According to court documents Richard Rhodes would murder Karen Nieradka by strangulation before disposing of her body at a debris site
Richard Rhodes would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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|RHODES, RICHARD W
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Richard Rhodes Case
Rhodes was convicted of first-degree murder for the manual-strangulation death of a woman, later identified as Karen Nieradka. The facts of the crime, as we have previously described them, are briefly summarized here.1 Nieradka’s decomposing body was found on March 24, 1984, in debris being used to construct a berm in St. Petersburg. The debris came from a hotel in Clearwater, which had been demolished nine days earlier. The cause of death was determined to be manual strangulation, causing the hyoid bone in Nieradka’s neck to break. Although the only clothing found on her body was a brassiere around her neck, no physical evidence of sexual battery was found.
On March 2, 1984, the Florida Highway Patrol stopped Rhodes in Hernando County; he was driving a car registered to the victim. After the body was identified, Rhodes was questioned and ultimately arrested for the murder. During the various interviews, Rhodes gave different and sometimes conflicting statements, ultimately claiming that the victim died accidentally when she fell from the third floor of the Sunset Hotel.
During the original trial, three of Rhodes’s former cellmates at the Pinellas County Jail testified that Rhodes admitted killing the victim. The jury found Rhodes guilty of first-degree murder and recommended that he be sentenced to death. The trial judge followed the recommendation. On appeal, we affirmed the conviction. However, because of various penalty phase errors, we vacated the death sentence and remanded for a new sentencing. Rhodes v. State, 547 So.2d at 1201.