At what cost does Idaho kill a convicted killer, 24 years later?

Paul Ezra Rhoades’ three-week crime spree was heinous and harrowingly prolific.

On Feb. 28, 1987, he kidnapped Blackfoot convenience store clerk Stacy Dawn Baldwin, shot her three times, and dumped her body.

On March 17, 1987, he walked into an Idaho Falls convenience store and shot Nolan Haddon five times, severing his spinal cord and leaving him to die in a walk-in cooler.

On March 21, 1987, he kidnapped teacher Susan Michelbacher from an Idaho Falls grocery store parking lot. He shot her repeatedly, sexually molested her, then killed her.

It is almost crime-show cliche to say Rhoades’ rampage took away some of a community’s innocence. Having lived in eastern Idaho at the time, I can attest that there is truth to that. This was (and, in truth, still is) a staid and safe part of the world. Serial killers just don’t happen upon Eastern Idaho.

I am sure many of my former neighbors hope to see Rhoades executed on Nov. 18, as is now scheduled. I just can’t share in that hope.

The likes of Paul Ezra Rhoades make it difficult to oppose the death penalty. The serious questions of guilt vs. innocence have been long since addressed. The nature of his crimes speaks for itself.

His case also illustrates the costly inefficiency of the death penalty.

Rhoades has faced execution dates before.

Feb, 28, 1992.

May 14, 1993.

No, those aren’t misprints. Yes, his case and its appeals have played out over two decades.

It is now sickening to hear Rhoades challenge the constitutionality of the state’s lethal injection protocol. He is pleading for his life, and bargaining over his fate, in a far more civilized venue than he granted his victims.

By having the death penalty on the books, our state gives Rhoades the standing to continue to plead for the mercy he never showed when he was on the outside. (I know some will argue for simply speeding up the appeals process — as, if when state-sanctioned death is concerned, expeditiousness should be an aim.)

But every step of the process, up to and including his execution, brings Rhoades’ crimes back to the forefront. And none of this restores the innocence Rhoades took from a community.

And all of this — including the preparation of a death room, for Idaho’s first execution in 17 years — costs taxpayers more than it would cost to simply lock Rhoades away for life, with no avenue for appeal.

Now 54, Rhoades is 24 years’ closer to the end of his life, 24 years’ closer to his ultimate day of justice. I feel nothing for him. I just think we, as a society, are the healthier for letting fate play out, on its own timetable.

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I wonder if you would be saying the same thing if........

one of the people raped and murdered was your child.


Obviously, this is a fate neither of us would wish on anyone.

Having the benefit of being able to look at this dispassionately, I see this as a ill-founded public policy.

Would you like to present a dispassionate argument for the merits of this public policy?

Kevin Richert
editorial page editor

Revenge is not dispassionate...

As someone who formely believed in the death penalty, I eventually discovered that the only motivation for doing so was a sense of revenge. As I've become more educated I have realized that the high minded concept of 'justice' is not so easily defined by individuals, let alone society as a whole. That 'justice' in any civilized society is nothing but public policy, I agree that the concept of the death penalty is very poor policy to continue in ours. It appears to only kept alive by politicians and citizens who hold passionate filled revenge as their only guiding principle for justice.

"No his mind is not for rent, to any god or government." Neil Peart

Dwain Little, Oregon.

Raped/stabbed 16 year old girl, life term 1966. Paroled 1974. Returned as parole violator 1975. Again released 1977. Then shot family of four. Three consecutive terms for rape and murder 1980.

Sleep well my Poet friend. You and your liberal friends have created such a sweet escape hatch for our monsters. Very Halloween.

As if on cue, SS proves the point.

Thank you,

"The worst thing about it all is that you've never been right." Neil Peart


Justice, not revenge should be the government's policy. If in the course of justice, the penalty seems to exact revenge in the eyes of the victims'families and friends, then so be it. For many, even death by execution does not. But a mature, sensible society ensures justice for the accused and victims (or their families) and those who cannot impart it must recuse themselves from the process.

Good news, this psycho has been off the street for 24 years.

With todays DNA fingerprint death penalty appeals shouldn't last more than 5 years. The liberal media and it's trial lawyer sidekick, can milk the taxpayer for decades.

I guess you have to have daughters to fully understand.

It is his time....24 years was

too long....time to put 400 volts together....

Our prez is excercising death gaddagfi 40 years later, and others too....

Whats good for the prez to do is good for Idaho to do....

Death penalty

The arguments against the death penalty far outweigh the arguments for.
For: Justice is served and it's a deterrent to crime. Isn't life in prison, without chance of parole justice enough? The deterrent factor is hogwash.
For: Revenge. Is that not one of the deadly sins?

Against: The justice system is not equal. Innocent people are sometimes convicted.
Against: It costs more to execute than to keep them in prison for life.
Against: The possibility of killing someone who is innocent is far more heinous than some crimes.
Against: Certainly society has evolved to a more civilized society than biblical times.
Against: Do the victims' families and loved ones suffer any less?

vivi....the death penalty is not of biblical is also


we have practiced it quite well in Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afgan, Egypt, USA, Uganda, and many others....

and soon to be Iran and Syria....

The Death Penalty is as American as the Death Penalty....

and the Death Penalty is a World-Wide practice....

Death Penalty

Hi Kevin, There are those who support the death penalty and those that don't, and you won't change their minds.I support it. with fewer appeals. This nation is the only one that prolongs the process to the point of redundency. Is our system perfect? No, that is why the US has more of it's population in prisions than any other nation. They talk about the cost. There are different cost to different families and groups. I for one say one or two appeals and finish it quickly. This nation has made a travesty of justice. I had a lawyer friend years ago say, our laws are not written for the law abiding citizens. They are writtin to make sure criminals get their due process.(Are we proud of Idaho's correctional system) The law abiding citizen who lost their life didn't get any due process. Im in the eye for an eye group. there will always be valid pro and con arguments in this matter. Have a good day. We do not live in a perfect world Kevin. Look what we the people have let happen to our system of government, by wanting everything for everyone. ----- Pretty isn't it. I see Greece in our not too distant future.

Clarence Brown