It was one of the most disturbing killings so far this decade.
An 84-year-old woman was raped, tortured and then killed by an alleged burglar she had never met.
“This case hit close to home,” says Anaheim Police Sgt. James A. Rodriguez, who was promoted last week after a successful run working homicide cases. “Bessie Whyman and her late husband lived down the street from where I grew up. It was an honor to have been a part of that case and to help put her killer behind bars.”
Rodriguez, a Katella High School graduate, says the Whymans were big supporters of his alma mater.
“I was there when Bessie was laid to rest, along with her family, friends and congregation,” he says. “I got to know her through friends and family and she was truly a great human being who never harmed anyone. It was a tragedy what happened to her, but I was happy to do what I could for her and her family.”
Her alleged killer, Anthony Darnell Wade, could face the death penalty if convicted.
“We do not get thanked very often in this line of work,” he said. “But when you solve a murder, the family of the victims are always appreciative and its nice to know we provided some closure for them.”
Rodriguez, 30, says always knew he wanted to be a police officer. He was a police explorer during high school.
“It has been a blast serving the community where I was raised,” he said.
He points to the city’s effort to curb gangs as an example of Anaheim’s progressive approach to law enforcement.
“For a long time, police departments around the country would try and solve the gang problem with a lot of arrests and only through suppression methods,” he says. “In Anaheim, we do not only approach the gang problem through suppression, but also through intervention and diversion. We have a collaborative effort with (other agencies) to accomplish our goals of combating gang violence.”
Up next for Rodriguez is training the next generation of police officers.
“I was lucky to have a few great supervisors over the years who did the same for me, and I am forever grateful,” he says.