Blog Post Detail
How Northwestern, CBS misled America, part 3
CBS’ 48 Hours unveiled a second “new” witness (We are calling her “Trench Coat Woman”) to make its case in 2001 and subsequent segments that Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock did not kill Dyke and Karen Rhoads. It wasn’t enough to say they didn’t kill the couple — CBS and Northwestern felt it necessary to concoct a theory about the “real” killer.
CBS’ Trench Coat Woman, whose name was withheld and identity shielded, told a remarkable story:
- She was never interviewed by police before.
- Northwestern’s student sleuths had uncovered her story.
- She saw two shadowy figures in trench coats on a hot July evening scouting the Rhoads’ house two nights before the murders.
- Those same shadowy figures drove past the Rhoads’ house 10 times the night of the murders several hours before they took place, according to the 2001 48 Hours show: “And it had Florida plates. It would just go by, turn in front of Dyke and Karen’s house, stop….They did this about 10 times, just — I mean, continuously.”
One of the figures happened to resemble a long-haired biker figure who had been identified by lawyers and investigators for Steidl and Whitlock as part of an elaborate, unsubstantiated, murder-for-hire plot. The Florida connection connected to a piece of the elaborate conspiracy. Therefore it served the defense team, it served Northwestern and it served CBS to put it forward.
But was it true?
Here is what CBS and Northwestern didn’t tell anyone:
- Despite 48 Hours portraying the Northwestern story as a “new clue….that points this case in a new direction” it was anything but that. Civil court depositions (Page 252) show that Trench Coat Woman had been first interviewed by a public defender and defense investigator Bill Clutter.
I think my reaction is that they overplayed the fact that the students had discovered this new witness, XXXXXX, but I understood also that it was more in terms of the program was about the Northwestern program. It was about the students. And they wanted to show some development that the students were able to generate. So —
According to Trench Coat Woman’s deposition (We’ve redacted her name) years later, in 2009, a questioner cited a report where she allegedly told a public defender that she DID talk to police after the murders and told them she saw nothing suspicious in the days leading up to the murders. If true, this directly contradicts the 48 Hours/Northwestern narrative, although Trench Coat Woman, in the deposition, said she does not remember this.
More significantly, Trench Coat Woman didn’t come forward for several years after the murders, coinciding with her dating and then moving in with one of Randy Steidl’s best friends.
Trench Coat Woman, in her deposition, said she waited years to tell her story despite knowing that Steidl, who she was friendly with and believed had nothing to do with the murders, was sitting in prison. That’s curious because her story would have been of immense help to Steidl years earlier. She only came forward after she moved in with Steidl’s good friend and brought forward a story that magically interlocked with the sketchy conspiracy theories the defense team was concocting as a way to point the finger at the “real” killer or killers.
We are not calling Trench Coat Woman’s story a lie. But it has the obvious smell of a fabrication and should have been checked out thoroughly by Northwestern or CBS before airing it on national television. And, at the least, it should have been disclosed that the woman may have talked to the police initially and told a different story and only came forward after moving in with Steidl’s good friend.
So, both significant new witnesses that 48 Hours built its show around were either completely bogus or substantially misrepresented.
NEXT: What did Steidl and Whitlock say on 48 Hours that was provably false?