Texas town to try case involving Utah body
By Pat Reavy - Deseret News
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
OZONA, Texas — The ongoing drama in Eldorado and San Angelo, Texas,
involving the YFZ Ranch and the FLDS Church has captured the attention
of Utah and the nation.
But the legal battle surrounding the polygamist sect
isn't the only court case in the Lone Star State with Utah ties.
About 45 minutes outside of Eldorado along I-10 is
the town of Ozona. There, prosecutors are preparing their case against
alleged serial killer Robert Ben Rhoades, 62, accused of murdering two
people 18 years ago. The badly decomposed body of one of those victims,
Patricia Candace Walsh, 24, was found by hunters in Millard County
months after she had been murdered.
Rhoades' travels are the subject of a book, "Roadside
Prey," by Alva Busch.
Rhoades, a former truck driver, is believed to have
equipped the cab of his truck as a type of dungeon with handcuffs on the
ceiling used to incapacitate his victims. He is accused in the book and
by investigators of sexually assaulting and systematically torturing the
women he held captive before killing them.
A story in the Tucson Weekly in 1996 quoted officials
as saying they believed by early 1990, Rhoades was kidnapping and
killing an average of three women a month. He allegedly carried a
briefcase of torture items with him on the road, according to the
In 1990, Walsh and her husband, Scott Zyskowski, 25,
both originally from Seattle, were hitchhiking in Texas when Rhoades
allegedly picked the two up. Prosecutors believe he killed Zyskowski and
dumped his body in January 1990 in Texas. Utah officials say they
believe that for the next seven days, Rhoades held Walsh captive before
shooting her multiple times and dumping her body.
Even after the body was found, Walsh went
unidentified for 13 years while her remains were kept in the basement of
the Millard County Sheriff's Office. But by a set of chance
circumstances, Millard County sheriff's detectives were finally able to
identify her in 2003.
After identifying Walsh, the next step in the
investigation proceeded much more quickly. Police found enough evidence
to link Rhoades with the crime. By then, Rhoades was serving a life
sentence in Illinois for murder.
A month after Walsh's death, Rhoades picked up 14-year-old
Regina Walters and Ricky Lee Jones, two runaways from Texas. He killed
Walters in Illinois and was later convicted of that crime. Jones' body
has never been found.
Rhoades was caught on April 1, 1990, in Arizona,
where police came across Rhoades' semitrailer truck while he was in the
process of torturing another woman. He was convicted and sent to prison.
Just before he was to be released in Arizona, officials in Illinois
filed their case. Rhoades was sent to Illinois where he stood trial and
was convicted again.
In 2005, Rhoades was extradited from the Pontiac, Ill.,
Correctional Center to Utah to stand trial for Walsh's murder. If
convicted, prosecutors said they would have sought the death penalty.
But based on the wishes of the families of Walsh and
Zyskowski, Utah dropped its case in 2006 and sent Rhoades back to
Illinois in anticipation of Texas authorities filing two murder counts
and also seeking the death penalty. Under Texas law, prosecutors would
be able to put Rhoades on trial for both deaths at once. In Utah, only
Walsh's murder could be tried.
The families, not wanting to relive the tragedy twice,
asked Utah officials if Texas could handle both cases at the same time.
Rhoades' Texas case, however, is currently delayed. A
trial scheduled to begin in September was postponed until 2009 because
Rhoades recently got a new defense attorney.
Ozona District Attorney Laurie English said that as
far as she knew, Rhoades was still in Illinois and had not yet been
extradited to Texas.
English said she has met with the families of the
victims, and they are aware of the delays. English declined to talk
further about the Rhoades case, saying she could not comment on an open
Preliminary hearing to begin in
August 10, 2005
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
A suspected serial killer charged with capital murder for the 1990
slaying of a woman found along Interstate 80 near Fillmore is scheduled
for a 10-day preliminary hearing starting Feb. 27 in 4th District Court.
Robert Ben Rhoades, 59, was linked by DNA in 2003 to the murder of 24-year-old
Patricia Candice Walsh. Rhoades allegedly dumped the body of Walsh's
husband, Douglas Scott Zyskowski, 28, in Texas. The couple were
traveling from Georgia to Seattle when they allegedly crossed paths with
Rhoades, a long-haul trucker suspected of a decade of rape, torture and
For the past 15 years, Rhoades has been serving a life sentence in
Illinois for slaying a 14-year-old girl.
Serial Killer Appears in Court
suspected serial-killer appeared in court in Fillmore today, charged
with the murder of a woman whose body was found 15 years ago.
Truck driver Robert Ben Rhoades was assigned a court appointed lawyer.
He's accused of abducting a Seattle woman and holding her captive in his
truck until killing her in Utah.
Investigators believe she was only one of numerous women held in a
traveling torture chamber and later killed.
If ever there was a story to make you leery of accepting rides from
strangers, this is it. The story of truck driver Robert Ben Rhoades.
Alva Busch/ Author of "Roadside Prey": "Mr. Rhoades is a very evil man."
"In the cab of that semi-truck, he had a torture chamber built into it."
Alva Busch wrote a book about Rhoades nearly a decade ago. By then,
Rhoades was safely behind bars.
Busch believes Rhoades roamed the highways for years, using his truck to
satisfy his lust for torture and murder. It ended one day in 1990, when
an Arizona cop stopped to investigate a semi parked alongside the
highway with its lights flashing.
Alva Busch: "When he stepped up on the running board to look in, he saw
a woman shackled inside the cab with a horse bit in her mouth."
The cop arrested Rhoades and rescued the woman, who had been held
captive on the highways for many days.
Alva Busch: "She had whip marks all up and down her back. She told
investigators that he had shackled her in there and beat her, and that
he'd take her out of the truck on lonely stretches of road with a leash
around her neck like a dog." "I spoke with two of the victims who
escaped from him and they basically told the same story of ongoing
tortures that lasted for days."
Also in 1990, Patricia Walsh of Seattle was found murdered along I-15 in
Millard County. Detectives have now reportedly linked Rhoades to the
15-year-old case with DNA evidence.
Busch says Rhoades' truck was equipped with torture devices and
restraints that could hold people for weeks.
