a 13-year sentence for the attempted murder of his son, David, who survived the attack. Also known as Charles Bocca, Rothenberg was paroled to Oakland and was later acquitted of attempted murder in the 1996 shooting of an acquaintance at a Travelodge there. The arsonist faces a possible sentence of 25 years to life for the new charges which stem from a 5 a.m. fire in a neighbor's Empire Court apartment and the stalking of another resident, in addition to the weapons charges and other crimes. Mister SF notes that the arrest of Rothenberg in this neighborhood is somewhat ironic considering that arson fires were not uncommon in this District in the years prior to Rothenberg's move here from Oakland. Perhaps the reviled dad was attracted to Bush Street like a moth to a flame. Rothenberg is portrayed by John Glover in the 1988 TV movie "David," also starring Bernadette Peters and Matthew Lawrence.


Copyright 2001 Hank Donat home