Rhoades' terror campaign ended era of innocence in eastern Idaho

Paul Ezra Rhoades’ murder spree in 1987 was the end of small-town innocence for the residents of eastern Idaho. It was a shift in attitude and reality that never was reversed.

The news coverage around his execution Friday reminded me of how we learned that Idaho is as vulnerable to criminal killers as anywhere in the world.

I was a reporter for the Idaho Falls Post Register then, and watched how my neighbors and family were afraid to go outside alone.

Rhoades killed Stacy Baldwin near Blackfoot in late February outside a convenience store, and then Idaho Falls convenience store clerk Nolan Haddon.

That started the tension.

But it wasn’t until Susan Michelbacher was abducted outside the Albertsons store near my home that the fear became universal.

The only comparable experience for me was in 2000, after New York flight attendant Lynn Henneman was found dead in the Boise River along the Greenbelt.

That changed the way many of us felt about our idyllic path.

In eastern Idaho in 1987, the immediate fear subsided when Rhoades was arrested in northern Nevada after six days. But the community had been changed.

The next terror campaign came in 1993, when 11-year-old Jeralee Underwood, a Pocatello newspaper carrier, was abducted from a city street by serial killer James Edward Wood as she collected from her customers. The girl later was found dead along the Snake River in Idaho Falls.

From the day of her abduction on June 29 to his arrest July 6, all of eastern Idaho was trapped in Wood’s web of terror.

He was convicted and sentenced to die for the crime. He died in prison in 2004, preventing the spectacle that we have shared around Rhoades’ execution.

Sometimes, the violent crime came disturbingly close to home.

Angie Dodge, a lovely young woman who worked with my wife, Tina, at Barnes & Noble in Idaho Falls, was brutally stabbed to death and raped in 1996.

She was the first person I knew who was murdered. Unfortunately, she wasn’t the last.

Christopher Tapp is serving a life sentence for her murder, but many still think others were involved.

In his final words Friday morning, Rhoades’ claim of no responsibility for the deaths of Baldwin and Haddon was unconvincing to those involved in the investigation and their families.

That’s not going to resurrect the fears of 1987. But it’s a reminder that predators like Rhoades live among us awaiting their opportunities like wolves around a band of sheep.

Not sure that's entirely true ...

Might want to ask the native population about when the age of innocence was really quelled for Eastern Idaho. Always gets to me to hear people say "what's our world coming too" all this violence and crime. Just ask any non-white American that was alive and well in the 1940, 50's, 60's about the "tranquil" and "peaceful" innocent life in America. What was with all the systematic terrorizing of a segment of society because of their skin color? What was that state sanctioned terrorism about? Why did hundreds if not a few thousand Americans or more die at the hands of local and state police because they wanted the same rights as anyone else? What were those lynchings about? Awe yes, such innocent times eh?

Now maybe we can ask some Native Americans about the innocence in Eastern Idaho? Maybe even some hispanics? Seems to me there were some pretty racist signs in public places in Idaho in the 1940's and 1950's regarding hispanics and their rights to be in certain public places.

Rocky you can stop with the Norman Rockwell'esque painting of life before a specific time in Eastern Idaho. Nostalgic yes. Is it true? Absolutely not! People have always found any number of ways to torture and kill their fellow man. This is nothing new it's just the "acceptable" reasons for killing our fellow man change.

Cortez got alot

of Mayans I hear....

Spanish Inquistion not a good time for anti-Catholics.....

not Mayans

Aztecs. And Cortez enjoyed enormous help from the neighbors of the Aztecs, who were tired of being taken prisoner, their hearts ripped out as a sacrifice, then the remains taken away to be barbecued. But I am sure that the good cultural relativists here would still say Cortez was the bad guy, and the Aztecs were the victims.

Yeah, Ugly, it was a coup d'etait.


Everybody wants to hue the knurled

I was just gonna say

Weren't a couple hundred Shoshone murdered in the Bear River Massacre near Preston in the late 1800s? I believe that particular "military action" also included such fun as rape and infanticide. Reading about the incident is (disturbingly) much like reading some of the exploits contained in Blood Meridian by McCarthy.

Battle of Big Hole MT... Not too far north of ID Falls

What kind of government sponsored terrorism was that? How many babies were executed? Burned alive?

