The Crime

As I venture out on this journey of telling a story very close to my heart, let me first explain that I am by no means a writer. My career has been in transcribing and audio/video recording, but never writing a story. I have always loved to read, and as a young girl I kept a diary hoping that some day I would write a book about my life. I eventually gave up that idea when I realized how boring my life had been!

But this story isn’t about me. It’s about two very special people in mine and my family’s life. We had them with us for a short time and we miss them more than we could sometimes bear. This is a story of a cold blooded killing and a great injustice due to what I believe is purely political. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

My parents met and married in Dayton, Ohio in 1951. They had two children while living in Ohio: my older brother and then two years later my sister, Rhonda. In 1956 they decided to move to California since my dad had a job offer in Burbank. I was born about a year after the move to California. My name is Shelley. A few years later my little brother, my parents’ fourth and last child, was born. We eventually moved to Simi Valley, California, which is where we grew up and consider our home town.

Rhonda and I always shared a bedroom. She was about two and a half years older than me and for the most part we got along, when we weren’t arguing that is. Rhonda was a very good and caring big sister. She taught me a lot and if I had a question that I was embarrassed to ask my mom I would ask her and she always answered it. She was a very nurturing person too. She was always taking care of people and animals.

When we were younger we were always bringing home stray critters, mostly cats, but there was the occasional snake, lizard or toad. My parents were very good about letting us have our pets. The only line my mother drew was that we weren’t allowed to bring home any dogs since we already had a family dog. But it was cats we always found needed a home and we had many, many cats. Rhonda had a huge heart and couldn’t stand to see anything or anybody suffer or hurt.

Another love we shared was music. She always had the local pop station on and so my childhood memories were built around those songs from the 1960’s. We loved the Monkees among other groups and songs, but the Beatles were our favorite. We even once made up dances to the Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. Wow, such great memories. Anytime I hear any songs from the ‘60’s a flood of memories about my sister come back.

In 1972 my sister left home to get married. I was thrilled to have our room all to myself, but I was happy for her new life she was venturing out on. Her new life took her to Austin, Texas. In 1974 she and her husband had a baby, a son. He was born the day before Rhonda’s 20th birthday. His name was Donald but we called him Donnie. I was so thrilled to be an aunt I actually had a friend at school who started calling me Aunt Shelley. Rhonda was a wonderful mother and adored Donnie.

Unfortunately Rhonda’s marriage didn’t work out and they divorced in 1976. Rhonda and Donnie moved back to Simi Valley and moved back in with our parents until she could get their own place to live. By this time I was in the Army and only my little brother lived at home so there was plenty of room in the home. My parents welcomed them with open arms.

It was a very happy time for both my parents to have their only grandchild there with them, and Rhonda was happy and looking forward to rebuilding a life for her and Donnie. 

Rhonda enrolled in school and worked. My mother took care of Donnie. Eventually she was able to get Donnie into preschool and also get an apartment of her own.

I came back home in 1977 and was able to spend a little bit of time with Rhonda and Donnie before getting married and moving about 40 miles from Simi Valley. From that time on our visits were infrequent so I really never felt like we had a chance to get reacquainted before they died.

NOTE: Let me pause here for a moment to explain how I am referring to the people who come into our lives from this point on. I chose not to use actual names and instead will be using acronyms, and the explanation for each are as follows:

  • RDK = Rhonda & Donnie Killer (this is the person Rhonda was dating who was convicted of killing Rhonda and Donnie and who I still believe murdered them).
  • OI = Original Investigator (this is the detective who headed the original investigation in 1978).
  • CCD = Cold Case Detective(s) (this is the detective(s) from the cold case division who is re-investigating the murder).
  • XCV = Ex Cop with a Vengeance (this is the person who set out to prove OI a bad cop but failed so switched their focus on falsely proving RDK was innocent).
  • NS = New Suspect (this is the person the new investigation believes could have been the killer).

When I came home from the Army, Rhonda had been dating a guy (RDK) pretty steady and seemed to be happy from what I could tell. I wasn’t too impressed with RDK when I first met him. He just seemed to be a weak person which I didn’t think was what Rhonda needed. Maybe I was being too protective of her, or maybe I just sensed something. Rhonda seemed happy and RDK was very good with Donnie and that’s what mattered most. My parents also liked him.

