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What Eric Zorn missed….
Liberal Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn declared six years ago that as far as he is concerned, there is nothing else to say about the unsolved murders of Karen and Dyke Rhoads in Paris, IL, in 1986.
He said too many stories have changed, too many witnesses are compromised to ever sort out the truth. Zorn’s mission was already done: His frequent columns on the murders helped free two men he had declared innocent: Herb Whitlock and Randy Steidl.
That last column had one more housekeeping item: Dispose of a troubling new detail. The story of the mystery witness who allegedly saw Whitlock covered in blood minutes after the murders was becoming known to attorneys on the case. She had begun speaking to police and in less than a year after Zorn’s farewell to Paris column, the woman would give a sworn deposition in federal court that was the basis of our previous blog posts.
Here is how Zorn addressed and dismissed the mystery woman’s story back then in three short paragraphs:
A woman living in Paris has told investigators that, in the very early-morning hours after someone stabbed the Rhoadses to death in their bedroom and set their house on fire, Whitlock showed up at her door with dried blood on his shirt. He was with a friend-not Steidl-and both of them smelled of smoke.
It’s a suggestive tale, if true. But defense records show that police first interviewed the woman about this story in April 2006, after getting an anonymous tip.
They’ve now had more than 20 months to check it out. Is her memory accurate? Is it consistent? Can anyone corroborate it? Is she confused about the details or the dates? Is she lying?
What Zorn either didn’t know at the time or declined to reveal was that the mystery witness was known to at least two key law enforcement advocates for Steidl and Whitlock five years earlier. In 2001, an Illinois State Police detective and an FBI agent interviewed a woman who knew of the mystery woman’s story. And they did nothing about it. Why?
That’s a good question and one that we will explain in detail next.
As to Zorn, who I have often disagreed with but have remained in contact on various stories, he is not interested in revisiting his Paris conclusions. I sent him an email a few weeks ago and he said he is not following our account of the mystery witness’ story and didn’t care to comment on our new findings. That is curious, I responded, because the case is unsolved and the mystery woman’s account, if true, largely solves it.
I guess if you had built a house once you don’t want to know years later that the frame might not have been situated correctly over the support beams.
NEXT: Why the media’s favorite detective completely ignored the best clue he ever had.