Investigator Seeks Pardon In 1986 Paris Murders
By Jeff Bossert
A private investigator wants the governor to pardon two men who spent years in prison for the murders of a newlywed couple in Paris, Illinois before being released.
Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock spent more than a decade behind bars for the deaths of newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads. Steidl spent 17 years in prison, including 12 on death row, and Whitlock was sentenced to life in prison. They were released because of flawed evidence.
Investigator Bill Clutter says it’s the decent thing for Governor Pat Quinn to do, noting both have been largely exonerated through settlements in a civil case.
A previous request with Governor Rod Blagojevich was never acted on. A spokesman for Quinn says the Democrat would carefully review the request.
Despite their release and civil judgments, Clutter said Steidl and Whitlock still have problems applying for jobs when their criminal history comes up.
Clutter has also filed an affidavit with the state prisoner review board, linking the unsolved Paris murders to serial killer and Texas death row inmate Tommy Lynn Sells, who he interviewed two years ago in Texas.
“When I got back to my office, he wrote a letter after I left - it was dated April 27th," he said. "In the letter, he puts as an aside - P.S. - How’s the Eiffel Tower ever been? And of course, it’s a reference to Paris, Illinois.”
Clutter contends Sells stayed in Paris the night of the Rhoads murders, checking into the city’s Hotel France under the alias ‘Richard Smith’. That name has surfaced in investigations.
But former state police investigator Michale Callahan, who also investigated the Paris deaths, said there are holes in Clutter’s murder-for-hire theory.
He said Sells is purposely giving out hints to avoid execution.
“When private investigators or police officers reach out to him ahead of time, and tell him hey we’re looking at this unsolved murder, does that not give him the ability to go and research some of these cases so that he can give just enough information to maybe not implicate himself, but maybe entice investigators to think that it is him," he said.
The now-retired Callahan sued his superiors when he was demoted when trying to re-open an investigation into the Rhoads murders. He won the case, but lost on appeal.
Callahan has also written a book about the investigation, saying there are still many possible suspects.