Rhonda was taking classes at the local community college. I’m not sure what her area of focus was but I do know one of the classes included learning self-defense. Her biggest fear was dying violently like our grandma had so she wanted to learn how to defend herself.

Let me take the time to pause to share the story of our (maternal) grandmother. She was murdered in Dayton, Ohio, on November 3, 1957. By that time my parents had already moved to California. Grandma had invited a gentleman friend into her home after an evening out for something to eat (I think they were just acquaintances). In the morning my aunt (mom’s sister) who lived with Grandma got up in the morning and found my grandmother dead. She had been raped and strangled. They did get the person who did it.

Rhonda and I didn’t find out about this story until we were teenagers. It had quite an effect on Rhonda. Her greatest fear was to die the same way our grandmother died which is why she took a defense class.

She kept a journal for the semester, which was part of the class, which I still have. It mostly focused on crimes against women that she read in the news and how it effected her. A few entries were personal.

At some point (early fall I think) she started taking cosmetology classes.

November 10, 1978 — The Day Before

In the late afternoon of November 10, 1978, I dropped my husband off at his swing shift job in Burbank and drove on to my parents’ home in Simi Valley. My husband and I were going to a friend’s wedding the next evening and Rhonda was going to do my hair.

I arrived at my parents’ house around 5:00 p.m. and Rhonda and Donnie were there so we had a chance to visit. About two months before this she had told me that she was trying to break up with RDK. On the evening of November 10th she had told me that she was still trying to break up with him and that he was seeing a psychiatrist. I told her I didn’t realize it was so serious. She didn’t mention to me if there was anyone specific she wanted to go out with, but I didn’t ask either.

My husband was going to get a ride home with my cousin (aka NS) since they worked together. NS had just recently moved to California and was staying with my parents. Since they worked the swing shift I didn’t expect my husband back to my parents until late, plus he said him and NS would probably go out afterwards. I woke up when my husband came in around 2:30 to 3:30 a.m. and we talked briefly before going back to sleep.

November 11, 1978 — The Day Of

The next morning, Saturday, November 11, 1978, I was waiting for Rhonda to pick me up. We were going to her cosmetology school so she could do my hair. She was supposed to pick me up around 9:30 a.m. She was normally a punctual person but as 9:30 came and went my mother and I both tried calling her but there was no answer. Around 10:00 my husband and I decided to drive to her apartment which was a little less than 5 miles away.

During the drive to my sister’s apartment I had such a feeling of dread. I had actually had the thought: what if he (RDK) has gone crazy and killed her? As we pulled onto her street and I saw her car still parked on the street I started getting scared.

We went upstairs and knocked on her door but there was no answer. We also tried to open the door but it was locked. Rhonda’s next door neighbor came up to us and asked us if we had heard from Rhonda, to which we said no, that’s why we were there. The neighbor said that she had heard Rhonda and RDK arguing (her bedroom and Rhonda’s bedroom shared the same wall). She said she heard him hitting her and saw him leaving her apartment around 5:30 a.m. I asked her if she had a phone so I could call my parents but she didn’t and directed me to the laundry room where there was a pay phone. I called and told my mother what was going on and she said they are on their way.

As I was headed upstairs after making the phone call I saw my husband trying to open the window (next to the front door). He was able to lift the window off the tracks and proceeded to climb inside. I climbed in behind him and stood in the living room as he headed towards Rhonda’s bedroom.

I stood in the living room and observed a huge mess. Things were dumped all over the living room floor. Rhonda’s end tables were a style from the 1970’s that had doors on them where you could store items inside of them. The only thing I clearly remember seeing were some clothes and a bunch of Donnie’s Lincoln Logs on the floor, but there were numerous other items. It looked to me as though someone had just pulled items out of the end tables and threw them on the floor. I knew immediately that the mess was staged, maybe made to look like someone was looking for something. Rhonda was a single mom who had nothing of value so robbery was out of the question. The kitchen was also a mess, drawers pulled out and cabinets left open. She also had a number of locks on her front door, the kind that only lock from the inside of the apartment, and I am quite sure they were all unlocked but today, over 40 years later, I have no exact memory of looking at them. However, the lock on the door knob was locked, which meant to me that whoever was there earlier had taken the time to lock the door on their way out.

