The Newlywed Murders: Dyke and Karen Rhoads

Paris, Illinois is a small farming town in the eastern part of the state in Edgar County. For the most part, this town, which once bragged it was “The Midwest’s most kept secret”, is a quiet town. Not many people would think a town this size would harbor many deadly secrets. But it does. And then some. This town is known for the Newlywed Murders as well as many other unsolved murders, and even the Sicilian Mafia. Yeah, it’s the ultimate place to live, wouldn’t you say? 😉

I am very passionate about this case, and I want justice. These people did nothing wrong and were savagely murdered in cold blood. The persons who did it have never been charged and probably never will be.

Newlywed Murders: Dyke and Karen Rhoads
Karen and Dyke Rhoads on their wedding day 1986

About the Case

At 4:00 a.m. on July 6, 1986, Paris, Illinois resident Terry Newman, a neighbor of Dyke and Karen Rhoads, awoke to what he described as “glass breaking.” When he looked out his window, he saw the  Rhoads’ house in flames. He immediately got dressed and ran outside to the south side of the burning home. He tried to open the side door but it was locked. He then began pounding on the door in an attempt to wake the couple. When that did not work, he ran around to the front door and found it locked as well, but started pounding on it anyway. He began screaming at the top of his lungs to alert Dyke and Karen but his efforts failed

Another neighbor, a woman, was also trying to wake the couple. When her efforts failed, she contacted the fire department around 4:39 a.m. They arrived at the scene at 433 E. Court Street shortly after. When the firemen were able to get into the house, they discovered the naked bodies of Dyke and Karen Rhoads lying on the upstairs bedroom floor. It was obvious on first sight that the two had been murdered.

Both had been stabbed over 50 times. Dyke was stabbed from behind, which meant he was probably sleeping when he was attacked. Karen had defensive wounds on her hands which showed she woke up and fought for her life.

Prior to the murders, Karen told one of her sisters and brother-in-law about an incident at work. Karen was working one evening when a phone call came in. A male caller asked for her boss, Robert Morgan. Karen informed the caller that Morgan had just left the office. But as she glanced out the window, she saw Morgan was still in the parking lot.  The report stated, “The caller told Karen Rhoads that ‘This is a very important call. And I really need to talk to him. Could you run and tell him ‘Chicago’ is calling?'” Karen went outside to get Morgan, who appeared to be carrying a machine gun. She looked into the open car trunk and saw more machine guns. Karen quoted Morgan as saying, “Why are you here? You shouldn’t have seen this.”

After the incident, Karen told her brother-in-law, James Tate, she was going to turn in her notice. Years later, when the FBI became involved in the investigation, Tate informed them he told all of this to the Paris Police Department right after the murders. None of the interview was ever documented.

Tim Busby’s mother, Marilyn, continued to have a close relationship with Karen after her son and Karen broke up. The two were having lunch one day at a country club in Danville. Karen told Marilyn an employee at Morgan Manufacturing Company named “Smoke” Burba was giving her a lot of trouble. Karen then said it was getting bad and that she would have to get another job.

“Smoke” Burba, first name Mark, was Bob Morgan’s right-hand man.  Even though his name was brought up several times in the first two months of the investigation, he was never interviewed by investigators.

Even more astonishing, if you can believe it, Morgan was only interviewed once. Jim Eckerty told investigators years later that Morgan was always a suspect but “Mike McFatridge steered us away from all other suspects.”

Two Screwed-up Witnesses, Two Ridiculous Convictions

Derrell Herrington
Derrell Herrington

The first “witness”, a.k.a the town drunk, Derrell Herrington came forward claiming he had information about the killings. Herrington is about as non-credible as you can get as a witness. Not only was he the town drunk, he had two felony arrests for deceptive practice and a history of mental health problems. Yet, he became one of two main witnesses for the prosecution in this case.

Herrington claimed Paris locals, Gordon “Randy” Steidl and Herbert Whitlock committed the murders because of a drug deal gone bad with Dyke. He said he knew this because he was there at the crime scene when the crime occurred. Dyke was a pot-smoker, and that was as far as his drug use went, so whatever, Herrington. Have another drink, buddy. Click here to watch his “eyewitness” taped statement.

Two years after his statement, Herrington recanted it, saying that the police supplied him with beer and whiskey prior to his interview.

“Gary Wheat and Jack Eckerty brought me over that night. Jim Parrish came over. They had me drinkin’…beer and wine and whiskey…at the police station and at…Jim Parrish’s residence…The residence where he lives at…I was there day and night…They lied to my wife where I was. They told my wife they was taking me to Indianapolis.” (From Michale Callahan’s book, Too Politically Sensitive)

Five months after Mr. Drunk came forward with his statement, another witness, Debra Reinbolt, also came forward. Now, let me just say that the prosecution obviously did not know what the word “credible” meant, because here’s another NON-credible LOSER who should NEVER have been called as a witness.

From 48 Hours:

Debra Reinbolt, a self-described drug addict and alcoholic, had told police she had not only seen it all, she had provided a five-inch knife, and even helped with the killing.

Debra Reinbolt
Debra Reinbolt

So what happened on the night of July 6, 1986?

“A big mess. Everything went wrong. I mean they were just going to go down there try and scare Dyke, and then things just got out of hand,” says Reinbolt.

Reinbolt said she knew Whitlock and Steidl through her drug use and claims she saw them both stabbing Dyke Rhoads.

Asked what was happening to Karen at that point, Reinbolt says, “She’s trying to get off the bed, and I had went over there and was telling her that everything would be okay.”

Reinbolt said she held down Karen while they stabbed her and also claimed that her husband’s knife was used in the killings.

Reinbolt’s story impressed police, especially when she accurately described a broken lamp found in the Rhoads’ bedroom.

Two separate juries believed both the eyewitness accounts. In 1987, despite their unwavering protests of innocence, the two men were convicted. Whitlock got life and Steidl received the death penalty.

In 1999, Steidl and Whitlock finally received the help they deserved.

David Protess, a Northwestern University journalism professor, and four of his students began to re-investigate the crime trying to find out who killed the couple.

“It struck me from the start that this was a likely miscarriage of justice,” says Protess, whose investigations have shown that several other men convicted of murder were actually innocent. Protess notes that there was no physical evidence at all that specifically linked the two men to the crime.

“This young couple was stabbed tragically over 50 times,” he says. “These men would’ve been covered in blood; there would’ve been blood in their automobiles; there would have been blood on their clothes. Someone would have seen them in blood. There would have been hair, fiber, something that linked them to the crime scene. Nothing did.” (48 Hours – Read more detailed information here)

Finally, Steidl was released in 2004, Whitlock in 2008.

Randy Steidl
Randy Steidl
Herb Whitlock
Herb Whitlock
To read my additional thoughts on this case, please click here.
Source: 48 Hours  & Too Politically Sensitive: Since When Is Murder Too Politically Sensitive by Michale Callahan
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Author: truecrimediva

True crime blogger

  • True Crime Diva

    I completely agree!!!

  • Anonymous

    I'm mad as hell after reading the book. IL is the most corrupt state and they need to be held accountable for their actions!