After nearly a quarter-century, Junior Haddon still grieves for his son Nolan.
Nolan Haddon died at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on March 17, 1987, after lying overnight in a walk-in cooler at the Idaho Falls convenience store where he worked as a clerk. He had been shot five times, and his spinal cord had been severed.
His killer, Paul Ezra Rhoades, 54, is set to die at 8 a.m. Friday by lethal injection.
Haddon was the second of three people Rhoades killed during a three-week span in 1987 that gripped eastern Idaho in fear.
His first known victim was 21-year-old Stacy Baldwin. The newlywed was abducted after midnight on Feb. 28, 1987, from the Red Mini Barn convenience store in Blackfoot. She was shot three times and left a few miles north of town, where she died.
A third victim, Susan Michelbacher, 34, was found dead in a field five miles west of Idaho Falls on March 21, 1987. The special-education teacher had been abducted from a grocery store parking lot, forced to give Rhoades $2,000 in cash and raped before being shot repeatedly.
Rhoades was sentenced to death for killing Baldwin and Michelbacher. He also received two life sentences for the second-degree murder of Haddon.
Junior Haddon and his wife, Julie, gathered with their sons Wes and Clay at Wes Haddon’s Blackfoot home Wednesday to discuss the pending execution.
Junior Haddon sat largely silent through most of the emotional, hourlong interview.
But one question elicited a strong response: Will you be attending Mr. Rhoades’ execution?
His answer: “Yes.”
Clay Haddon, Nolan’s brother, said that if a death sentence is what the justice system declared fair, then that is what needs to be done. He does not believe a sentence of life in prison is just.
The Blackfoot man recalled visiting and joking with Nolan less than an hour before his brother’s death at Buck’s Convenience Store.
“I have no idea why I went to that store to go see him,” Clay Haddon said.
Haddon said he’d never visited Nolan at work before that day.
“But I drove all the way across town just to see him,” he said.
Wes Haddon said he remembers his brother as a loveable young man who enjoyed baseball, hunting, fishing and camping.
“He was friendly and easy to be around,” Julie Haddon said.
At the height of their grief, some of the Haddons summoned the courage to attend Rhoades’ trial in 1988.
“I sat through the Michelbacher trial, and what he did to that woman is totally beyond me,” Clay Haddon said. “I saw things I hope I never have to see again.”
Court documents from the 1987 Michelbacher case called Rhoades’ crimes “wicked and vile, shockingly evil and designed to inflict a high degree of physical and mental pain with utter indifference to and with apparent enjoyment of the suffering of Mrs. Michelbacher.”
Clay Haddon said Rhoades terrorized the community.
“It just rattled this whole valley,” he said.
On the day of Rhoades’ first sentencing, former 7th District Judge Larry Boyle asked Rhoades to stand before sentencing him on March 24, 1988.
“It is with a heavy heart but a clear conscience that I sentence you to death,” Boyle said.
The Haddons agreed that the death penalty is necessary.
“I believe the death penalty would be the best sentence,” Julie Haddon said. “It won’t bring Nolan back, but it seems after all the things (Rhoades) did (it should proceed).”
Wes Haddon agreed.
“I would like to see a death penalty on it because of what he did to the two other victims,” he said. “(Rhoades) lived so long now, I’m sick and tired of hearing about it. It keeps going on and on.”
Stacy Baldwin’s mother-in-law, Evelyn Baldwin of Salmon, said she believes Rhoades must be punished for his crimes.
“He needs to pay for the horrible things he did and the hurt he caused to this family,” she said. “Not only that of the people that were (victims’) relatives, but the whole southeastern Idaho.”
Baldwin remembers her daughter-in-law as a fine, sweet young woman who was dedicated to her husband, Myron Baldwin.
Michelbacher worked at Eagle Rock Junior High School. She and her husband, Bert, had a son, Christopher, who was 2 years old at the time of her death, according to previous reports.
Efforts to reach the remaining Michelbacher family members were unsuccessful.
Evelyn Baldwin said she could not help but feel sorry for a person like Rhoades.
“I’m just so sorry that a human being could be in a state of mind that he was in,” she said.
For his part, Rhoades, too, said he is sorry.
In his Oct. 21 request for a clemency hearing — which since has been denied — Rhoades acknowledged he was responsible for three deaths and expressed guilt and remorse.
“Three people are dead because of me. I needlessly caused their deaths. My actions, my crimes, my responsibility,” Rhoades wrote. “I cannot erase their loss and the pain they suffered because of my crimes. Nor can I take away the pain endured by each of their family members.”
For Julie and Junior Haddon, that pain never will go away. They plan on attending the execution, but not their sons.
“I don’t need to watch someone die,” Clay Haddon said.
Evelyn Baldwin won’t attend the execution and said she’s sure Myron Baldwin won’t, either. She said the family focused on moving on with their lives — not forgetting Stacy, but forgetting the “horrible things that happened.”
Pauline Rhoades, Rhoades’ mother, released a statement to the news media Wednesday on behalf of her family. In the statement, she said she still hopes and prays her son’s life will be spared.
“We are very sorry for what happened to (the victims). We know there is nothing we can say or do to console their families, or understand the pain they have endured all of these years,” Pauline Rhoades said. “We also realize how tough it must be for them to be reminded of the crimes whenever Paul’s case makes the news, and that they might be angry that Paul is still alive while their loved ones are not.”