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Silence of the hams

Post on : 2 May, 2014 | Comments Off
Jim Dey
Jim Dey

Two well-known Illinois columnists — one liberal and one not — have followed the Paris murder case closely over the years.

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune and Jim Dey of the Champaign News-Gazette have written extensively about the 1986 unsolved murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads, following even relatively minor developments. Yet each is silent about our revelations of a mystery witness whose story might hold the key to solving the murders.

They are also silent about our revelations that Northwestern University and CBS dramatically misled the public about the case, and that media-celebrated former detective Michale Callahan failed to follow up on the mystery witness lead years before law enforcement found out about it.

I have contacted both and they have told me, in essence, they have nothing left to say about the case and that they regard it a closed matter from their point of view.

Even though:

  • The murders are unsolved.
  • At least one of the original co-defendants, Randy Steidl, has a clemency petition pending before Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and groups are advocating Quinn grant the request.
  • Northwestern University, a key player in freeing Stedl and Whitlock, is under fire in another high-profile murder case that raises questions about the university’s methodology in trying to free convicted criminals.

Let me offer my opinion of the real reasons both are ignoring developments from our website.

The main, generic reason, is that evidence we have brought forward undermines conclusions both columnists have published about the case.

In Zorn’s case, it simply is a bridge too far to declare himself possibly wrong about the numerous columns he wrote about the case. He has already declared himself possibly wrong about the Anthony Porter case, also involving Northwestern University. One case could be an anomaly — two might be a pattern. Zorn did, in his last column about the Paris case, get wind of the mystery witness and he managed to dismiss her, presumably without knowing anything other than what Steidl and Whitlock advocates told him about her.

Dey’s situation is a little different. He has written extensively about the case as well but, unlike Zorn, has mostly raised questions and not proclaimed definitive conclusions. However, Dey is also reportedly friends with former detective Callahan and once participated in a book signing with him. Because our website strongly criticizes Callahan, I surmise Dey might be hesitant to air information that undermines his friend.

As a former journalist, I understand that columnists can pick and choose their topics and can’t be forced to write about anything. I respect that. But I also know as a former journalist that what a columnist refuses to write about sends a message too. Zorn and Dey are sending a powerful message to their readers: I will follow an interesting, nationally important murder case forever, or until it starts to make me look bad, whichever comes first. Then you are on your own to find the truth.

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