Alva Busch: "He drove around the country torturing these people until he
got tired of them. Then he killed them."
Although Busch and other investigators believe there were many victims,
Rhoades has only been convicted of one murder. He's serving a life
sentence in Illinois. If convicted in Utah, he could face the death
Rhoades will be held in the Millard County jail until his next court
appearance on May 23rd. The lawyer appointed today to represent Rhoades
did not return phone calls to the Deseret Morning News.
Charges against former truck driver dropped
Instead, he will be tried in Texas for
the Utah slaying
By Pat Reavy - Deseret
Charges in a 16-year-old murder case against a former truck driver
police say tortured and killed women across the country were officially
dropped in 4th District Court Monday.
But Robert Ben Rhoades, 60, is far from off the hook.
Prosecutors filed a motion in Millard County's 4th
District Court Monday officially dismissing capital murder and
aggravated kidnapping charges. Instead, Rhoades will be tried in Texas
for the Utah slaying.
Before he was extradited to Utah in early 2005,
Rhoades was serving a sentence of life without parole at the Pontiac,
Ill., Correctional Center. He will now be returned there.
In Utah, he was charged with the murder of Candace
Walsh, 24, whose badly decomposed body was discovered by deer hunters 22
miles south of Fillmore in October 1990. She had been dead for several
months when she was found.
Walsh's body remained unidentified in the basement of
the Millard County Sheriff's Office for 13 years until a chance set of
circumstances lead to her identity finally being discovered.
Investigators believe Rhoades picked up Walsh and her
new husband, Scott Zyskowski, 25, both originally from Seattle,
hitchhiking in 1990. Near El Paso, Texas, Rhoades allegedly murdered
Zyskowski and dumped his body in January 1990.
For the next seven days, Walsh was
apparently held captive by Rhoades, according to
prosecutors. A week later, he allegedly shot her
multiple times and dumped her body in Millard County.
Rhoades murderous streak was written
about in the book "Roadside Prey" by Alva Busch. It
claimed Rhoades would pick up female hitchhikers or
women he met at truck stops.
The cab of his trailer was described
as a type of dungeon with handcuffs on the ceiling used
for his victims. Rhoades is accused in the book and by
investigators of sexually assaulting and systematically
torturing the women he held captive before killing them.
A story in the Tucson Weekly in 1996
quoted officials as saying they believed by early 1990
Rhoades was kidnapping and murdering an average of three
females a month. He allegedly carried a briefcase full
of torture items with him on the road, according to the
Once Rhoades is returned to Illinois,
Texas will begin the process of extraditing him to their
state where murder charges for both Walsh and Zyskowski
have been filed. If convicted there, Rhoades would face
the death penalty.
Prosecutor Brent Berkley said Monday
that the witnesses in both murders are all the same. It
just made more sense, he said, to make those people only
have to testify once.
"It's in the best interest of justice
and the victims' families," he said.
Berkley said he didn't regret
extraditing Rhoades to Utah only to return him to
Illinois more than a year later.
"It was worth it, I think we'd do it
again," he said. "This case is different from most
homicides. Most of the evidence is from out of state and
from different agencies. It's kind of a complicated
case. When we got looking at the best interest of the
victims ... it'll bring swifter justice in the case."
Under Texas law, the Lone Star State
can prosecute both murders because Walsh's ordeal began
with her kidnapping there, Berkley said. Utah, however,
would only be able to prosecute one murder.
According to court documents, Walsh's
family "expressed concern about having to go through
multiple hearings" and "expressed their strong
preference to proceed in Texas."
Berkley said he didn't know what, if
any, involvement Utah prosecutors would have in the
Sexual Sadist And Cold-Blooded Killer
Robert Ben Rhoades Was A Travelin' Man, Until...
By Karen Brandel
Well, at that particular time,
when I shined the flashlight inside the vehicle, the
woman screamed and I saw a momentary illumination of a
man's face with the flashlight. That's when this series
of events started, and there was no stopping any of the
events that happened.
--DPS Officer Mike Miller,
State of Arizona vs. Robert Ben Rhoades
The Peterbilt semi-tractor rig
was pointed toward Tucson in the dark, early morning
hours of April 1, 1990. Arizona State Trooper Mike
Miller wondered if the trucker was having difficulty,
because the rig, its hazard lights flashing, was parked
on a curb off Interstate 10, just at the city limits of
Casa Grande. Those lights nagged at Miller.
His decision to stop that morning
came just in the nick of time; it was the first in a
horrifying chain of events.
As Miller opened the Peterbilt's cab,
he couldn't imagine time depravity he was about to find,
nor could he know that blood had spilled well beyond
Arizona's borders. Subsequently, the details of two
separate kidnappings in different states emerged,
gradually fitting like transparencies over a savage
homicide in yet another state. Then, evidence that was
tagged for destruction in Arizona would be salvaged and
yield crucial information.
Only much later would weary
investigators marvel at how it all came together. They
still wonder about the 50 skeletonized bodies strewn
across America that they can't rule out. They only know
for sure that Robert Ben Rhoades killed, and cruelly
relished it, long before they ever caught up with him.
Although they're still waiting for
Rhoades to talk, authorities believe his is a classic
case of sexual sadism; they say this frightening
psychological disorder is being seen in greater numbers.
Officer Miller took his flashlight
and walked around the truck, looking for the driver. He
noticed some commotion within the rig, so he stepped up
on the runner to look inside the sleeper cab.
His breath caught when he saw a nude
woman shackled and chained to the wall. She screamed
frantically when she saw him, and Miller saw a man
scramble through the curtains separating the sleeper cab
from the front seats.
Trying to maintain calm as the woman
kept screaming, Miller lurched to the driver's side of
the truck and ordered the man out. He complied, calmly
assuring Miller everything was all right. The man also
informed Miller he was carrying a gun.
