Eye On Boise

MONDAY, NOV. 14, 2011, 8:05 A.M.

Judge’s ruling due today on whether or not to stay Rhoades execution

Today is the day that a federal judge will decide whether to stay the execution of triple murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades, which is scheduled for Friday, while he challenges Idaho's lethal injection execution method as unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. Yesterday, Rhoades' attorneys filed another emergency motion for stay of execution, demanding background checks into the qualifications of the execution team members to insert IV's and assess depth of unconsciousness.

The state prison system argued earlier that it had reviewed those qualifications, but then destroyed the documents; the team members' identities are being kept confidential.

Meanwhile, Idaho Statesman reporter Patrick Orr had this look over the weekend at how legal complexities stall executions, and why Idaho has seen fewer executions than other 9th Circuit states since the death penalty was reinstated in 1979; Idaho's actually had more Death Row inmates freed - three - than executed - one. Also, Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone reports here on preparations for the execution, which have taken months; click below to read her look at Rhoades' three victims.

Rhoades' Idaho murders still haunt decades later

By REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A look at the people killed by condemned Idaho inmate, Paul Ezra Rhoades:

Stacy Dawn Baldwin was just 21 years old, known for her kindness and love of sports. She was also in love — she'd been married to her high school sweetheart just six months, and was starting the life she wanted, her mother, Verna Anderson, told the Blackfoot Morning News.

She was also determined. Those who knew her later told police she was a woman who would fight to the death rather than let someone molest her or take her someplace against her will. On Feb. 28, 1987, she was forced to do just that.

Baldwin was working the night shift at the Red Mini Barn convenience store in Blackfoot when Paul Ezra Rhoades stopped in. Instead of loitering, he left almost immediately, only to come back close to midnight armed with a pistol. He robbed the till and then forced Baldwin into his pickup, driving her to a secluded spot near the Snake River in Bingham County.

Intending to rape her, Rhoades attacked and Baldwin fought back. She was on her hands and knees scrambling to get away when Rhoades began shooting — first missing her, as bullet marks in the snow bank would later show — and then hitting her once in the elbow, again in her back. The second bullet pierced her lungs.

Investigators said footprints in the snow show Rhoades walked to where Baldwin was laying, wounded but alive. He then left her and headed to a local cafe where he met up with an acquaintance.

Baldwin was badly injured and alone in the dark snow-covered night. She lived about an hour and a half before succumbing to her injuries, an autopsy later showed. Her shattered parents later told the court they supported the death penalty, and that they hoped Rhoades would "rot in hell" for his crime, according to court documents.

Her mother told the Blackfoot paper she doesn't plan to attend Rhoades' execution. Instead, she'll hold her granddaughter close and remember her daughter.

It's likely 20-year-old Nolan Haddon had heard the news about Baldwin's murder — nearly everyone in this close-knit corner of Idaho had. Women were afraid to walk to their cars alone. Convenience store workers wondered if they would be next. Other unsolved murders being reported across the border in Utah had everyone on edge, wondering if a serial killer was among them.

But Nolan was easygoing, his mother, Julie Haddon, recounts. He hunted and fished and, like most boys his age, enjoyed "chasing around town" with his friends in the family's old '65 Chevy pickup, she said.

Like Baldwin, Haddon was working the night shift at Buck's convenience store in Idaho Falls, roughly 29 miles away from the site of Baldwin's abduction. His older brother, Clay Haddon, stopped to see him at work that night and was likely the last person to see Nolan Haddon alive and unharmed. At some point during the night, Rhoades entered the store, shooting Nolan Haddon five times. One of the bullets severed Haddon's spinal cord; he was left to die in the store's walk-in cooler.

He was found in the morning, badly injured but still alive. The young man known for enjoying life, taking things one day at a time, died hours later at a local hospital, on March 17, 1987. His brother, Clay Haddon, later told the Post Register that watching his parents suffering in the aftermath of Nolan's murder was the hardest part.

Julie Haddon still has a trophy fish Nolan caught mounted and hanging on her wall. These days she can't remember just which lake he caught it in.

Susan Michelbacher taught special education classes at an Idaho Falls junior high school. But she woke up sick on March 19, 1987, and knew she couldn't teach her classes that day. At about 6:30 a.m., she headed to the school to make lesson plans for a substitute so her students wouldn't be left in a lurch.

The 34-year-old teacher wasn't back home when her husband, John "Bert" Michelbacher, came home for lunch. She still wasn't there when he finished his work day at about 5:30 p.m. He called the school and found that though she'd been in to do the lesson plan, she hadn't been at school during the day, according to court documents. Like Baldwin, she'd been kidnapped by Rhoades.

Investigators later found Susan Michelbacher had driven her van to the drive-in window at her bank just as it opened at 8:30 a.m. She cashed a check there for $1,000, and just 15 minutes later she did the same thing at another local bank branch.

Her body was found two days later, less than a mile away. An autopsy showed she'd been raped and shot nine times, the abuses against her continuing as she died.

Her husband couldn't be reached by The AP. He has declined to comment in previous news stories about his wife's murder. In 2003, he created a memorial fund in her honor. The money goes to support those in need during the holiday season.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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