Even though it sounds as though I stood there for a while, it was actually only a matter of seconds. My husband came out of Rhonda’s room and said, “Don’t go in there.” I asked him if Rhonda was okay and he told me, “She’s dead.” We left back through the window. When we got out on the landing I asked him, “What about Donnie?” And he said, “I don’t know, I didn’t see him.” I told him he needed to go back in and check. Looking back at that day I feel so bad for him. He was so scared and after having seen my sister dead he certainly didn’t want to go back inside that apartment. But he did.

To be honest I really did not think Donnie was in the apartment. In my mind I was convinced that RDK had killed Rhonda and took Donnie with him. I even calculated that it had been about five hours so they could be anywhere by now.  How I wish that were the case. My husband came back out the window and wouldn’t look me in the eye. He just said, “He’s the same way.” That was when I broke.

My husband later told me that when he walked into Rhonda’s bedroom she was lying partially on the bed with her feet on the floor. Her head was facing away from the door. He said he touched her and she was cold. He also said he noticed that she had a little bit of blood coming out the opposite side of her mouth, which told me she had been positioned. Also her nightgown had been pulled up to her chest. When he went into Donnie’s room he thought Donnie was asleep. He was wearing feet pajamas and his eyes were closed. My husband called his name and then shook him to wake him up but he told me Donnie’s little body was already stiff.

I remember asking someone to call the police and I proceeded to walk downstairs to wait for my parents. I have no memory of how long I waited. I just remember wondering how I was going to tell my parents that Rhonda and Donnie were dead.

The first person to arrive was my younger brother and I had to tell him they were dead. He put his arms around me and cried, and a few minutes later he was headed up the stairs to the apartment.

Next to arrive were my mom and dad. I couldn’t say the word “dead” to them. All that would come out of my mouth was that “It will be okay.” My mother asked if they (Rhonda and Donnie) were okay but I just shook my head no and cried.

The rest of the day is a complete blur. I vaguely remember talking to the police. I know I told them that RDK might have done it but I don’t remember exactly what I said.

In the meantime the police went to RDK’s apartment. I can’t recall all the events that led to his arrest or when it actually happened.

I should mention how much my mother cared about RDK. She told a local newspaper reporter that it felt like she lost three of her children that day. At one time she even asked the DA to just drop the charges against RDK, which of course he told her he couldn’t do that. I know she was just so tired of hurting and just wanted it to go away. My mother was a woman of great faith. She knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and savior. It was this faith that held her together, enabled her to be strong enough to hold her family together, and to forgive RDK. Her faith was a constant reminder to me that God is in control and what someone meant for bad God will make it good. I know without a doubt if it wasn’t for our faith we would have probably fallen apart but instead we drew closer together.

Court Proceedings

The trial started around April 1979. My mother, my husband and I were excluded from the courtroom because we were witnesses so we didn’t get to see a lot of the trial. All the evidence against RDK was circumstantial. I was told that RDK had gone to Rhonda’s apartment in the early hours of November 11, 1978. Things were still cordial between them so of course she let him in. Of course nobody knows what transpired but we know he beat her up. The neighbors next door heard commotion around 5:30 a.m. The downstairs neighbor also said he heard commotion but he kept flip-flopping on the time. His story changed from 4:30 to 5:30 so his testimony was somewhat unreliable. The next door neighbor heard Rhonda’s front door close and said when she looked out her window she saw RDK’s truck driving away (unfortunately she couldn’t make out the driver). RDK had taken two items home with him: a towel with Rhonda’s blood on it and a t-shirt of Donnie’s that investigators felt is what was used to suffocate Donnie.

That trial ended in a hung jury. The next trial was around November, I believe, of 1979. RDK was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

I didn’t know every single detail of the evidence that convicted RDK, but I know it was all circumstantial. There was also the neighbor who said she saw RDK’s truck leaving after hearing Rhonda’s door close, however RDK, nor anyone else, was actually seen leaving the apartment.

I was told that Rhonda had been beaten up and strangled. Donnie had been suffocated. At their open casket (they were displayed in a casket together) I could clearly see the bruises on Rhonda’s face and hands. Donnie had no bruises, thank God.

During search of RDK’s apartment there were some items that were felt to be part of the crime scene which RDK had allegedly taken with him from Rhonda’s apartment. RDK had an explanation as to how these items came to be in his apartment but I felt (and still feel) there was quite a lot of discrepancy in that explanation. However, years later his story would change. When he was filing for clemency he stated that these items were “planted” in his apartment and that he was being “framed.”