Custer was a


Custer and Cortez would have gotten along just fine....

Yeah, but without that appointment from a Republican ...

Custer received his West Point appointment from Republican Congressman John Bingham... Without John Bingham, Custer would not be in the history books. I am sure they both shared the same views on conquering the West.

Not quite true....

Custer was a known 'hot-head' and defied orders many times....He was even threatened a Court Marshall as he was General George Custer....

Custer hated Republicans, especially had a disdain towards the deceased Abraham Lincoln....

Custer's ultimate goals was to run for Precidency as a Democrat....

His mission in Montana was not to battle and was told to stay away from the Indian Festivals....He and Benteen were enemies themselves....

History is distorted....But Custer did something he was not suppose to do; there were no orders for any of that....It was his choice, if we can trust history....

The West wasnt being conquered....the battles in the West were quite rare....The West was being immigrated by the then illegal immigrants....

Please, Mr. Custer...

I don't wanna go!


Oh well I never liked that hat!

I wasn't aware...

that there were Indian massacres and lynchings of black people going on the 1980s in eastern Idaho. Or even in the 1970s.

You're right about at least one thing...

Predators do live among us, and that is reason enough for me to think that people need to be proactive and prepared to deal with them so that they don't become victims.

the Rock - in a newspaper near you

First of all, Rock, your comparison of Rhoades' crime spree and 9-11 or the Cuban Missile Crisis is ridiculous!

Secondly, there is no "innocence" in small towns.
Alcoholism. Child abuse. Spouse abuse. Sexual abuse. Incest. Drug abuse. Severe Mental illness. Underage drinking. Teen pregnancy. Stupid, lazy bloggers.
It ALL happens in small towns all across America.

Rhoades' father was was an abusive alcoholic (in Idaho Falls). Hmm, imagine that.

Comparisons to 9/11 and Cuban Missile Crisis???

I saw none of that in the article. Where are you coming from, pimp2?

beta 1

It was "Updated".

Evruss, the Rock updated this post several times. In the FIRST version he wrote the quote of 9-11 and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hard to believe, I know.

Obviously the Rock doesn't note what his numerous updates are as he makes them (as some good bloggers do) - he leaves the heavy lifting to the readers.

oddly enough...

I am pretty sure that if you were not in one of those families, you were probably not much aware of those problems, because the damage they did was generally pretty well self-contained.

What is driving this liberal reaction to Barker's observation that most people were not in fear in eastern Idaho at the time? I grew up in Los Angeles in the 1960s. Even as late as 1967 or so, few people I knew were afraid to walk down a dark alley in downtown.


So now that you have "updated" your comparison to this was comparable to a female flight attendant being murdered and it was comparable to you....

So what about all the other murders in Boise?

Is the Rhoades killing spree 'comparable' for you to the BPD killing spree?

You really are a ROCK!.

deathbed confession

According to other recent stories, Baldwin had admitted to killing all three of his victims. So that makes his last-minute statement particularly odd.

As for "innocent times," Gus... there may be a distinction between societal attitudes that were obviously discriminatory and a sudden act of violence like those perpetrated by Baldwin. However, I'm sure you're right - if you went back 150 years there have probably been multiple isolated incidents that caused people to shake their head and say, "What's this world coming to?"

A good friend of my family's - Randy West - was abducted early one morning from the M&W on Warm Springs, and his body was found several weeks later. The perp has never been apprehended. It's different when violence hits "close to home."

Get your names straight, bikeboy.

Stacey "Baldwin" was the first victim murdered, and not the murderer. Jeesh!

Feb. 1975: The juvenile nightmare stabbed my friend

Steven White, 10, day before Valentine's, 17 wounds to the neck and chest and left to die behind a baseball backstop fence across from his beloved Lincoln Elementary in Nampa. We knew he was a bit angry but he also was serving life before somebody told me in the new century.


Yeah, creepy understates it.

Death penalty

One of the main problems with the death penalty, is that it just takes to long, with the endless appeal, same thing over and over, and over. within 30 days of sentencing, the Governor should sign the death warrant, all the appeals must then be filed within 30 days, it's amazing how fast the courts can act with a fire is lit under their fat (censored), the arguments are almost identical thus can be fill in the blank types, Oh it might hurt me, No kidding, every time I go to the hospital I get a needle, and yea it hurts, you whining wuzzie, what about the victim?, from date of sentencing until the sentence is carried out, no more then one (1) year, LET JUSTICE BE DONE


Rock writes"
"Lynn Henneman was found dead in the Boise River after running on the Greenbelt. Many women avoided the Greenbelt for a time."

