Sex offender pleads not guilty to posing as teen online

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VISTA, Calif. -- An Oceanside registered sex offender pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges relating to conducting an online sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

Rennard Cawkwell was arrested Tuesday -- his 47th birthday -- on felony charges including possession of child pornography and attempting to molest a minor.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe said Cawkwell was committing the most recent offenses while on probation.

“He developed an online relationship with a girl who was 16-years old. He was posing as 17-year-old boy named Rennie Pearlwater,” said Watanabe.

Watanabe said the two met on the social dating app called Meet Me.

“Their friendship turned into sexually explicit conversations and he told her he was on probation and once he was off he would meet her,” said Watanabe.

The prosecutor said the conversation then moved to Facebook and that’s when the girl’s parents caught on.

“They ordered their daughter to stop and even wrote to the defendant to stop having any conversations with their daughter, all this while believing defendant was 17-year-old boy,” said Watanabe.

On March 24, Cawkwell’s probation ended.

“A parole agent went to his house and cut off the GPS bracelet from his ankle. The very next day the defendant did as he promised -- he showed up at victim’s house to meet her,” said Watanabe.

Shocked that he was a 47-year-old man, the girl’s parents immediately called police.

“They also were able to identify him as a registered sex offender on the Megan’s Law offender site," Watanabe said.

Escondido police immediately launched an investigation.

On April 8Cawkwell once again showed up at the victim’s house and tried to give a cell phone to her 12-year-old sister. Police said he apparently believed she was her old sister, the girl he had been in contact with.

On April 25, police served a search warrant at Cawkwell’s home and arrested him.

“A search of his cell phone revealed there were several images of child pornography on his phone and they discovered a number of other sexually explicit conversations he was having with other girls," Watanabe said.

Investigators said Cawkwell has used other screen names such as Rennie, Rennie Cawkwell and Akadia Pearlwater.

It’s believed there are more victims.

“He’s a repeat offender and we believe he’s a danger to the community,” said Watanabe.

If you any information or believe a minor has been communicating with Cawkwell, call Escondido police at 760-743-TIPS.

Cawkwell faces 11 years and eight months in prison if convicted. He will be back in court May 9 for a readiness conference and May 12 for a preliminary hearing.