Mud-Covered ‘Tarzan' Zoo Intruder Sentenced to Prison for Robbery

The zoo's director called 911 to report a man climbing trees and running around the property

A man who claimed to be Tarzan, climbed a tree and tried to reach the monkey exhibit at an Orange County zoo pleaded guilty to several felony charges stemming from a separate case and was immediately sentenced to four years in prison.

John Rodenborn, 38, pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbery and burglary charges. He also entered guilty pleas to burglary and trespassing in another case. Charges of possession of a controlled substance and entering an animal enclosure at a zoo were dismissed.

Rodenborn was arrested in August 2015 after a zookeeper reported that a shirtless, mud-plastered man claiming to be Tarzan had climbed 20 feet up a tree in the bird exhibit at the Santa Ana Zoo.

He tried unsuccessfully to enter the monkey exhibit, police said. 

Since his arrest Rodenborn spent time in a state mental hospital.

"He's not Tarzan anymore," his attorney, Jim Sweeney, told the Orange County Register. "He's not anywhere near the erratic behavior as before. And I think maybe Patton (hospital) deserves credit for that."

The zoo's director discovered the man and explained the bizarre scene to a 911 operator. The man was seen climbing trees and jumping into animal exhibits. 

Officers briefly chased Rodenborn before taking him into custody.

On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to several charges stemming from the theft of a cell phone and a hold-up at a fuel station. He faced a maximum of up to 60 years to life in prison, his attorney told the Register.

Rodenborn was charged in August 2015 with stealing a cell phone at a Costa Mesa art gallery, a theft that occurred two days after the zoo incident.

Four months earlier, he was arrested in a hold-up at a Westminster fuel station where an employee was threatened at gunpoint, according to authorities. A cigarette left at the store was used to make a DNA match, prosecutors told the Register.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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