"It's the good guys who tell you they
have a weapon," recalls Miller. "He was so smooth, yet
that woman was terrified. I didn't know what I had on my
The trucker's cool composure and the
woman's terrified shrieks were more than Miller could
attend to at once. So he went by the book: He took the
trucker's wrists and handcuffed them behind his back,
then seatbelted him in the patrol car. With the man out
of the way, Miller returned to the woman and saw she was
badly wounded. She bore mean red welts on her body and
cuts on her mouth. She had a horse bridle strapped
around her neck and a long chain padlocked to the horse
bit. Her hands and ankles were handcuffed. Seeing all
this, Miller called the city of Casa Grande for back-up.
Miller tried to cover the young
woman's body until help arrived. He couldn't console her--she
was terrified the trucker would return. And with good
reason, Miller discovered.
The trucker had managed, Houdini-like,
to get his hands down to his feet and bring them up so
that the cuffs were now in front of him. In that amount
of time, he'd also unfastened the seatbelt.
Unnerved, Miller realized the trucker
could've killed him, climbed back into his rig and
disappeared into the sparse but anonymous traffic on
Miller was relieved when Officer
Robert Gygax of the Casa Grande Police Department pulled
up behind him. Gygax freed the woman with the handcuff
keys Miller managed to find inside the trucker's pocket.
She was taken to the Casa Grande Police station.
At the station, 27-year-old Katie
Ford (not her real name) finally began to feel safe.
After her injuries were photographed, she readily gave
information about her attacker, who'd been identified as
Robert Ben Rhoades, of Houston, Texas.
In a videotaped interview, Ford told
Detective Rick Barnhart that Rhoades had picked her up
at Rip Griffin's truckstop, just north of Phoenix. She
often hitched rides in order to visit friends, she said,
adding Rhoades had been very polite at the truckstop.
She'd been asleep when he stopped the
truck, shoved her into the sleeper cab and shackled her.
He took his torture items from a
briefcase, she said. She'd been tortured on and off
since he picked her up earlier that day. Long red welts
from a vicious whipping covered her chest and back .
Rhoades told her his name was "Whips and Chains," and
she correctly took this to mean this was his CB radio
nickname. He also told her he'd been doing this for 15
Barnhart asked if she'd been raped
and noted that Ford hesitated before stating she'd been
rescued just in time. Barnhart doubted that, because her
injuries were severe and the photos revealed her nipples
and labia had been punctured with sharp objects. Before
the interview ended, Ford told Barnhart that Rhoades "got
off" on the torture.
It was about 3 a.m. as Barnhart
prepared to question Rhoades. The detective looked over
some of the evidence, especially the well-stocked
"He took good care of the contents of
that briefcase," recalls Barnhart. "There were alligator
clips, leashes, handcuffs, whips, pins and dildos. It
was just very well cared for and everything was placed
neatly. I knew I had a serial rapist because of all that,
and I suspected he might also have killed someone."
Rhoades entered the interview room
while the video camera was rolling. He stretched out
comfortably on the couch and yawned. He spent a long
time explaining how the woman they'd found in his truck
was "not playing with a full deck," that he was tired
and never had the time or inclination to screw around
while on the road.
Barnhart had no way of knowing that
not half a month before this interview, Rhoades had
managed to steal huge chunks of time for his sadism, nor
did he know the extreme to which Rhoades took it.
Rhoades continued to explain the term "lot lizard," or
women who loiter around truck stops. "That's what that
woman is," he claimed. Barnhart sensed Rhoades was
trying to act chummy with him when he chortled that you
just don't get involved with the women at truckstops "unless
you want your dick to fall off, you know."
But Barnhart wanted an explanation
for the woman's injuries. He conducted the interview
carefully, frequently asking if Rhoades wanted to stop.
Rhoades kept talking, like an experienced damage-control
expert, all around the subject. Finally, he made a
crease in the couch with his hand. "I took you up to the
point where I stopped the truck. Now, I'm not gonna
cross that line. I stopped the truck."
Barnhart photographed Rhoades'
injuries on his arm and flank, after Rhoades asked if a
lawyer would allow that. After Barnhart left the room,
Rhoades took a deep drag on his cigarette and winced as
he patted the bite wound on his left flank that Ford had
managed to give him.
Barnhart was disturbed by the
interview. Rhoades acted so normal and had a knack for
persuasion. He acted as if this nasty business of the
shackled woman in his truck had been her own doing, that
it had been his bad luck to offer the crazy woman a ride.
If there hadn't been so much physical evidence,
including a live, screaming victim, it would've be easy
to imagine Rhoades talking himself out of lots of
As Rhoades was being booked for
aggravated assault, sexual assault and unlawful
imprisonment, Barnhart sent a teletype nationwide, and
faxed a letter to a superior court judge in Florence,
Arizona, to detain Rhoades at least until some
information came in. Then Barnhart called the Houston
Police Department, since Rhoades lived there.
It wasn't long before Detective R. E.
Bomar called Barnhart to relate the details of a similar
kidnapping in Houston--a kidnapping in which Rhoades was
involved. In that case, Rhoades kept the 18-year-old
woman about two weeks, then clipped her hair short and
shaved her pubic hair. She, too, had been systematically
tortured, and Rhoades had talked to her about killing
her. She escaped when Rhoades forgot to close the
handcuff that kept her chained inside the truck.
The Houston victim had described the
truck and its driver to the police, but when two
officers brought her face to face with the detained
trucker--Rhoades--the victim looked at the ground and
said he was not her attacker. The officers couldn't
detain Rhoades any longer. Only later did the woman tell
them the man they'd stopped was indeed her attacker, but
she'd been too afraid. After weeks of torture at his
hands, she said, in her mind there weren't enough
officers around to protect her.
That case never went anywhere because
the victim seemed too iffy. Both of Rhoades' known
victims were especially vulnerable: Either they'd had
emotional upsets at the time they were abducted, were
very young and naive, or had physical afflictions like
Two victims in two different states,
both with similar tales of unbelievable torture at this
man's hands, thought Barnhart. He called the Phoenix FBI
office, and from there the growing file on Rhoades went
to the Houston FBI office, where it was assigned to
Special Agent Bob Lee.
When Lee reviewed the two kidnapped
victims' accounts of the methodical torture they endured,
and viewed the contents of Rhoades' briefcase--it was
the most refined "rape kit" agents had ever seen--he saw
a classic profile of a sexual sadist.
