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May 22, 2024

“Spinning” the Wrong Way – What really happened in Paris, Illinois?

By John Kraft & Kirk Allen

On November 5, 2013

With a pardon at stake, two wrongful convictions in a double murder case get the reverse spin.


Originally reported on Chicago Reader website.

Did you know there’s an “innocence industry” in Chicago? It’s a “conglomeration of defense lawyers, investigators, a major Chicago-based university (Northwestern), . . . media outlets,” and other assorted players. Its product is innocence—or at least the appearance of innocence—extracted from the convictions of men who may or may not be guilty.

That’s the hypothesis of a website with the unlikely name What Really Happened in Paris, (Illinois). What happened there, in 1986, was that a young local couple, newlyweds Dyke and Karen Rhoads, were found stabbed to death in their home, which subsequently had been set on fire. Two local men with police records, Randy Steidl and Herb Whitlock, were arrested, tried, and convicted of murder—the prosecution’s theory being that they turned to violence when a drug deal with Dyke Rhoads went south. But eventually both convictions were overturned. Steidl was released from prison by a federal judge in 2004, Whitlock by a state judge in 2008. Both sued the city of Paris, Edgar County, and state authorities for wrongful conviction. Whitlock settled for an undisclosed sum and Steidl has been awarded about $6 million. In addition, Steidl asked for a pardon; former governor Rod Blagojevich didn’t respond to Steidl’s petition, nor has Governor Pat Quinn.

In other words, what really happened in Paris, Illinois, remains a mystery. Michale Callahan, then a lieutenant with the Illinois State Police, which had spearheaded the murder investigation, was asked by the ISP to review the file when the CBS news program 48 Hours came calling in 2000. Expected to do no more than make sure the state police were ready with answers to the network’s questions, Callahan instead concluded Steidl and Whitlock had been railroaded, and he made sure everyone knew it. “How many times did you try to get this case reopened?” 48 Hours would ask him when they returned to the story in 2005. “Officially, to Springfield, five times,” Callahan replied. He was transferred from investigations to patrol in 2003 after refusing to back off, and in 2005 he retired. In 2009 he published a book about the case, Too Politically Sensitive.

Karen Rhoads happened to be employed by Robert Morgan, a local businessman described by 48 Hours as a “big campaign contributor to some very high-powered Illinois politicians.” According to Callahan’s book, investigators heard from relatives of the Rhoads that Karen happened to spot machine guns in an open trunk in the parking lot of Morgan’s pet food processing plant; Morgan, who was standing there, allegedly told her, “You shouldn’t have seen this.”

48 Hours asked Callahan: “What Karen said she saw in the parking lot made her afraid, according to her family and friends, who say she was thinking about quitting her job.”

Read more at the  Chicago Reader.


 Randy Steidl, who was released from prison after 17 years, speaks at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg in 2010.

Randy Steidl, who was released from prison after 17 years, speaks at
the Church of the Holy Spirit in Schaumburg in 2010.
Andrew A. Nelles / Photo for The Courier-News / Sun-Times Media



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  • Charlotte Jane Redmon
    Posted at 18:20h, 05 November

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    Posted at 18:20h, 05 November

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    Posted at 19:05h, 05 November

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    Posted at 19:51h, 05 November

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    Posted at 23:05h, 05 November

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  • Peggy Kemp Camp
    Posted at 11:20h, 06 November

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  • Coles County Corruption
    Posted at 11:20h, 06 November

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  • Yea right
    Posted at 19:46h, 06 November

    What you fail to note in your article is that Bob Morgan has passed three separate lie detectors by State, Federal and private operators, and both Steidl and Whitlock refuse to take one. You also fail to note that Lt. Callahan was best buddies with Rory Steidl, Randy’s brother who just so happened to be a Master Sgt. with the State Police. Who better to feed lies to Callahan and spread rumors to muddy the waters for his brother. “Big Campaign donor” Ha, Morgan gave $2500.00 total to various politicians, That wont get you a private meeting in Springfield. You guys are so wrong on this one.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 20:17h, 06 November

      If you are attempting to answer the writer, go to the Chicago Reader website and post comments there. This is simply cross-posted from that site. The link is in the article.

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 20:19h, 06 November

      You can post it here too – I wasn’t trying to run you off…

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 09:21h, 07 November

      Why don’t we look at the results of the polygraphs and the Curry deposition to see what they say? I’m sure it might be enlightening to see what the media “should have caught” (but didn’t). We will dig that up for you and post it as soon as we get a little time to find it again…

    • jmkraft
      Posted at 22:40h, 07 November

      “…gave $2500.00 total to various politicians…”
      Wrong. Try at least $52,405.54…(figure taken from deposition exhibits).

      • Yea Right
        Posted at 19:00h, 08 November

        Do the documents say 52,000 in how many years, or to whom? Lets say he gave 2,500 each to the nominee for president, each of our senators, the gaggle of representatives of districts he does business, etc . I guarantee you that he is not the high ticket giver in the county. Certainly not enough to get a Govenor or a Senator to tell the Illinois State Police to leave him alone. Hell how much money has Blago, and Ryan given to the parties? They still ended up in Jail.

        • jmkraft
          Posted at 22:20h, 08 November

          OK, first of all, I am not trying to say whether he tried to buy anyone off or not because I cannot state that as fact, I was simply posting true figures in dispute of the dollar amount you threw out there.

          Looks like the 1998 election had the largest – there were a couple of others (Topinka, Eddy, Jim Ryan, etc)…

          George Ryan

          From 1997

          From 1998

          Dale Righter

  • Dan Curry
    Posted at 09:03h, 09 November

    Bob Morgan’s campaign contributions were not large to a statewide office holder. The hare-brained theory by Callahan, Clutter, Protess, etc. that his campaign contributions caused George Ryan to act to benefit him is ludicrous. Bob Morgan only gave money to these politicians because he knew people in town who worked for them — not because he knew the officeholders.

    • Darrell
      Posted at 06:09h, 22 February

      Who would that be a legal frame up Carolyn brown hodge

  • John Windmiller
    Posted at 18:10h, 25 November

    Callahan is a buffoon . He has no story if they are guilty and Morgan wasn’t a part of it. I know personally everyone involved in this and let me tell you Randy Steidl was as mean as drunk as I have ever seen. and Herbie was a coddle pieceof crap who has been in and out oftroubleall his life. If they could get Nancy Land to talk they would have a story

    • truth speaker
      Posted at 08:46h, 12 December

      being a drunk yourself renders your opinion as trash talk