BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Kern County jury began deliberating Monday whether “pillowcase rapist” Ronald Feldmeier willfully failed to register as a sex offender when he changed addresses, or if purported memory issues beyond his control are to blame.
Feldmeier, 71, was released in 2019 after serving 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting multiple women in Sacramento. He used a pillowcase to stifle their screams.
He was charged after he didn’t register upon moving from one Bakersfield facility to another three months after his release.
A conviction would return him to prison, likely for the rest of his life. The jury went to a back room to begin deliberating around 2:30 p.m. Deliberations will resume Tuesday morning.
As a convicted rapist, Feldmeier knew he must register as a sex offender, prosecutor Leanne Wilder told the jury during her closing argument. And he failed to comply.
“It’s that simple,” Wilder said.
She displayed multiple forms Feldmeier signed and initialed before and after his release in which he acknowledged it was his responsibility to register. Feldmeier previously testified he forgot he signed the forms, saying he believed his parole agent would tell him what to do.
“Forgetting is not a defense,” Wilder said. “Forgetting that he filled out that paperwork is not a defense.”
Defense attorney Kyle J. Humphrey said the penal system sets up people like Feldmeier, who have spent lengthy periods in custody, for failure.
“This case is about bureaucracy, a system that does not account for the individual,” Humphrey said. “It’s a machine that tries to make one shoe fit every foot.”
Feldmeier spent 12,775 days in prison, Humphrey said, following a highly-regimented routine where he was told when to sleep, eat, shower, work. After decades of being told what to do, he’s then expected to immediately be perfect upon release as he adjusts to making decisions for himself, the attorney said.
A single misstep, and he’s back behind bars.
Feldmeier doesn’t deserve that, Humphrey said. He said Feldmeier would not deliberately do anything resulting in his return.
“He was in hell,” Humphrey said of his client’s time behind bars, where other inmates regularly meted out brutal beatings resulting in broken bones and unconsciousness.
To convict Feldmeier, Humphrey told the jury, they must find there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt he committed a crime. Essentially, they must be convinced there’s no other reasonable explanation — including memory issues beyond his control — for his failure to register.
But Humphrey said the prosecution can’t rule out that Feldmeier believed his parole agent would tell him when to register, or that he suffers from Alzheimer’s — as testified to by a psychiatrist — that could have impacted his understanding of the registration process.
In her rebuttal argument, Wilder said Feldmeier showed no signs of cognitive issues when testifying. He appeared alert and gave clear, sharp answers — even correcting attorneys.
Around the time of his arrest, Feldmeier took college courses and earned a couple As. He managed to pay his rent, ride the bus, dress himself and, when told he wasn’t in registration compliance, went to the Bakersfield Police Department and filled out forms by himself.
He showed no symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Wilder said.
“He had the actual knowledge to register but he didn’t, and therefore he is guilty of all charges,” she said.
No matter the trial’s outcome, Feldmeier’s legal woes aren’t over.
In a separate case, Feldmeier faces a kidnapping charge after picking up a woman in June who told police she jumped from his vehicle after he repeatedly refused to stop and let her out. The woman suffered cuts and scrapes police said were consistent with jumping from a moving vehicle.
Feldmeier denied keeping the woman against her will and said she’d been acting strangely, and was possibly under the influence. Trial is scheduled to begin next month.