"Sexual sadists start off with a
limited rape kit, as we call it," explained Lee. "Because
his was so refined, we knew he'd been doing this for a
Lee immediately wanted to search
Rhoades' Houston apartment, since sexual sadists--defined
as those who become aroused by their victim's suffering--often
keep journals, photos and other items to help them re-live
their exploits. He found out the apartment was leased
only to Rhoades. But Rhoades' apartment manager was nosy,
and had entered his apartment. What she told Lee made
him more determined to get a search warrant. She'd seen
handcuffs, whips, bondage magazines and women's clothing
strewn over the floor. The manager also told Lee that a
woman claiming to be Rhoades' wife had recently visited,
saying that Rhoades had just called her and instructed
her to clear everything out of the apartment.
Lee smiled. Rhoades obviously had
some secrets in there. But Lee had to get a behavioral
sciences expert from FBI headquarters in Quantico,
Virginia, to explain to a judge the reasons he needed a
The search was granted. On April 6,
agents swarmed into Rhoades' apartment while other
agents tracked down his wife.
The agents removed all the bondage
material, women's clothing, make-up, and a bunch of
white towels, one of which was saturated with blood.
Rhoades liked his white towels. Both kidnap victims
related that he placed a white towel beneath them before
starting his sexual torture.
On one wall was a large poster, a
blow-up of a Santana album cover that looks like a lion
but on closer examination reveals many faces of
Agents also seized photographs, many
of a young teenager with very short hair in various
stages of undress--always shackled and handcuffed. She
must have been with him for some time, Lee realized,
because some of the photos revealed old bruises near her
breasts, and shaved pubic hair in various stages of
regrowth. In some photos, she had a vacant stare, while
in others she looked tearful and scared. The photos
He couldn't ask for help in
identifying the girl because she may have been a willing
partner in the sadistic sexual acts. In that event,
broadcasting her picture would violate her rights. It
was a legal obstacle that Lee couldn't circumvent, but
in his gut, he knew the girl was a victim and he wanted
to find her.
Lee is a burly man with a serious
demeanor softened only by his pleasant Texas drawl. It's
clear the photos he seized on April 6, 1990, still
bother him. Maybe more so, for now he knows what
"Back then," Lee explains, waving his
arm about the expansive Houston FBI office, "this place
didn't have these dividers. It was like a bullpen, and
you could hear other agents discussing their cases."
It was nearly a year after the
apartment search when Lee heard Special Agent Mark Young
talking about a homicide in rural Illinois. The victim
was found in a barn loft, when a farmer decided to take
one last look through the decaying wooden structure
before having it burned.
To the farmer's horror, he discovered
a desiccated body. Young had the case because it had
been confirmed that the 14-year-old victim, identified
through dental records as Regina Walters, of Pasadena,
Texas, was last seen in February, 1990, near Houston
with her boyfriend, Ricky Lee Jones.
"The FBI entered the case in early
1991 because she was apparently kidnapped from the
Houston area," Young explained. "I studied the crime
scene photos--she'd been strangled with bailing wire
that was attached to a wooden beam. The wire had been
twisted many times beyond the point needed for death.
Her hair was very short, and the forensic report told me
something invaluable: Her pubic hair had been shaved
prior to death. This was the signature aspect of the
killer I would be looking for."
Behavioral experts like Young take
pains to distinguish the difference between M.O. (Modus
Operandi) and signature aspect, or ritual.
The M.O., which can be anything from
the approach the offender takes to lure a victim or the
type of binding material he uses, is something that
changes, usually every 3 to 4 months as the offender
becomes more experienced. But the signature aspect--that
which gives him psychosexual gratification--never
changes. In this case, it was the cutting of the victims'
head hair and shaving the pubic hair that served some
Although there are some classic
sadists in custody who've talked about their criminal
acts, they've never discussed the bizarre individual
rituals that accompany their crimes.
"The law enforcement folks in
Illinois thought their best suspect was the boyfriend,
18-year-old Ricky Lee Jones," Young said. "But based on
my profiling experience, I knew her killer was older,
had more fetishes, and was a traveler. The people in
Illinois and I exchanged some words, there was a lot of
tension. Time was passing and they understandably wanted
to find the killer of Regina Walters and clear the case.
They couldn't understand why I couldn't locate the
boyfriend. I strongly suspected then, and still do, that
Jones, of Houston, had some minor
brushes with the law, but was described by friends as
rather meek. He and some siblings were removed from
their home by Child Protective Services when he was
younger. According to friends, he was infatuated with
Regina Walters, but didn't know she was only 14. A
friend told police the two were in love, and were hitch-hiking
Jones has not been found, and his
family never reported him as missing. It's his sad
epitaph that he was charged in absentia in Bond County,
Illinois, for the murder of the girl he loved--Regina
IN RECALLING THE case on
Rhoades, agents Lee and Young stop a moment and look at
each other, puzzled. "I don't know exactly how we teamed
up," says Lee. "I heard him talking about his own case
and knew that he should see the file on my kidnapping
cases, including the photos I seized from Rhoades'
By October 1991, Young looked over
some of the photos in Lee's file on Rhoades. He saw the
red welts on Ford's back and chest. Her hair was dark
brown and long. The other kidnap victim in Rhoades' file
though, had short, clipped head hair. Astonished, Young
saw that her pubic hair was shaved, just like the late
Regina Walters' had been. Lee had to rush to court, but
he assured Young there were more photos.
The other photos were of a young,
nude teenager with short hair. She had a choke chain
around her neck and was shackled and handcuffed. This
was the girl Lee wanted to find.
Young thought she resembled the
photograph he had of Regina Walters, his homicide victim,
but he couldn't be sure because she had long hair in his
photo. He blocked part of a photo and showed it to the
girl's father, who sadly nodded it was his daughter.
There were three birthmarks on her neck that also
In an especially cruel twist, Regina
Walters' father had received anonymous phone calls, both
at work and at his unlisted home number, a month after
The caller told Walters, "I made some
changes. I cut her hair." He also told Walters that his
daughter was in a barn loft, and when Walters asked if
she was alive, the caller hung up.
