In an interview at Idaho State Penitentiary, serial killer Paul Ezra Rhoades told Salt Lake police detectives he has done "some terrible things" in his life.
Detectives believe that those "things" could include the murders of several women in Utah and surrounding states.But before they can close out any cases, they want to solidify a few facts.
That's why Detective Jim Bell, with the Salt Lake Homicide Task Force, has asked local media for some publicity on Rhoades, hoping that people who knew him or have seen him will contact the task force.
"I think he's got a lot of associates here that have not come forward because they are afraid of him," Bell said. "He's on death row now, and if we can get some people to call we can start solving these cases."
In particular, Bell would like to talk to a woman who called the task force anonymously early on in the investigation. He would also like to talk to a man who called the task force once with information but was inadvertently cut off.
Rhoades, Bell said, was a frequent traveler, particularly to Utah.
"He was a drifter, a hitchhiker. He's been all over the Western United States," said Bell, who has vowed not to retire until the killings are solved.
Rhoades has also worked construction in Utah. "He was a drywaller. And he was apparently very, very good. But we haven't been able to find anyone he has worked for," said Bell, who urged contractors who might have employed Rhoades to call the task force. Rhoades used aliases of "Sam Johnson" and "Rick Edwards" and possibly others, Bell said.
The Utah task force was formed in 1986 after investigators linked the shooting deaths of Chris Gallegos, 16, Carla Maxwell, 20, and Lisa Strong, 25.
Gallegos' body was discovered near Derks Field on May 16, 1985. She had been shot twice in the head and stabbed in the chest. Maxwell was shot numerous times in the face and chest while working behind the counter at the 7-Eleven just off the Layton exit in Davis County. Strong was gunned down while walking in the area of 800 E. Kensington Ave.
Ballistics tests showed the young women were killed with the same .38-caliber handgun.
Rhoades used a .38-caliber handgun in February and March 1987 to kill Stacy Dawn Baldwin, 21, who was abducted from a convenience store in Blackfoot, Idaho; Susan Michelbacker, 34, who was abducted from a grocery store parking lot in Idaho Falls; and Nolan Hadden, 23, a convenience store clerk shot to death during a robbery.
Though the gun used in those killings does not match the one used in the Utah murders, police have learned that Rhoades had access to a number of weapons, including large-caliber handguns. In fact, police know that Rhoades was in possession of a stolen handgun and was in Salt Lake City during the time that one of the Utah murders occurred.
Police have also learned through informants that Rhoades once stayed at an apartment about three blocks from where Strong was killed.
In an interview at the Idaho prison, Rhoades told detectives that he has done a "some terrible things in his life."
In addition, police have information that Rhoades was in Wyoming, Idaho and Arizona when women in those areas were, for no apparent reason, gunned down.
Bell believes Rhoades a tall, fat man with long dark hair is a classic example of a serial killer. "This guy's killed a lot of people," Bell said. "He hasn't just started plucking people off in Idaho. He's killed a bunch."
The detective also noted that the murders stopped when Rhoades was apprehended. "They've come to a drastic halt since he was arrested."
Anyone with information about Rhodes is invited to call Bell at 535-6513 or 535-6510. A $25,000 reward is still being offered by the Southland Corp. to the individual who helps police solve the murders, Bell noted.