That is WRONG Rock.

She told her co-workers she was going for a a walk. She was seen at the art museum and then for dinner at Table Rock Brew and was missing there after. Her body was recovered in the river. For quite some time, no one knew enough to "avoid the Greenbelt" based on her disappearance.

There was NO "RUNNING" involved.

Barker you are an IDIOT and a sorry excuse for a journalist!!!!!


Rock, your updated, AGAIN, version referencing Lynn Henneman is still lame!

Paul Ezra Rhoades is dead

Paul Ezra Rhoades is dead and all your protesting did nothing! Didn't bring light to anyones eyes who currently believes in the death penalty. This coward admitted to all three murders while filing for clemency and just like the liar and coward he was, he only admitted to killing one of the three while strapped down to the table and basically said he couldn't help the families of the other two victims and that they needed to keep looking! This guy said in his clemency petition that he had changed and was not the person he was at the time of the murders! Yes he was, he was a coward back in 1987 and he was still a coward when the life stopping juice stopped his non existing heart. Have no sympathy for this coward. BOO HOO HOO! Hope your cremation urn is a colostomy bag!!!

Please vomit in the other direction, that's depraved.


Everybody wants to hue the knurled

a cousin to Rhoades

Josh Tessman, a prisoner in Idaho and cousin to Paul Ezra Rhoades, will be released in early January 2012 and probably will then return to live with his grandparents, also named Rhoades, in Idaho Falls at that time. He'd lived with Grandpa and Grandma Rhoades before because he was unable to support himself, his dad died of a drug over dose and his mother couldn't control him and wanted nothing to do with him. When his dad died he said he was glad but did leard from the man how to treat women. Josh is a thief, a drug user and is in prison for raping little girls - 14 year old girls when he was an adult. He's the next Rhoades S.E. Idaho will again need to watch out for. Be aware, Idaho Falls, Josh will again be roaming the streets, stealing, doing drugs and raping children. This time he might also follow in his cousin, Paul Ezra Rhoades' foot steps.

That rambled, even if I can see what you wanted.


Everybody wants to hue the knurled

A poor editorial summarizing P. Rhoades execution.

A "terror campaign" in the "era of innocence" are short sighted characterizations of the life and execution of Paul Rhoades. Paul grew up in the middle of Idaho Falls - on the exterior, a Mormon version of Andy's Mayberry RFD. It was in no way an age of innocence, except perhaps in the perspective of the Post Register's reporting. Com-on Statesman writers. What happened with Paul? Why did innocent people die? Rather than just label him the terrorist of the time, a worthwhile journalistic inquiry into Paul's life would provide some insight to his fall.

Rhoades was a coward.

Keith Wells was executed in 1994, though I don't condone what he did, I do respect how he took his medicine. Paul Ezra Rhoades on the other hand was a coward up to the last minute. Below is synopsis on how Keith Wells took responsibility for his actions while Rhoades did not.

It's been 17 years since Idaho last executed a death row inmate and for the family of Keith Eugene Wells, the memories of that day are still very clear.

The Wells family says that day was one of the most painful they have ever endured.

In January 1994, the State of Idaho executed their first inmate since 1957. The man was Keith Eugene Wells, like Rhoades, Wells had been convicted of multiple murders. To many he was a criminal but like Rhoades, he was also a brother and a son. But unlike Paul Ezra Rhoades, after receiving his death sentence Wells chose to forgo the appeals process and accept his sentence. As the days moved closer to his execution date, his sister says the family became very tight knit.

“We all grew close together, very tight. He asked up to support him 100% and we told each other that's what we had to do,” said his sister. “And that's what we did.”

The family spent the morning of Keith’s execution day with him at the prison. Afterwards the family spent the day at a hotel room waiting for a final call from Wells, a call that never came.

“He was supposed to give us a call because we were waiting for him and he chose to call the victim's families,” she said. “I think in his heart this would make everything right for him and free him.”