Trial started in 1979 but ended in a hung jury. The second trial started a few months later which ended in conviction. RDK was sentenced to life without parole and started serving his sentence in January of 1980.

Moving Forward

So now life without Rhonda and Donnie had begun. I worried most about my parents because there was always a certain time of day Donnie would come running up the pathway to the house to see his grandma and grandpa. Their world as they knew it had changed forever. They had other grandchildren but not living close by. Mom hadn’t worked since she was younger but she did get a job working the same shift as my dad so they had time together. For the first time since before having children it was just the two of them at home.

At the end of the 1980’s my parents had retired and moved to Las Vegas. I was now divorced and living with my children in Simi Valley. Everything went quiet with the case. I do know in the mid to late 1980’s the evidence from Rhonda and Donnie’s murder investigation was ordered destroyed by the court. Apparently it was a normal process that was done back then. All of RDK’s appeals had been exhausted.

Around 1991 I received a call from a guy I went to high school with. He was employed by the Simi Valley Police Department. I refer to him as XCV. He worked with the detective that had been the lead investigator in Rhonda and Donnie’s murder. I refer to lead investigator as OI. I was under the impression that XCV was calling me as an old friend so it wasn’t an odd phone call to receive. At some point our conversation turned to Rhonda and Donnie. After all these years I don’t remember what all we talked about, but he started telling me things about the crime scene that I didn’t know such as a head wound that Rhonda had. I know it doesn’t sound traumatizing, and it’s not now, but at the time it was for me.

The one thing that also stood out in the conversation was that he believed that RDK was innocent. He had become good friends with RDK and his parents. I was truly shocked by the fact that he had visited RDK. Based on the evidence against RDK I found it very disturbing and upsetting that he actually could believe RDK was innocent.

After the conversation ended I called my little brother and told him about it. We decided not to tell mom. I never thought myself as a very fragile person, but apparently I have some fragility because this information affected my every day life. I wasn’t sleeping well either. Thinking back I believe that after having had closure for 12 years I hadn’t dwelled too much on the murder for a long time, so having to relive the emotions was more than I could handle.

 I decided I would tell my mom. After I told her about it she verified what XCV had told me about Rhonda’s head wound, and then she told me, “You know, if there’s anything you want to know about the case just ask me.” I realized that apparently I didn’t want to know. I had found a breaking point for me and I wasn’t going to push it. It honestly served no purpose. 

Another thing that XCV made clear during the phone call was his extreme dislike for OI. I believe OI was his superior at that time as well. I can’t remember the exact words he told me but I knew after that phone call that he didn’t like OI at all. On the other hand, my mother had a great affection and respect for OI. During the investigation he kept in close contact with her and she was very appreciative of the time he spent with her.

My mother told me she was going to call OI and tell him about the phone call, which she did. XCV was told to never contact me again. I also wrote him a very long letter and mailed it to him. I don’t know if he ever got it because I didn’t put my return address on it. I wish I would have kept a copy of that letter to refer to, but at some point I did get rid of it. Sometimes you just have to put things behind you and move on, and I needed closure with this.

In 1992 I left Southern California and moved to the northern part of the state. My brother and his family lived there and I wanted to get my children out of Southern California. A couple years after I moved there my brother got a call from XCV. He told my brother that he was in the area and had a packet (what I refer to as his vengeance packet) he put together and wondered if my brother would be interested in reading it. Apparently XCV was building a case against OI to prove him a crooked cop and the packet was cases that OI had worked on over the years that XCV was hoping to use against him. Of course I’m quite sure getting RDK released from prison would have been the cherry on top.

My brother agreed to meet with him and look at the vengeance packet. He was most interested in reading about Rhonda and Donnie’s case since he was so young when it all happened and he didn’t remember much about it.  He asked if I wanted to see XCV and I said absolutely not. However, XCV did leave the vengeance packet with my brother and said he would pick it up later. Of course I read through it, but only Rhonda and Donnie’s case. I wasn’t interested in the other cases.

The one thing that stood out in that packet, something I hadn’t read before, was RDK’s testimony or deposition; I can’t remember, but it was in his words.

One thing I forgot to mention was that two days before the murder, on the evening of November 9th, Rhonda had gone out with a friend and had a babysitter taking care of Donnie. The babysitter said that she answered the phone and the person on the other end hung up (remember, no caller ID in 1978). A few minutes later the phone rang again and it was RDK. He asked for Rhonda and the babysitter said she wasn’t there. He asked where she was and the babysitter said she didn’t know. As far as I know that was the extent of the call.

