Rolf Kaestel robbing life in prison from a taco shop $264 with a toy water gun in 1981 awaits pardon
Rolf Kaestel robbed a taco shop in Arkansas when he was 30, in 1981 and has been behind bars ever since
A man who received a life sentence for robbing a taco shop with a toy water gun in 1981 hopes to get his pardon approved 40 years after his conviction.
Rolf Kaestel robbed the joint in Fort Smith, Arkansas near the Oklahoma state line and stole $264. He was given a life sentence after being charged with violent theft.
No one was injured in the incident, making his life sentence unusually harsh.
Kaestel, who is now 70, has appealed to Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who previously denied a pardon in 2015.
If he is rejected for a fourth time, he will not be eligible for a new application until 2025.
State law means that inmates serving life sentences are not eligible for parole unless the governor specifically commutes their sentence.
Kaestel showed the butt of a toy water pistol to Dennis Schluterman who was 17 at the time. Since then, he has campaigned for his release due to the extremely harsh sentence
It seems that everyone but the governor agrees that Kaestel should be released now.
Kaestel has recommended leniency three times since 2012, but Governor Hutchinson and Pastor Mike Beebe have both rejected the application.
On the night of the crime in 1981, Kaestel walked into Senor Bob’s Taco Hut where Dennis Schluterman, then 17, was working behind the counter.
When he asked Kaestel and his accomplice Terry Joe Spitler what they wanted to order, Kaestel withdrew his fees to reveal the stock of a toy gun.
“Do you know what that means?” said Kaestel.
Schluterman handed the couple a stash of money. ‘I’ve never been robbed. Don’t forget that,’ Schluterman said to the Beast.
The decision rests with Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson, who has until Sept. 3 to make a decision after having previously rejected him in 2015.
Kaestel was caught by the police when he left a nearby supermarket about half an hour after the crime was committed.
Police found the money and found the toy gun on the floor of his car.
Kaestel “did not do more than pull back his coat,” Schluterman said. ‘He didn’t seem dangerous to me. He seemed more desperate than dangerous.
“What they did was wrong, but man, they were so far out of town and it was Sunday night and they had no more money, no more gas, it was cold outside. I felt sorry for them when I found out what they were doing and why they were doing it.’
“It’s time for his break. He must be released,” Schluterman said in a 2013 video message addressed to the governor.
“And if you really want to know, I believe the state owes him something. I know you wouldn’t see it that way, but this man paid the price ten times over, and it’s time, it’s time you let him go.”
“A man’s life is worth a lot more than $264,” Jones, Reform Alliance founder, left Van Jones, who wants to review probation and parole programs. “Statistically, he’s no longer a threat – he’s 70 years old. He can’t die in prison for robbing someone with a water gun. He paid his debt over and over,” Democratic state representative Vivian Flowers said, right?
“I just don’t feel like Rolf should be in jail for another day.
“It’s not right, that’s all I want people to know and, if possible, stand up and support us to help him get out. His life is on the rise. His time is running out. God, give him a little bit of something. It wasn’t such a bad crime to do such a time,” Schluterman said in an interview with The everyday beast.
“When I sit here alone and think about it, think about all the years he’s lost to it, it makes me despondent,” he said.
‘I have no idea’, Kaestel himself wrote in a letter to the publication, ‘not because it is up to me or my business, but because something like this should not happen to anyone.
“I was guilty,” Kaestel wrote. “I just hoped and believed that jurors would actually do justice… And I thought a 10-year sentence, or even 20 or 25 years would have been more than enough…”
Instead, the jurors handed out a life sentence and a $15,000 fine.
“I couldn’t understand it, not because it’s up to me or my business, but because that shouldn’t happen to anyone.” Kaestel himself wrote in a letter to The Daily Beast
Although he no longer has living relatives fighting his cause, local activists are lobbying for him.
“Statistically, he’s no longer a threat – he’s 70 years old. He can’t die in prison for robbing someone with a water gun. He paid his debt over and over,” Democratic state representative Vivian Flowers said.
Since his incarceration, Kaestel has earned three associate’s degrees and multiple credits. He has also taught astronomy and has a job in the prison library.
“A man’s life is worth a lot more than $264,” Jones, Reform Alliance founder Van Jones, who wants to review probation and parole programs.
“When people make bad decisions, society has to make good decisions about how to correct them and get them back on track. Obviously Rolf made a bad decision, but society made a worse decision by throwing his whole life into that one day.” jones said:
“I don’t think anyone would think they’ve paid back more than their debt to society after serving decades behind bars for a crime that didn’t kill anyone.”
Even the victim of the crime, Schluterman, who worked at the taco shop, said Kaestel more than paid the price and now deserves to be released and live the rest of his days as a free man.