‘Predator’ status sought for convicted rapist

WARREN — A man once described as a “traveling pedophile” by the Trumbull County prosecutor was released from prison after serving his full 25-year sentence, but he is back in court as prosecutors try to convince a judge that James Rensel should be labeled a sexual predator for life.

Rensel, 60, moved to Warren after convictions in Pennsylvania and California for sexually related crimes. In 1993, he was indicted on four counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court for an assault on a then 9-year-old girl.

The victim reported she and another girl were repeatedly sexually assaulted by Rensel. During an interview with an investigator in the prosecutor’s office, Rensel said he had looked at the girl only to address pain she said she had, according to court documents.

Rensel told the investigator he was probing the victim’s private area, looking for anything that might be wrong, even though he is not related to the victim and is not a medical doctor, according to court documents.

Rensel flunked a subsequent polygraph examination.

Although Rensel completed his sentence after he was denied parole in 2013, prosecutors have the right to ask a judge to classify Rensel as one of three designations, said Diane Barber, Trumbull County assistant prosecutor.

The lowest, default assignment is sexually oriented offender, followed by the more serious label habitual sex offender and the worst designation is sexual predator, Barber said.

The label is akin to being labeled a Tier III sex offender under the current system and requires the person to register his or her address with the sheriff’s office every three months for the rest of his or her life, Barber said.

“That is what I am aiming for,” Barber said.

Because Rensel was convicted before current sex offender classification laws were in place, Rensel is subjected to older laws that call for the sexual offender hearings after release.

A status conference was held Wednesday and another is scheduled for Nov. 28, according to court records. A hearing is scheduled Dec. 19 before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay.

Rensel has been released and is living in Pennsylvania, Barber said.

Rensel moved to Pennsylvania after he was convicted in 1981 in California at age 23 for for assault with a deadly weapon and indecent exposure. He was placed on 36 months probation and moved to McKean County in northwest Pennsylvania.

There, Rensel was convicted of indecent assault and corruption of a minor on a 5-year-old victim and sentenced to 11-to-23 months in prison and another five years probation with orders to seek a psychological evaluation and treatment, according to documents Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins submitted at Rensel’s parole hearing.

Barber said the court is pursuing a psychological evaluation of Rensel.