By forgoing his appeals, Keith was executed less than two years after his sentence was handed down and she says that Keith looked at his death as a release from the prison walls.

“He told us many times, 'I’m already dead, I’m not going to live in this prison,'” she said.

And even though this sister lost her brother to an execution, it doesn't change her view on the death penalty.

“I am still for the death penalty all the way,” she said. “I believe when people commit crimes, if they've been proven, they need to be executed right then. You shouldn't have to pay to keep them alive and breathing and eating and enjoying life, I think they should be executed.”

Below is a letter addressed to the family of Paul Rhoades from the Keith Wells family.

From the Keith Wells Family

Dear Mr. Rhodes(SIC),

At times like these our hearts reflect back to the very pain filled events we endured, and the life lessons we learned.

With respect, and our deepest empathies, we share with you some of the untold story of Keith Wells and his walk. With hope to bring peace and comfort to your aching heart. Keith was one who has been there before.

There were , No finger prints ,No blood of Keith, No slivia on the ciggarett butts, No evidence, but a self confession of his wrong , Keith was sentenced to death April 8 1992. A short 10 months later, Keith wrote a letter, Feburary 11, 1993 I quote in part

“………. It is not my intention to cause any more pain or grief for anyone. And I feel that prolonging my life through years of appeals will only serve to prolong the pain and grief of not only my family members and loved ones, but that of the victims families and loved ones as well. The Suffering MUST STOP so the healing can begin!!...... “ “ … the cost, both in monetary and emotional well being, for all concerned, taxpayers, family, friends and victims alike, for keeping me confined in a 7’ by 14’ concrete and steel box year after year, Is a wasted and irresponsible one. Especially when all that money and energy can be better spent on things that really mean something… I.e. Hunger, poverty, Drug addiction treatment, etc.” end quote.

The last phone call we receive from Keith, he was sobbing so hard he could hardly utter the words of the to describe the miracle he had just witnessed. You see, No mail was to be given to Keith for the last week before the execution, but on this, the night before his execution, a package was sent to him by a person he had never met, but a pair of Keith’s shoes was given to him 7 years earlier. In the package was a bible ,a letter, and the a pair of shoes . The letter explained how the person got Keith shoes and simply wanted to return the shoes to Keith in the event that he needed them. Keith, was sobbing so hard because, it was January in Idaho, and it was snowing. To many this may seem like not a big deal, but you see Keith had chosen to walk to the execution trailer that was about a mile away from the prison, knowing he had no shoes. God knew of Keith’s choice, so He touched the hearts of others to show Keith, He knew him personally and loved him enough , that without the world even knowing, he sent him shoes so he could complete his walk. That testimony of God’s love for him allowed him to lay still on the execution table for over 45 minutes as he waited for courts decisions. So God returned Keith’s owns shoes back to him, that were given to a stranger 7 years before Keith needed them.

God lives Mr. Rhodes, he loves you and knows of your heart ache. God is not someone to fear, It is your actions and choices you need to fear. One should not fear the actions of men more than the actions of God.

Beyond repentance is forgiveness, we strongly feel Keith had a great understanding of the forgiveness and knew of the price he must pay for that to apply to his life.

The Lord commanded “ Whosoever shedth innocent blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Thereby God has given the law.

These actions are not taken to punish you, and you are not losing any privileges because of it. You will be freed of your heavy burdens you that plaque you daily.

May your find peace and in the comfort of your faith. He who confesses with a humble heart shall be forgiven.

Here are your shoes, its your turn to walk.

Competent writing..........

The first sentence of this article doesn't make sense.
"Paul Ezra Rhoades’ reign of terror in 1987 was the end of the small town innocence residents of the small cities of eastern Idaho."
I believe the words "for the" are missing between "innocence" and "residents". But, maybe not; something else might have been intended.
I believe this article had been updated twice, and still this error has not been fixed.
Here's my attempt: Paul Ezra Rhoades’ reign of terror in 1987 was the end of the small town innocence 'for the' residents of the small cities of eastern Idaho.
I don't know if this is what the author wanted to say, but at least it's a complete sentence.

spot on

Just because Rock updates his blog doesn't mean he takes the time to proof it, spell check or grammar. This is standard slop for the Rock.

God bless you

God bless you