In this podcast, our guest Lieutenant (Ret) Michale Callahan tells how the Illinois State Police assigned him to review a murder investigation after they learned that the television show Dateline was doing a show that will allege the defendants were wrongfully prosecuted. Lt. Calahan’s assignment will lead to the court overturning two murder convictions and free one of these men from Death Row. He tells how an embarrassed Illinois State Police hierarchy will impede and hound him into retirement. He said that he had no more than started opening the case file for review when a local police officer called him and expressed concern about his reputation and said that he was not “a dirty cop.” Callahan wrote a book about his experience, and he titled it “Too Politically Sensitive” after a State Police Commander ordered him to drop his search for the truth because this murder was “too politically sensitive.”
In July 1986, Paris Illinois firefighters responded to a residence engulfed in flames. They discovered that his fire was an intended coverup when they found the bodies of the young couple who lived there. Dyke and Karen Rhoads were a cute young couple who grew up in this area and were well known by many to be ordinary working folks. The pathologist will discover that someone had stabbed both victims to death. The local cops requested help from the Illinois State Police, and the area command assigned several State Troopers to help.
The case went unsolved for several months until a well known “town drunk” claimed he knew something about this homicide. He implicated two other local men who were heavy drinkers themselves. He claimed he was passed out in their car outside the victim’s home the night of the homicide, and he awoke to see one of these men, Randy Steidle, holding a knife and with blood on his clothes.
The investigators struggled to come up with a motive or any suspects, until the so-called town drunk, Darrell Herrington, said he knew something about the murders. He told police that he had been drinking with two locals — Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock — the night of the incident and had passed out in the back of Steidl’s car on the way home. He told investigators that he awoke outside the Rhoads’ home and heard a woman screaming and that later, he saw Steidl with a knife and blood on his clothes. The investigators did not move on this information at first, and in about two months, a woman named Debra Reinbolt came forward and claimed to have been inside the victim’s house during the murders and claimed she witnessed Steidl and Whitlock do the deed.
The investigators quickly arrested both men, and these two witnesses would testify. The prosecution claimed the motive was a drug deal gone wrong. In 1986, an Illinois jury convicted both men, and they sentenced Whitlock to life in prison, while they convicted Steidl of killing both Dyke and Karen and sentenced to death. In 2000, the TV show Dateline investigated this case and found a mass of evidence that indicated Steidl and Whitlock were the victims of malicious and wrongful prosecution. The Illinois State police assigned our guest, retired lieutenant Michale Callahan to review the case file.
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