The calls, made over a two-day period,
were traced to Oklahoma City the first day, and to Ennis,
Texas, the next day. Though the phone calls will forever
haunt Walters, they would also come back to haunt the
Among the photos of Regina Walters
seized from Rhoades' apartment were a series in which
she wore a black dress, oversized black high heels and a
terrified expression. She was made to pose in front of
and inside an old barn. Experts compared these photos
with those from the crime scene in Illinois and were
able to conclude it was the same barn.
Now, years later, agents Young and
Lee open the photo album, Rhoades' own chronicle of the
torture he inflicted on the teenager. The harsh
fluorescent lights of the Houston office bring even the
dimmest photos into crisp focus.
"It was eerie," says Young, "because
one of the crime scene photos was taken from the same
angle as one of Rhoades' photos, and the position of the
body was the same."
Lee points to one of the photos in
which the teenager appears in despair. "These guys
usually tell their victims what they're going to do
ahead of time," he says tersely, before firmly shutting
the photo album.
After linking Rhoades to Regina
Walters, agents Young and Lee worked together. They
notified Illinois, since Rhoades would have to be tried
for the murder of the Walters girl in Bond County, where
the body was found.
"I called Arizona, where Rhoades had
been sentenced to six years for the kidnapping of Katie
Ford in Casa Grande," says Young. "He was about to begin
a work-furlough program. We wanted the evidence that was
seized from the truck, and to my amazement, it was
tagged for destruction!"
They managed to salvage the evidence,
and among the items recovered was a notebook belonging
to Regina Walters. In it were the unlisted phone numbers
of her father, along with the phone numbers of her
mother, grandmother and friends. This explained how
Rhoades was able to call her father.
The agents compared Rhoades' trucking
logs with the dates of the traced phone calls. The first
call to Regina's father was from a pay phone at a
truckstop in Oklahoma City on March 16. On that day,
Rhoades had fueled up his rig at the same truckstop. The
next day, Rhoades had been in Ennis, Texas, the logs
revealed. In the notebook, someone had scrawled a
message "Ricky is a dead man" and crudely drawn a
picture of a gun and drops of blood. There were also
cryptic notations that seemed to indicate directions and
other unknown meanings, such as "water tank, Fun and
Rhoades' wife was shown the
handwriting and identified it as her husband's.
It wasn't until early 1992 that the
Bond County, Illinois, state attorney was convinced
there was sufficient evidence against Rhoades. In
September, 1992, Rhoades was shown all the evidence
against him by his court-appointed attorneys, who wanted
to negotiate a plea agreement in order to spare him the
Rhoades became convinced the case
against him was solid, pled guilty to killing Regina
Walters, and received a sentence of life without the
possibility of parole.
Rhoades' trucking log had already
been analyzed at the National Center for the Analysis of
Violent Crime (VICAP) at FBI headquarters in Quantico,
and skeletonized bodies had indeed been found in areas
where Rhoades had traveled.
"We're positive he's killed before,"
Young states firmly. "Killers like Rhoades often pick on
vulnerable, anonymous people who won't be reported
missing immediately. The skeletonized bodies are found,
and nobody knows what really happened."
Along with Regina Walters and Ricky
Jones, there were udoubtedly many others who couldn't
imagine the truck coming around the bend was equipped
for the cross-country murder binges of its driver. The
task still remaining is to eliminate which bodies cannot
be attributed to Rhoades.
Young thinks Rhoades increased his
savage activity until he was kidnapping and murdering
about three girls a month in early 1990. In late 1989
and early 1990, Rhoades had job assignments that brought
him to Tucson or neighboring cities 36 times.
Sadists like Rhoades are of special
interest to behavioral experts like Roy Hazelwood,
formerly of the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Unit and now
with the prestigious Academy Group in Manassas,
The interest stems from the fact that
sexual sadists are seen in growing numbers. Hazelwood, a
chain-smoker in loose-fitting expensive suits, is quick
to share the information experts have compiled, but only
with a disclaimer of sorts: "We can give you facts. We
can tell you what occupations they probably have, their
marital status, what branch of the military they served
in, even what kind of sexual dysfunction each one has--based
on the crime scene. This is all based on cases, crime-scene
investigation and experience. What we can't tell you is
why, or how they got that way."
The uninterpreted facts are amazing:
Nearly 100 percent of sexual sadists studied so far--only
30--have been Caucasian males. One case involved an
African-American adopted at birth by a white couple. Of
the sadists who'd served in the military, they'd
overwhelmingly been in the ground forces. Most had
occupations that involved contact with the public.
Excessive driving, or driving with no clear goal, or
driving long distances, characterized 40 percent of the
men. Eighty-three percent collected items related to
sexual or violent themes, or both. The most common
collectible is pornography, followed by guns, bondage
paraphernalia and detective magazines. Nearly 75 percent
murdered a victim.
Close to half were married at the
time of their known offenses, usually to a "compliant
partner," who is the victim of many of the sadist's
tortures, which he later plays out to the extreme with
Debbie was Rhoades' third wife and
stayed married to him for several years. According to
Rhoades' statement, that marriage was his first foray
into what he considered merely kinky sex.
Debbie told agents she thought it was
far more than kinky. She says she felt awful about going
along with the physically painful perversions, but as
her self-esteem plummeted, she just acquiesced. She now
wonders, as do the federal agents, how many others died
at Rhoades' hands.
"He killed a 14-year-old," she says
today. "I have a 14-year-old daughter myself."
She credits Hazelwood for being the
first to make her realize it wasn't her fault. But
Hazelwood gave her some impressions to think about. "He
told me that my ex-husband is the essence of evil. I
wonder how I could have loved the essence of evil."
Meanwhile, Agents Lee and Young in
Texas, and Detective Barnhart and Officer Miller in
Arizona, have had time to contemplate the nature of the
evil that touched their lives. Lee and Young have teamed
up, not by coincidence this time, on a similar case.
Barnhart is still struck by how
normal Rhoades seemed, how smooth-talking and at-ease he
was even under threatening circumstances. He points to
Rhoades on the video, taken right after Miller had
arrested him in April, 1990. "Does he look evil to you?
Not at all. That's how he got away with it."