RDK’s testimony in the vengeance packet revealed that he had gone to a local club (alone) (a club that he knew Rhonda frequented) and just happened to run into Rhonda and her friend as they were leaving (remember this is after the phone call with the babysitter). I found a statement Rhonda’s friend gave to the police regarding that night and she verified that RDK did in fact show up as they were leaving. At the time of my reading of his testimony it sounded more like he was stalking her rather than just bumping into her.

XCV came to pick up the vengeance packet from my brother a few days later. That was pretty much it. If he contacted my brother after that, I just don’t remember.

2016

Fast forward to the fall of 2016. I had moved to Las Vegas in 2004 to take care of my parents. They had both passed away by this time in 2016. I was working in District Court and was actually planning my retirement and my move back to Northern California. My brother called me because he had received a call from the district attorney’s office in Ventura County. They were notifying him that RDK had filed for clemency and told us if we wanted to send letters to the governor opposing it, how to go about it. At first we both agreed that it didn’t matter. But as the day progressed and I thought more about it I told him I was going to write a letter, which I did.

I later found out that in the clemency request RDK had claimed the item found in his clothes hamper the morning of the murder had been planted.

2017 — Cold Case

In June of 2017 (I was now living in Northern California) I received a call from a detective with the homicide division of the Simi Valley Police Department, cold case unit. I will refer to him as CCD. Apparently the chief of police instructed CCD to check into the case for possibly something overlooked in the original case. CCD asked if he could come to my home to ask me some questions, which I agreed.

The day CCD came to my home he asked a lot of questions, and so did I. He shared with me that through his excellent detective work he had located a lab that actually had two items from the original crime scene and they were able to conduct DNA tests on both items. I can’t go into detail on the specifics of the items and what DNA proved, but I can mention that one item was not a surprise find as they knew back in 1978 what was on it and DNA just reinforced that finding.

The other item we also knew about in 1978. It was found in RDK’s clothes hamper and at the time was believed to have been the item used to suffocate Donnie. Of course DNA wasn’t around back then, just blood typing, and Donnie’s blood type was on this item. However, this item did contain the same person’s DNA on it that the first item did, but there was additional unknown DNA. This is the item that I feel doesn’t fit any scenario. First off, if it did have something to do with the crime scene how did it end up in RDK’s apartment? Second, if it didn’t have anything to do with the crime scene why would RDK claim it was planted in his apartment?

But the bottom line and big revelation to this new investigation is that RDK’s DNA was not on either of these items. So again, if the one item was part of the crime scene, even without RDK’s DNA on it, how did it end up in his apartment?

In the new investigation it was believed that RDK was not the murderer and that it was possibly two people. Based on the condition of the apartment (the items thrown about on the floor) it was felt that it had to have taken two people but I disagreed with that theory. I stood in that living room that morning looking at it with my own eyes and my thought at that time was it would have taken maybe a minute, possibly two to make the mess. Needless to say, I never believed the two-person theory and that theory was eventually disregarded.

I was under the impression that they did have a suspect in mind and that an arrest could happen soon.

After the interview with CCD my head was spinning. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that RDK didn’t kill them. Everything back in 1978 pointed to him. All the evidence pointed to him. Nothing was making any sense but I accepted that it’s possible, and of course DNA evidence is pretty solid.

Right before Thanksgiving of 2017 I received a call from CCD. He told me that he and someone from the DA’s office were coming to see me with some news to tell me in person. This was the Saturday before Thanksgiving. They let me know that the governor had pardoned RDK and that he would probably be released from prison as early as Monday. They told me also to expect a lot of media attention once word got out. Again I was under the impression they were ready to make an arrest in the case.

The following Monday there was a press conference regarding RDK’s release. It was huge news because the media claimed he was wrongfully convicted, that DNA evidence cleared him of the murder, and that he spent 39 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. I did get interviewed by two local newspapers, but everybody was much more interested in RDK’s sad story rather than Rhonda and Donnie’s brutal murder.

It was about this time I started getting frustrated. I wasn’t upset with him getting out. I was upset that everyone was focusing on him and had forgotten who the real victims were in this story: Rhonda and Donnie.

Not too long after RDK being released I reached out to OI. We didn’t discuss the new investigation at that time since he had not been interviewed, but he did tell me a great injustice has been done (regarding RDK being released).

