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Steve Gilliard, 1964-2007

It is with tremendous sadness that we must convey the news that Steve Gilliard, editor and publisher of The News Blog, passed away June 2, 2007. He was 42.

To those who have come to trust The News Blog and its insightful, brash and unapologetic editorial tone, we have Steve to thank from the bottom of our hearts. Steve helped lead many discussions that mattered to all of us, and he tackled subjects and interest categories where others feared to tread.

Please keep Steve's friends and family in your thoughts and prayers.

Steve meant so much to us.

We will miss him terribly.

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Posing as a Family, Sex Offenders Stun a Town

Published: February 1, 2007

EL MIRAGE, Ariz., Jan. 31 — To neighbors, Casey Price was a seventh grader with acne and a baseball cap who lived an unremarkable life among a bevy of male relatives.

He built the occasional skateboard ramp and did wheelies on his bicycle down the streets of this subdivision of stucco homes north of Phoenix.

In nearby Surprise, where Casey was enrolled as a 12-year-old in a public school for four months, he was regarded as a shy, average student with chronic attendance problems. A man identified as his uncle had registered him, attended curriculum night and e-mailed his teachers about homework assignments.

Now Casey is in jail, and his former neighbors and classmates have learned the unthinkable: Not only is Casey not Casey — his real name is Neil H. Rodreick II — but he is also a 29-year-old convicted sex offender who kept a youthful appearance with the aid of razors and makeup.

And the men known as his uncle, grandfather and cousin, who until recently shared a three-bedroom house with him here, were not family at all, but a web of convicted sex offenders and predators, law enforcement officials say, preying in part on one another.

A retracing of Mr. Rodreick’s tracks over the past several years shows that he is under investigation in three states. The authorities in four jurisdictions say he repeatedly failed to register as a sex offender, housed a large cache of child pornography in his computer and, based on videos found by the police, had sex with at least one boy.

“Obviously there are a lot of emotions to work through,” said Mindy Newlin, the mother of a kindergartener at Imagine Charter School, the school in Surprise where Mr. Rodreick posed as Casey. “We are just shocked.”

Robin Kaiser’s daughter Kaitlin shared a class with “Casey,” but he failed to make an impression, Ms. Kaiser said. “She remembers him, that he was quiet and sat in the back of the classroom,” she said. “She said he looked like he had been held back.”

Janet R. Lincoln, the public defender for Yavapai County, who represents Mr. Rodreick and the other three men, did not return multiple phone calls. A receptionist in her office said Ms. Lincoln would have no comment. The men have been indicted on numerous counts and are scheduled to appear in court in late February; they have already pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud and failing to register as sex offenders.

Mr. Rodreick spent seven years in prison in Oklahoma for making lewd and indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys. After being released in 2002, law enforcement officials said, he was able to convince Lonnie Stiffler, 61, and Robert J. Snow, 43, who had been trolling the Internet for boys, that he was a minor.

In 2005, he talked the two men into taking him from Oklahoma to live with them in Arizona, where Mr. Stiffler posed as Mr. Rodreick’s grandfather and Mr. Snow as his uncle, and both men regularly had sex with him, the authorities said. Another man living in the house, Brian Nellis, 34, a sex offender Mr. Rodreick had met in prison, is believed to have aided Mr. Rodreick in the ruse, the authorities said.