Killer Paul Rhoades executed by lethal injection in Idaho
After being offered a last meal of hot dogs and sauerkraut, and later a snack of crackers and cheese to help calm his stomach, convicted murderer Paul Ezra Rhoades on Friday became the first inmate to be executed in Idaho in 17 years.
Rhoades, 54, was sentenced to death in 1988 for the murder of 34-year-old schoolteacher Susan Michelbacher and Stacy Baldwin, a 21-year-old convenience store clerk, during what psychiatrists said was a near-continuous methamphetamine binge. Rhoades was sentenced separately to life in prison for killing Nolan Haddon, another convenience store clerk.
Rhoades was pronounced dead at 9:15 a.m., according to the Idaho Department of Correction, after a long vigil outside the Boise prison by death penalty opponents.
Media witnesses said Rhoades in his final statement apologized for Michelbacher's murder, but told families of the other two victims, "I can't help you guys, sorry."
"He said, 'Mom, goodbye,' then he turned and faced the warden, Randy Blades, and said, 'You guys, I forgive you. I really do,' " Associated Press reporter Rebecca Boone, who was at the execution, reported later, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
"It was very quiet and somber; it was silent throughout. One gentleman, apparently a friend of the Michelbacher family, said the devil had gone home," Nate Green of the Idaho Press-Tribune related.
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said in a statement: "Mr. Rhoades took full and unfettered advantage of his right to due process of law for more than 20 years. That process has run its course and Mr. Rhoades has been held accountable for his actions. The State of Idaho has done its best to fulfill this most solemn responsibility with respect, professionalism and most of all dignity for everyone involved."
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday refused to take up Rhoades' appeal for more time to challenge Idaho's lethal injection policy, which his lawyers said may amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Idaho Department of Correction director Brent Reinke told KTVB television that Rhoades had been receiving daily visits from his mother over the last week or so, and had been spending the rest of the time watching television, reading and doing artwork.
In a Q & A on its website, the department said Rhoades was allowed visitors until 8:30 p.m. Thursday night and then was permitted to remain with an unidentified spiritual advisor until morning.
His demeanor was "anxious and lucid," the department said.
Idaho had not carried out an execution since 1994, when convicted killer Keith Eugene Wells died by lethal injection.
--Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photos: Death penalty opponents mount a vigil outside Idaho's Maximum Security Institution in Boise. Credit: Joe Jaszewski /Associated Press ; Paul Ezra Rhoades Credit: Idaho Department of Correction