2018

By the time 2018 rolled around there still hadn’t been an arrest which, to me, meant there wasn’t enough evidence to do so.

I was getting extremely frustrated. All the media attention was on poor RDK and all Rhonda and Donnie were to them now was part of RDK’s sad story. Since there still hadn’t been an arrest I really started doubting the substance of the investigation. After months of combing through everything in my mind the DNA wasn’t making sense. It was still sounding to me that the original investigation back in 1978 was correct after all!

Somewhere around January of 2018 I decided I was ready to speak to OI. CCD had still not spoken to him and nobody was arrested, so now was the time. 

OI was very gracious and patient with me answering all my questions.

So do I think RDK’s release was entirely a political move? Absolutely. A lot of people got a lot of recognition for it and it was huge news. Google RDK and XCV and you will find dozens of videos. They did not shy away from media coverage at all. A governor ending his reign went out on a high note, and a new chief of police made a big impression on his community.

Golden State Killer Route

In April of 2018 the case made the news again. The Golden State Killer (GSK) had been arrested. Since he had been in the Ventura County area back in the 1970’s his DNA was also tested against the two items found in the lab. I didn’t feel this would lead anywhere because I was positive Rhonda knew the killer and let them into her apartment. He was cleared of having anything to do with Rhonda and Donnie’s murder as were a couple of other serial killers.

Conclusion

So what do I believe happened in this travesty of justice?  I still believe RDK murdered Rhonda and Donnie. He is the only person with motive and opportunity. They are trying to pin it on NS, and although he did have opportunity, he didn’t have motive. But that’s just my opinion. Is it possible that RKD is actually innocent? Absolutely. I would rule nothing out.

I do believe without a doubt that this entire incident leading up to RDK’s pardon was completely political. I’m sure some people may have actually believed he was not guilty, but the bottom line is politics. There are a lot of people other than RDK that benefitted in so many ways.

I believe that after RDK dropped off the busboy he gave a ride to at around 4:30 a.m. on November 11, 1978, he drove over to Rhonda’s apartment. She let him in and at some point an argument ensued and made him angry enough that he started beating her up. It appears that the entire fight happened in the bedroom. Rhonda was a physically strong person and fought back. This was obvious by the bruises on her hands which I observed when she was in her casket.

It was reported that when RDK was arrested he had a cut and swollen lip along with other wounds that apparently weren’t there earlier in the evening as reported by the people he was with.

At some point Donnie was murdered by suffocation. The one thing I have struggled with all these years is what did he see and/or hear? Obviously he did see the killer because that’s why he had to die; he was a witness. Did he hear her crying? Was he told to stay in his room and shut up? Did he see RDK put whatever it was over his face to cut off his air until he died? Was he afraid? Even after all these years these thoughts still bring tears to my eyes. Precious little Donnie.

After RDK killed Rhonda he positioned her on her bed to make it appear there had been a sexual assault. There were signs of rape but no semen was present. Her nightgown was pulled up to her chest and she was naked from the waist down with only her socks on her feet. Her head was also positioned. He then proceeded into the living room where he pulled items out of her two end tables and threw them on the floor and then to the kitchen where he pulled opened multiple drawers in an attempt to make it appear that the killer’s motive was robbery maybe? Obviously all staged. When he left he locked the door behind him. According to the neighbor’s timeframe he was out of there around 5:30. I believe he could have most definitely done this in 30 minutes or less. He also took two items home with him: a towel with Rhonda’s blood and a t-shirt believed to have been used to suffocate Donnie (he covered Donnie’s face with it and held put his hand over his little face suffocating him). Why would he take those home? Who knows. Maybe he didn’t want to leave any trace of himself at the crime scene. These items were found in his closet under a pile of clothes; the t-shirt was still damp.

Do I hold a grudge? I honestly don’t. I don’t care that RDK is out of prison. I highly doubt he will do anything like this again at his age. However, that doesn’t excuse the fact that he did not serve out his sentence. Justice was not served in this case.

Do I forgive him? Absolutely. I forgave him in 1978. My only purpose in creating this blog is to share an injustice that the media wasn’t interested in publishing. They didn’t want to share this story. The heroes make the headlines, not the victims who have been forgotten. They aren’t real people because they aren’t alive, but RDK and XCV are and that’s all that matters to them. I just want you, the reader, to know the truth as I know it.