Barnhart studies Rhoades on the
video--the gestures, the easy laughter--and shakes his
head: "Thank God for Mike Miller."
IN THE APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS
ROBERT BEN RHOADES, Defendant-Appellant.
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the opinion of the
Robert Ben Rhoades (defendant), pursuant to
negotiations with the State, on September 11, 1992, pled guilty to first-degree
murder and was sentenced to imprisonment for natural life. The sentence
of death had been a possibility because on May 6, 1992, the State had
filed a notice that it intended to seek the death penalty. This is
defendant's third appeal to this court. Due to the procedural history of
this case, this is a direct appeal from defendant's conviction.
On this appeal, defendant initially contended that
the circuit court erred in refusing to allow him to file a motion to
withdraw his guilty plea, after a remand from this court following
defendant's second appeal. On the motion of defendant, this court
allowed defendant to file a supplemental brief that raises the issue of
whether the statute under which defendant was sentenced is
unconstitutional. He relies on the United States Supreme Court's
decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d
435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000).
Prior to the entry of the guilty plea, a hearing was
held pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 402 (134 Ill. 2d R. 402(c)). The
parties agreed that to establish a factual basis, the court could take
judicial notice of the evidence presented to the grand jury which
The grand jury heard evidence that the victim, Regina
K. Walters, age 14, was last seen alive at her mother's apartment on
February 3, 1990, in Pasadena, Texas, and that in April 1990, defendant,
an over-the-road truck driver, was arrested in Casa Grande, Arizona,
where he was charged with kidnapping and sexual assault. Defendant had
been a suspect in a kidnapping/rape case in which the victim, F.R.T.,
had been taken from California to Houston, Texas. F.R.T. had been kept
chained up in the back of defendant's truck for a two-week period during
which defendant had raped F.R.T. This victim was able to escape.
The grand jury also heard evidence that defendant was
arrested in Arizona when a state trooper stopped to check on defendant's
tractor-trailer, which was parked along the side of a highway, and
noticed a nude woman handcuffed and chained to the sleeper of
defendant's tractor-trailer. When the officer shined a light into the
truck, the woman started screaming, and defendant got out of the truck.
Regina K. Walters' notebook was found in defendant's truck.
The grand jury heard evidence that a search warrant
was issued for defendant's residence in Houston, Texas. The search
produced numerous items of women's clothing, numerous obscene magazines
and books, and instruments that could be used in bondage-type situations.
The search also produced photographs of nude women, one of whom was
Regina K. Walters. Some of the clothing that was found resembled the
clothing worn by Walters in other photographs found in defendant's
apartment. Other photographs showed Walters in defendant's truck and in
front of the barn where her body was found.
Lastly, the grand jury heard evidence that from the
trip logs of defendant's employment, it was determined that he had been
on Interstate 70 in Bond County during February or March 1990. The
victim's badly decomposed body was found on September 29, 1990, in a
barn along Interstate 70. It appeared that she had been strangled. The
method of strangulation was described as follows: "A small piece of
board inserted through a double wire loop of baling wire, twisted
clockwise around the neck of the body."
During the Rule 402 hearing, the court informed
defendant that the court could impose a term of natural-life
imprisonment without parole if the court decided his actions were
exceptionally brutal and heinous indicative of wanton cruelty.
Within 30 days of sentencing, defendant filed a
motion to reduce sentence, which was denied after a hearing. On
defendant's first appeal, he contended that because defense counsel did
not file a certificate of compliance with Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (145
Ill. 2d R. 604(d)), the cause should be remanded for further proceedings
to consider defendant's motion at a hearing after compliance was shown.
This court reversed that portion of the trial court's judgment denying
defendant's motion to reduce sentence and remanded the cause for further
proceedings. People v. Rhodes, 259 Ill. App. 3d 1054, 674
N.E.2d 1284 (1994) (unpublished order pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 23
(166 Ill. 2d R. 23)) (defendant's name was misspelled in the casebooks).
On August 24, 1994, the mandate of this court issued.
On September 21, 1994, the trial court received a letter from defendant
in which he wrote that he withdrew his plea of guilty and that his three
trial attorneys did not respond to letters mailed to them. On September
26, 1994, the court appointed Jon Coleman, one of defendant's previous
trial attorneys, to represent him on the remand from this court. The
order advised defendant to discuss with his attorney what documents
should be filed.
On October 21, 1994, Coleman filed a motion to
withdraw as counsel for defendant, on the basis that defendant accused
Coleman of committing error in his prior representation of defendant.
On January 23, 1995, the trial court received another
letter from defendant. Defendant wrote that he had told Coleman that
defendant would present evidence in court that he had been coerced to
plead guilty by all of his attorneys and by the Bond County sheriff's
office. Defendant also wrote that he had previously fired Coleman as his
counsel. Defendant further wrote, "[I]f a new attorney has been
appointed, I wish the court to order them to contact me at once," and "[P]lease
acknowledge this letter by return mail, including any pertinent
information on my new attorney."
On January 31, 1995, the trial court allowed Coleman
to withdraw as counsel for defendant. The court found that the sentence
was the result of plea negotiations binding the court and all parties,
that defendant had clearly stated that he did not wish to withdraw his
guilty plea but only wanted his sentence reduced, and that, therefore,
pursuant to then-recent opinions of this court, counsel need not be
appointed when a plea and sentence were fully negotiated. The trial
court denied defendant's motion to reduce sentence without appointing
counsel and without conducting a hearing. On defendant's second appeal,
he asked that the cause be again remanded to the trial court because the
trial court denied his Rule 604(d) motion without appointing counsel.
People v. Rhoades, No. 5-95-0084 (February 7, 1996)
(unpublished order pursuant to Rule 23) (Rhoades II).
This court reversed and remanded pursuant to
People v. Maltimore, 161 Ill. 2d 535, 647 N.E.2d 586 (1995)
(supervisory order), in which our supreme court vacated our earlier
decision in that matter (see People v. Maltimore, 268 Ill. App.
