Date of Sentence:
Date of Resentencing: 03/20/92
Circumstances of Offense:
Richard Rhodes was convicted and
sentenced to death for the murder of Karen Nieradka.
On March 24, 1984, the body of
Karen Nieradka was found in debris that had been transported to St.
Petersburg from the demolition site of the Sunset Hotel in Clearwater.
The hotel had been demolished on March 15, 1984. Nieradka was found to
have died from manual strangulation.
Several weeks prior, on March 2,
1984, Richard Rhodes had been stopped by the Florida Highway Patrol and
arrested for driving without a valid license. At the time of the
arrest, Rhodes was driving a car registered to the victim, Nieradka.
The police interviewed Rhodes on March 26, 1984. Rhodes gave different
stories, but continued to deny involvement in Nieradka’s death.
On April 27, 1984, Rhodes tried
to make a deal with detectives saying that he would explain how Nieradka
died if he would be sent to a mental health facility. Rhodes said that
the victim’s death had been due to an accidental fall from the third
story of the Sunset Hotel. However, during the course of the trial,
three inmates from the Pinellas County Jail testified that Rhodes had
confessed to murdering Nieradka.
04/27/84 Rhodes was arrested.
07/20/84 Rhodes was indicted on the following:
Count I: First-Degree
Murder (Karen Nieradka)
08/16/85 Rhodes was found guilty on count I.
advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 7 to 5 majority, voted for the death
09/12/85 Rhodes was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
Murder (Karen Nieradka) –
07/06/89 FSC remanded to the case to the trial court for a new
advisory sentencing, the jury, by a 10 to 2 majority, voted for the
03/20/92 Rhodes was sentenced as follows:
Count I: First-Degree
10/29/85, Rhodes filed a Direct Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court. He
raised several issues on appeal in reference to the guilt phase of the
trial. One issue was that remarks made by the prosecutor were
The Florida Supreme Court determined the remarks to be
harmless. Another issue raised was that the court should not have given
instructions on flight because there was not evidence that Rhodes was
attempting to avoid prosecution.
several issues in reference to the penalty phase of the trial. One
issue was that the court allowed testimony about a crime that Rhodes
committed in Nevada, and an audiotape of the victim, in the Nevada case,
was played for the jury. The Florida Supreme Court found error because
Rhodes was not allowed the opportunity for rebuttal and found the tape
to be irrelevant and prejudicial.
The Florida Supreme Court affirmed
the conviction; however, Florida Supreme Court remanded the case to the
trial court for a new sentencing hearing on 07/06/89.
03/17/92, a jury, by a 10 to 2 majority, voted for the death penalty
upon advisory sentencing. Rhodes was re-sentenced to death on
03/20/92. He was erroneously adjudicated guilty by the judge, due to
the Florida Supreme Court’s previous affirmation of his original
conviction. (This duplicate conviction was later vacated by the Florida
04/03/92, Rhodes filed a Direct Appeal (Re-sentencing) in the Florida
Supreme Court. He raised several issues on appeal. One issue was that
the trial court erred in dismissing potential jurors who said that they
would have difficulty in imposing capital punishment. Another issue
raised was that hearsay was allowed. Rhodes also argued that the state
was allowed to present irrelevant evidence.
Another issue was that the jury instructions misinformed the jury about
its role. Rhodes also raised the issue that the penalty of death was
not proportional in this case. The final issue presented was that one
of the two convictions for First-Degree Murder should be vacated. On
08/10/94, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed the sentence of death, but
vacated the duplicate conviction for First-Degree Murder (03/20/92).
10/07/94, Rhodes filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the United
States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court denied the
petition on 12/05/94.
Rhodes filed a 3.850 Motion in the Circuit Court on 04/11/96. On
01/08/99, Rhodes filed an Amended 3.850 Motion. The Circuit Court
denied the motion on 11/12/03.
05/19/97, Rhodes filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the
Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court denied the petition on
On 12/19/01, Rhodes filed a 3.853 (DNA) Motion in the Circuit Court.
The motion was denied on 05/17/06.
Rhodes filed a
3.850 Appeal in the Florida Supreme Court on 01/08/04. The appeal is