Others Just as Guilty, Still Free
Rhodes gets 31-to-life
Goshen - Lisa Colon looked across a courtroom and asked Christopher Rhodes why he stabbed her 7-year-old daughter, Jerica, 16 times, why he pierced her heart and her lungs and left her to die in a school bathroom.
The guy who called himself Jerica's father had no answer for Colon as he was sentenced yesterday to 31 years to life in prison.
But Rhodes told a prosecutor the same thing that he's said since Jan. 27, 2005, when Jerica's body was found at Sacred Heart of Jesus School in Highland Falls: He didn't do it, regardless of a jury's guilty verdict late last year.
"You are right - a child, 7 years old, does not deserve to be stabbed 16 times. I agree with you on that. But I'm not the man you're looking for," Rhodes told Assistant District Attorney David Byrne, who vigorously cross-examined Rhodes when he took the stand in his own defense during the trial.
Byrne pointed out to Orange County Judge Jeffrey G. Berry that when Rhodes testified, he never shed a tear at the mention of Jerica's name. DNA tests during the investigation showed he wasn't her biological father.
"The only time a tear fell from his self-interested body was when he talked about going home," Byrne told the judge. "Christopher Rhodes is about nobody but himself."
Byrne talked about Rhodes' criminal record, disclosing for the first time yesterday that the former James O'Neill scholastic basketball star's rap sheet dates back to a weapon offense he committed in 1992 in Texas, when he was a 15-year-old juvenile.
He pointed out that Rhodes was ordered into a class for batterers after an incident of domestic violence involving another woman who bore his child. Byrne also observed that Rhodes was on probation for a previous misdemeanor drug-possession case at the time he was arrested last year and that police found more than a pound of marijuana stashed in a sofa in Rhodes' Highland Falls apartment when they executed a search warrant in the wake of Jerica's murder.
And finally, Byrne said that in May 2005, Rhodes cooked up a scheme to blame another Orange County Jail inmate for Jerica's murder. Rhodes confessed during the trial that he wrote phony letters to his parents, Linwood and Linda Rhodes, that purported to be from Edward Nash, who was awaiting trial for murdering his wife in Middletown. Rhodes also mailed the letters to the Times Herald-Record, knowing that prosecutors and police would be forced to investigate their authenticity.
"The defendant's life has been one of self-interest and violence," Byrne told the judge. "He is a dangerous person."
Berry called Jerica's murder the worst he'd seen since he began presiding over murder trials in 1991.
"This one is the most heartbreaking, this one is the most insensitive, this one is the most brutal," Berry said, speaking softly as he looked at Rhodes.
The judge's voice got louder as he described Rhodes' scheme to frame Nash for Jerica's murder. He called it, "the most unbelievable form of narcissism that I have ever seen in my life”.
He then sentenced Rhodes to the maximum 25 years to life for the murder, plus more time for the felony marijuana charge and felony evidence-tampering and forgery charges related to the fake letters from the jail. Rhodes will be in his late 50s when he's eligible for parole, but District Attorney Frank Phillips said his office will urge the state Division of Parole to keep Rhodes behind bars.
Rhodes vowed to appeal.
Lisa Colon, who now lives in central New York, said justice was served in the legal sense.
But as she left the Orange County Courthouse yesterday, Colon wept as she said that at times, she felt like she was the one on the stand, although she and Rhodes split up years before Jerica's murder. She said it took her a long time to stop finding fault with herself for Jerica's murder.
Rhodes' lawyer, Sol Lesser, succeeded in keeping Colon from testifying against Rhodes as a prosecution witness.
"My daughter's justice will never be served," she said.
Well it’s over.
Just as I suspected, in the end there was no real insight given us.
The only new item here is that Christopher Rhodes has been in trouble with the law from the time he was 15 years old, YET no discussion on how or why this career criminal got custody of someone else’s five month old baby to begin with, since he had a record as long as your arm. That’s what’s lacking, punishment for all the others who enabled Rhodes to be in the position to murder this kid in the first place. That’s what’s been missing from this story, right from the beginning.
AND in the end, it’s still missing.
The news coverage of this crime was very insufficient. In my opinion, it actually tried to steer the reader (and thus potential jurors) into sympathy for Christopher Rhodes by continuously focusing on who Jerica’s father was. Can somebody explain to me WHY this had anything to do with her murder? I never heard of a murder case where the parentage of the victim was continuously focused on. What does someone’s parentage have to do with them being murdered?
In short, NOTHING...
This was nothing but a red herring by the defense, Sol Lesser, to try to get the jurors to sympathize with Christopher Rhodes, acting like he was a victim or something. In this, the news media tried to help Rhodes by focusing on this fact as well, when it meant absolutely nothing. This is the same reason why the defense fought (and won) to keep Lisa Mason, Jerica’s mother, from testifying against Rhodes, btw. Sol Lesser didn’t want the jury to hear the truth about his client. That, in fact, Christopher Rhodes was not the good and loving father that people tried to falsely paint him as, but a monster quite capable of murder. After all, Rhodes literally abducted this child while she was a nursing infant from her mother and subsequently prevented her mother and her siblings from ever seeing her again.
Christopher Rhodes had the help of the police officers who responded to the initial 911 call seven years ago. Rhodes continued getting assistance from his parents, a family court Judge and other assorted family court officers in keeping this child away from her mother, even through Rhodes had a long history as a career criminal committing crimes from here to Texas. Once again, the news media aided and abetted Rhodes in this instance as well, never focusing on the custodial and alienation/abduction aspects of the story, which would have shown that the hate agenda against mothers and motherhood of the mens/fathers rights movement is what led to this man having custody to begin with.
NONE of these ENABLERS has been punished as yet. Whatever happened to the Endangerment laws of this State? If they don’t apply here, they don’t apply anywhere since this guy had many people, including his own parents, aiding and abetting him for seven years.
YET not ONE OTHER PERSON has been indicted on related charges.
Last point: 31 years was a very insufficient sentence. Rhodes could be out in 10 or 15 years if you factor in good time. It’s an outrageous sentence for a man who not only murdered a child but tortured her mother and siblings for years by keeping them away from her. Everyone who aided and abetted this monster in doing this should be punished as well. Additionally we need to open the files of the Family Court Judge in this case and see how many other mothers and children he has placed in similar situations by his custody rulings favoring fathers (or hate crimes against mothers as I would call them). Not to mention that if he has any common decency he would have immediately resigned from the bench as soon as Christopher Rhodes was found guilty.
I guess common decency like common sense is very uncommon these days.