3d 532, 644 N.E.2d 478 (1994)) and remanded the case to the circuit
court of Madison County for the filing of a new motion to reduce
sentence. Rhoades II, order at 4. We reasoned, "Under Rule
604(d) a trial court has an obligation to appoint counsel except in
situations where a defendant 'affirmatively, knowingly, and
intelligently waives appointment of counsel.' " Rhoades II,
order at 4-5 (quoting People v. Ledbetter, 174 Ill. App. 3d
234, 238, 528 N.E.2d 375, 378 (1988)). This court could not find, as the
State had argued, that defendant's actions were tantamount to a waiver
of counsel. This court reversed the order of the circuit court of Bond
County denying the motion to reduce sentence, and we remanded the cause
to the circuit court in order to determine if defendant desired counsel
and, if so and if defendant was found to be indigent, for the
appointment of counsel and further proceedings in strict compliance with
Rule 604(d). Rhoades II, order at 5.
On remand, on December 26, 1996, defense counsel
filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea. Defense counsel also filed a
certificate of compliance with Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (145 Ill. 2d R.
604(d)). The State filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the motion to
withdraw the guilty plea was not timely filed and that this court's
decision applied only to the previously filed motion to reduce sentence.
On April 24, 1997, defense counsel filed an amended
motion to withdraw the guilty plea and/or to reduce sentence. Defense
counsel filed another Rule 604(d) certificate on April 24, 1997. The
court allowed the State's motion to dismiss as it related to the motion
to withdraw the guilty plea, on the basis that the motion was not filed
within 30 days of sentencing as required by Rule 604(d). The court
stated, however, that the parties would be allowed to present an offer
of proof on the motion to withdraw the guilty plea.
On December 4, 1998, a hearing was held on the motion
to reduce sentence, and an offer of proof was presented on the motion to
withdraw the guilty plea. The court reiterated its ruling denying the
motion to withdraw the guilty plea because the motion was not timely
filed. The court found that the sentence was negotiated in all respects
within the range allowed by law, and the court denied the motion to
On this appeal, defendant contends that the circuit
court's interpretation of this court's mandate was incorrect. Defendant
states that the only reasonable reading of this court's mandate is that
the trial court must appoint counsel, who then would be allowed to
present and address all claims consistent with Rule 604(d), including a
motion to withdraw the guilty plea.
We find that the circuit court's actions on the
remand from defendant's second appeal were entirely consistent with this
court's mandate. The circuit court appointed counsel. Counsel received
the court file and the report of proceedings of the guilty plea, and he
conferred with defendant concerning his contentions of error. Counsel
performed his duties by raising all the issues counsel found appropriate
and by filing an amended motion to withdraw the guilty plea and/or to
reduce sentence. The court ruled on the motion by applying the law
applicable at the time the amended motion was presented. In People
v. Janes, 158 Ill. 2d 27, 630 N.E.2d 790 (1994), our supreme court
held that a timely filed motion to withdraw guilty plea is a condition
precedent to taking an appeal. Here, defendant timely filed a motion to
reduce sentence. Therefore, the circuit court properly refused to
consider the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, which was not filed
within 30 days of sentencing. See People v. Feltes, 258 Ill.
App. 3d 314, 316, 629 N.E.2d 1172, 1174 (1994). As the guilty plea and
sentence were fully negotiated, defendant could not attack his sentence
without attempting to withdraw his guilty plea in a timely manner. See
People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320, 673 N.E.2d 244 (1996). The
circuit court correctly read this court's mandate.
Alternately, defendant suggests that the circuit
court should have considered his September 19, 1994, letter, indicating
that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea, as an inartfully drawn
postconviction petition. As this contention could have been raised on
the second appeal and was not, the issue is waived. See People v.
Taylor, 199 Ill. App. 3d 788, 790, 557 N.E.2d 575, 576-77 (1990).
Further, this suggestion has no merit.
The constitutionality of a statute is a question of
law that is reviewed de novo. People v. Fisher, 184
Ill. 2d 441, 448, 705 N.E.2d 67, 71-72 (1998). Statutes carry a strong
presumption of constitutionality. Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder,
187 Ill. 2d 341, 351, 718 N.E.2d 191, 197 (1999). A party challenging
the constitutionality of a statute bears the burden of rebutting the
presumption and clearly establishing a constitutional violation.
Arangold Corp., 187 Ill. 2d at 351, 718 N.E.2d at 197.
Count VIII of the criminal information to which
defendant pled guilty alleges that defendant committed first-degree
murder "on or about February 3, 1990[,] to March 17, 1990." At the time
of the offense, section 5-8-1(a)(1) of the Unified Code of Corrections
"Except as otherwise provided in the statute defining
the offense, a sentence of imprisonment for a felony shall be a
determinate sentence set by the court under this Section, according to
the following limitations:
(1) for first[-]degree murder, (a) a term shall be
not less than 20 years and not more than 60 years, or (b) if the court
finds that the murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or heinous
behavior indicative of wanton cruelty or that any of the aggravating
factors listed in subsection (b) of Section 9-1 of the Criminal Code of
1961 [Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 9-1] are present, the court may
sentence the defendant to a term of natural[-]life imprisonment ***."
Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(1)(a), (b).
Defendant states that the trial court imposed a
natural-life sentence on the basis that the offense was exceptionally
brutal or heinous indicative of wanton cruelty or was committed in the
course of a forcible felony. Defendant argues that since the count of
the criminal information to which he pled guilty did not allege felony
murder, the only possible justification for imposing a natural-life
sentence would be the exceptionally brutal or heinous nature of the
offense. Defendant concludes that the court did not make the finding
that the first-degree murder was accompanied by exceptionally brutal or
heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty and that under
Apprendi the court did not have the authority to make that finding,
because section 5-8-1(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Ill. Rev.
Stat. 1989, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)) does not require that this factor
be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In Apprendi v. New Jersey,
530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000), the United
States Supreme Court held a New Jersey hate-crime statute
unconstitutional because it allowed judges to make a factual finding
that enhanced their power to punish beyond the maximum penalties
prescribed for a given criminal offense.
In 1994, Charles Apprendi, Jr., took his handgun and
fired a spray of .22-caliber bullets into the home of his new neighbors.