My theory of this case could be all wrong. RDK could most definitely be innocent. But until the police prove someone else killed them I have no reason not to believe RDK is still the murderer. Nothing they have come up with has convinced me otherwise. I could be right or I could be wrong, but I will not be quiet.

One more thing I would like to mention is that RDK is still on the suspect list in this new investigation.

So this is the end of the story I needed to tell the world, or whoever is interested in knowing it. I will continue to update this blog as things come up but as for now it has been very quiet.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

There is always another side to the story.

Aunt Shelley and Donnie

This is the other side…

On November 11, 1978, in Simi Valley, California, my sister and my nephew (Rhonda Hamilton Wicht, age 24, and Donald Alan Wicht II, aka Donnie, age 4) were brutally murdered. Back then Simi was a small community and this was the first double homicide in our little valley.

Rhonda’s ex boyfriend was arrested, charged with the murders, tried and convicted. In 1980 he started serving his life without parole sentence. He did maintain he was innocent, and in fact all the evidence against him was circumstantial, however it was enough to convince a jury of his guilt. My family and I never doubted his guilt.

By around the mid to late 1980’s all appeals had been exhausted so with that it was requested that the court allow the evidence be destroyed (I assume because of storage purposes) and this request was granted.

In 2016, based on a request for clemency by RDK (*see acronyms list) the soon-to-be outgoing governor of California, Jerry Brown, asked that the case be examined again which fell into the hands of the Simi Valley Police Department cold case division. Based on their findings the governor chose to grant clemency and pardoned RDK.

In November of 2017 he was released from his life without parole sentence. He went on to sue the Simi Valley Police Department and the County of Ventura and received more money than most of us could ever dream of earning in a lifetime.

He became known as the man who was wrongly convicted, who had 39 years of his life stolen from him. The man who worked hard to prove RDK’s innocence (*XCV) was declared a hero. The media loved his story and published every follow up and update to their feel-good story.

My name is Shelley Hamilton. With my parents long gone and having recently losing my younger brother, I am the only voice left for Rhonda and Donnie. I have been interviewed by the cold case detective, aka CCD (see acronyms list), who explained in depth what “new” evidence was found. I do commend their wonderful investigative work in finding a lab that had two items leftover from the original investigation and were able to extract DNA from it. However, these two items and the DNA aren’t necessarily related to the crime itself. The media related the story that this was “new” when it wasn’t new at all! It’s the same evidence from 1978; the only difference now is they were able to extract DNA from it.

In my opinion the only reason RDK was pardoned is because the governor, Jerry Brown, was on his way out of office and was doing the usual duty of pardoning people from prison before he left office. But that’s just my opinion. I don’t believe the supposed “new” evidence proved anything as to RDK’s guilt or innocence. He was just a 71-year-old man who is too old to hurt anyone so why not let the guy out; what harm could it do? Who cares about the victims. They are long dead and forgotten!

I have been interviewed by a couple different newspapers over the past couple of years but my opinion is not the popular one. Some has been published and some hasn’t. The majority of the media is only publishing one side of the story. There is even a documentary being made on the story of RDK and his hero.

There is always another side to any story, and my sole purpose of creating this blog is to get the other side of the story told. Let people read both sides and decide for themselves their own conclusion.

I do not believe this case will ever be solved merely because it already was solved. There is another person they are focusing on but this person, along with many others, were looked at closely in the original investigation but it always came back to RDK. Evidence from the crime scene was found in his apartment and his truck was seen leaving the scene. Of course all this has been dissected over the decades and explanations to contradict the original theory has been argued. RDK had two different attorneys in two different trials (the first was a hung jury) and apparently the jury didn’t believe his defense. Somehow that all changed over the years! Now I am hearing about witnesses who were drug addicts so clearly unreliable and stories of crooked cops.

Pardon me if I sound sarcastic, but I still believe in the original investigation when witnesses were still alive and their story was still fresh in their minds (including me) and evidence still existed.

I do not claim to have all the answers from the original investigation or the current one. My one hope is that the reader of this blog will fairly weigh both sides of this story. I do not want Rhonda and Donnie to be forgotten. Their story matters. I am the only remaining voice that Rhonda and Donnie have now. They may never get justice, but at least their story will be told even if it is just in this simple blog.

I may be right or I may be wrong, but I won’t be quiet.

