News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

January 8, 2008

Whitlock is free man after two decades in prison for Paris, Ill., murder

PARIS, Ill. — As raindrops hit and rolled down his face, Herbert R. Whitlock walked down steps from an Edgar County Jail a free man Tuesday morning after spending nearly 21 years in the Illinois state prison system.

Judge James R. Glenn approved a prosecutor’s motion to drop charges against Whitlock in the 1987 slaying of Karen Rhoads. His release came more than 3 ½ years after prosecutors freed Gordon “Randy” Steidl, Whitlock’s former codefendant and drinking pal. Steidl had been convicted of murdering Rhoads and her husband, Dyke, on the same evidence.

Wearing blue prison garb, Whitlock, 61, quickly embraced his daughter, Brittany White, as he exited the jail, then went into a waiting silver sport-utility vehicle. Whitlock planned to go to his daughter’s home to spend time with his family.

“He plans to hold his grandchild which he never before has held,” said his attorney, Richard S. Kling, shortly after Whitlock was driven away. “He wants to get back to his family and be able to wake up when he wants to and go to sleep when he wants to and have the same freedom that we all enjoy.”

White and Whitlock each declined comment immediately after the court’s ruling.

Special Prosecutor Michael Vujovich said the state did not have time to prepare for a speedy trial.

“Under the statutory time constraints that we were operating under, the better course of action in our judgment, was to continue on with our investigation and depending on how that comes out on down the road, decide then and there whether or not to reinitiate the prosecution against Mr. Whitlock,” Vujovich said.

“While I am sure Mr. Whitlock and his supporters are very happy with the result of having him released, while they are celebrating one might also remember the memories of Dyke and Karen Rhoads, who are the victims in this,” he said.

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    March 12, 2010