Apparently, the newly arrived family did not fit Apprendi's color
criteria for living in a Vineland, New Jersey, neighborhood. Apprendi
was indicted on numerous criminal offenses because of his misconduct,
but none of them alleged that his actions were racially motivated.
Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 469, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 442, 120 S. Ct. at
Apprendi pled guilty to possession of a firearm for
an unlawful purpose, an offense for which the New Jersey legislature had
provided a 10-year maximum prison sentence. Apprendi, 530 U.S.
at 469-70, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 442-43, 120 S. Ct. at 2352. However, a
separate New Jersey hate-crime statute authorized the imposition of
greater punishment for any crimes motivated by racial hatred. The trial
judge found that Apprendi's crime was so motivated and, because of that
fact, sentenced Apprendi to a prison sentence greater than the 10-year
maximum that could otherwise have been imposed. Apprendi, 530
U.S. at 470, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 443, 120 S. Ct. at 2352.
The Supreme Court, relying upon constitutional
protections of due process, notice, and the right to a trial by jury,
struck down the New Jersey hate-crime statute. Apprendi, 530
U.S. at 470, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 442, 120 S. Ct. at 2351. The Court took an
exhaustive look at what our founding fathers promised when they bestowed
the right to a trial by jury in all criminal cases. It found that a part
of that promise was the right to have a jury determine all facts
necessary to a determination of the maximum punishment the law allows.
The Supreme Court handed down a constitutional-based rule when it stated,
"Other than the fact of a prior conviction, any fact that increases the
penalty for a crime beyond the prescribed statutory maximum must be
submitted to a jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt."
Apprendi, 530 U.S. at 490, 147 L. Ed. 2d at 455, 120 S. Ct. at
In the instant case, by enforcing the guidelines for
accepting a guilty plea, the trial court provided the protections that
Apprendi now ensures. Before defendant entered his guilty plea,
the court informed him of the possibility of a sentence of natural life
for the crime to which he pled guilty. Indeed, the State had previously
filed a notice that it intended to seek the death penalty, and the
guilty plea avoided that possibility. The court also made sure there was
an adequate factual basis for the plea and that evidence was presented
in open court. See People v. Calva, 256 Ill. App. 3d 865, 873,
628 N.E.2d 856, 862 (1993).
The guilty plea is sufficient proof that defendant
was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. See North Carolina v. Alford,
400 U.S. 25, 33, 27 L. Ed. 2d 162, 91 S. Ct. 160, 165, (1970).
Defendant's guilty plea was a knowing admission of guilt of the criminal
acts charged and all the material facts alleged in the charging
instrument. See Davis v. City of Evanston, 257 Ill. App. 3d
549, 553, 629 N.E.2d 125, 129 (1993). A guilty plea ends the controversy
and removes the prosecution's burden of proof, as it supplies both the
evidence and the verdict. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 242
n.4, 23 L. Ed. 2d 274, 279 n.4, 89 S. Ct. 1709, 1712 n.4 (1969) (quoting
Woodard v. State, 42 Ala. App. 552, 558, 171 So. 2d 462, 469
(1965)). The reliability of guilty pleas is strengthened by the fact
that by pleading guilty a defendant knowingly waives several
constitutional rights, including the privilege against self-incrimination
and the right to a trial by jury. People v. Williams, 188 Ill.
2d 365, 370, 721 N.E.2d 539, 543 (1999).
As defendant was sentenced according to the statute
for the offense to which he knowingly pled guilty, he cannot now claim
that his rights were violated per Apprendi. Although
Apprendi itself was an appeal following a guilty plea, the
defendant there expressly reserved the right to challenge on appeal the
constitutionality of the sentence-enhancement statute. Apprendi pled
guilty to one offense and was then given a sentence exceeding the
statutory maximum for that offense. In this case, defendant was
admonished regarding the possible sentence he eventually received. The
possibility of a natural-life sentence for the charge to which defendant
pled guilty was clear at the time of the plea, and defendant did not
object or raise this issue until his third appeal.
By pleading guilty, the defendant gives up the right
to challenge a sentence within the statutory range for the offense to
which he pled guilty. People v. Jackson, 319 Ill. App. 3d 110,
113, 744 N.E.2d 1275, 1278 (2001). In addressing how Apprendi
affects guilty pleas, the Second District has stated:
"A defendant who pleads guilty does not have the same
appeal rights as one convicted following a trial. [Citation.] Generally,
after pleading guilty, a defendant may not raise claims of the
deprivation of constitutional rights that occurred before the entry of
the plea. [Citation.] Before defendant entered his plea, the court
informed him of the sentencing ranges for the offenses and specifically
admonished him of the possibility of consecutive sentences. Having
waived a jury trial on all issues, defendant cannot now claim that he
was deprived of the right to have a jury determine the issue of his
future dangerousness. Similarly, he cannot claim that he was unfairly
deprived of the right to have the State prove that point beyond a
reasonable doubt." People v. Chandler, 321 Ill. App. 3d 292,
297, 748 N.E.2d 685, 690 (2001).
In this case, after receiving a sentence within the
range for the offense to which he pled guilty, defendant cannot now
claim that his Apprendi rights were violated. See United
States v. Johnstone, 251 F.3d 281 (1st Cir. 2001) (a guilty plea
gives the court the discretion to impose the statutory maximum sentence
because the defendant is informed of that possible sentence).
Finding that an Apprendi violation did not
occur in this case is consistent with our prior interpretation of
Apprendi. In People v. Nitz, this court called into
question the validity of section 5-8-1(a). People v. Nitz, 319
Ill. App. 3d 949, 968, 747 N.E.2d 38, 55 (2001). This court reduced the
defendant's sentence from natural life to 60 years' imprisonment.
However, we made clear that our difficulty with the application of the
statute was that it violated the defendant's right to a trial by a jury.
Nitz, 319 Ill. App. 3d at 968, 747 N.E.2d at 55. In this case,
defendant's right to a trial by a jury was not violated. Defendant
waived this right. Defendant should not be able to waive a right,
receive a sentence he subjected himself to, and then contend that the
right was violated.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the
circuit court of Bond County is affirmed.
CHAPMAN, P.J., and HOPKINS, J., concur.