BLACKFOOT – Lt. Paul Newbold is counting down the hours to the execution of Paul Ezra Rhoades on Friday. Lt. Newbold was just 27 years old and had been a detective for less than one year when Rhoades' reign of terror in Bingham County began in 1987.
Newbold devoted the next year of his career almost exclusively to getting justice for Stacy Baldwin, Nolan Haddon and Susan Michelbacher. He was also committed to restoring a feeling of safety in the Blackfoot community. The experience of working these cases and the heartache he feels for the families impacts him still today. "After the murders began this area was crazy," recalls Newbold. "We had somebody running around killing… you would alway see groups walking together. The whole community was in a panic and people were fearful." Newbold recalls that gun sales went up because people were determined to protect themselves. Convenience stores started adding extra workers to shifts and women clerks didn't work alone at night. "Tremendous stress was on our shoulders to bring normalcy back and get justice for the victims and their families," said Newbold. "We're not in it for the glory—we're here to protect society. Did we feel like we were doing a good job? No! Not at that time. We knew we had to find this guy." Newbold says the moment everything comes together and investigators can match the evidence to a face is great. There is a brief moment of satisfaction when "you can contact the victims' moms, dads, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles—all of their family—and let them know we've made an arrest. It's a tremendous feeling." However, the relief is short-lived as the battle for conviction begins. "The victims—the families—are traumatized massively by the death of a loved one. Then they are traumatized as they anticipate who did it." Newbold says that is just the beginning. "Now the tough part comes and they have to sit through a preliminary hearing—and the family has to listen to all this. Then it's the trial and they have to re-live it again and this time it's more intense. They have to listen to someone like me testifying about the crime scene. Then they wait while it goes to the jury. If they get the death penalty it just goes on and on. "The families are re-traumatized continually and all the focus is on this bad guy," said Newbold. "What about the victims? Nolan was a good person—he was just a young guy. Susan was a teacher. She spent her time with children, educating them. She was sick on the day she was killed, but she takes a lesson plan into the school and runs into an animal! Let's talk about her. Stacy was a sweet girl. I knew her from the Mini-Barn. She was recently married and just starting her life." Newbold believes the victims need a voice. He says the investigators become that voice as they go to the crime scenes and find the evidence left. He says victims leave clues and those clues tell what happened. "I feel the murders of Stacy Baldwin, Susan Michelbacher and Nolan Haddon warrant the death penalty and I think the person that killed these people needs to do what justice demands. The execution needs to go through." Twenty-five years later, Newbold thinks of Stacy every time he drives past the place where she worked and the place she died. He remembers Nolan and Susan fondly. "The victims and their families need to be remembered at this time," said Newbold. "Our focus should be on them, not the killer." Newbold says he will always remember a moment at the end of the trial when he escorted Stacy's mother, Verna, to her vehicle. "She just looked at me and said 'thank you.' It was all I needed to hear. I can't tell you how much that means to law enforcement. I will always remember it." Given the opportunity, Newbold says he would gladly attend the execution, but with only a limited number of witnesses allowed he will not be in attendance. The Morning News will be in Boise for the execution, as will Sheriff Dave Johnson; Tom Moss, a longtime Blackfoot resident and former prosecutor; and current Bingham County prosecutor Scott Andrew. "I will represent the county at the execution," said Johnson. "Something of this magnitude needs to have closure. People need to know the end of the story. The execution is the final chapter. It sends a message to individuals that are going to commit crimes they'll have to answer for them," he said. "Everyone has an opinion on the death penalty. But, the fact is three lives were needlessly taken by an individual – he made that choice – a jury of his peers found him guilty. There should be closure to this hideous crime," Johnson said. Rhoade's execution is scheduled for Friday at 8 a.m.