Thank you for taking time out from your day to read this.

Irresponsible Reporting

On August 31, 2021, I read a newspaper article from the San Diego Union Tribune that had been published on August 16, 2021. The article was entitled Exonerated Carlsbad Man, Police Collaborating on $50,000 Reward to Solve 1978 Murders. A week or two before this I had learned about RDK putting up a $50,000 reward for “new information that results in the conviction of the person or persons who murdered Rhonda Wicht and her son Donnie, November 11, 1978, in Simi Valley, California.”

The reporter interviewed RDK, XCV and the chief of the police. Instead of just reporting on the main topic of the interview the reporter chose to attack Rhonda’s character and state an outright lie. She said, “…on the night of Nov. 10 when Wicht was partying in her apartment with up to five men.” I consider this irresponsible reporting and just plain cold-hearted.

I spoke to a detective involved in the current investigation as well as a detective involved in the original investigation in 1978 and both assured me there was no proof of Rhonda having anyone in her apartment the night before the murder, partying or otherwise!

Once again this is proof of tabloid reporting on the part of this journalist for ratings instead of reporting the truth. Journalists like her attack the victim, especially if they are deceased and unable to speak for themselves and in turn make the perpetrator the victim. As I’ve said before, most media aren’t interested in the other side of the story because it’s not nearly as interesting or popular as RDK’s story.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time the media has attacked Rhonda’s character. Back in 1978 a local Simi Valley newspaper, The Mirror, also chose to make Rhonda look like a “loose” woman (my words) because she had been with another man other than RDK. In 2017 about the time RDK was getting released from prison an article mentioned Rhonda having multiple partners (I wish I could remember where I read that but I can’t and was unable to find it). And now this article stooped to this accusation as well.

I wonder if RDK or XCV happen to mention the issue with RDK’s mental state back in 1978. Did she read the testimonies of those who encountered RDK’s odd behavior in 1978? Did RDK or XCV happen to mention that RDK’s story in 1978 as to how that semen stained t-shirt came to be in his apartment has now changed to having been planted evidence in his request for clemency (which resulted in his pardon in 2017)? Funny nobody has mentioned how that story changed.

I am writing a letter to that journalist to tell her all this and a bit more. She may not have chosen to ask for my opinion but by stating lies about Rhonda’s character she will now hear my comments. I will let her know that I am the only voice left to speak for Rhonda and Donnie and I will not tolerate defaming my sister’s reputation. She has done what so many other journalists have done to victims, degrading their character to empower themselves. I hope in the future this journalist will be more responsible in her reporting. People matter more than ratings.

*RDK — Personality and Motive?

[*Acronyms]

I decided to dedicate a page to explaining what was presented at trial regarding RDK’s mental state at the time before and leading up to the murders.

As I said before, I had always thought RDK was a weak individual. I felt Rhonda needed a stronger person in her life.

I know very little about RDK’s past. I know he was an only child. His father was a police officer. I believe by the time of the murders he had been retired. RDK had been divorced when he met Rhonda. He had no children. Rhonda had mentioned in her journal that RDK’s mother did not like her. She didn’t know why, but she did make this statement in her journal regarding RDK’s mom: “His mom hates me more than his first wife. Maybe if we get married she’ll hate me more! Ha Ha!”

I personally had never met his mother but I did have my own experience with her. When we first started attending court proceedings she used to sit behind us in court with her dark glasses on. I can’t remember how often this happened but I know it was more than once which means it wasn’t just coincidental. We just laughed about it but let it go because we knew that she was also hurting.

Then there was an incident during the sentencing phase for RDK. Court was on a break so we sat outside the courtroom on a bench. A couple of us left Mom (alone) to go to the restroom. When we came back Mom was crying. This was very strange because it took a lot for Mom to cry publically. We asked her what was wrong and at that moment RDK’s mother and her entourage came walking out of the bathroom. His mother looked at my mother and said, “I hope you’re happy.” I understand she was in a lot of pain but I don’t think that’s a very civil way of handling it. I know it affected my mother deeply. She loved Craig and had said she felt like she lost three children that day. She never said one cross word to either of RDK’s parents or other family members.

I apologize for talking ill of someone who has long passed and unable to explain herself in response to my comment, but I was there and I saw and heard it. I’m sure to those who knew her she was a lovely woman, but based on Rhonda’s comments and feelings, and the incidences that I experienced, I believe it goes to RDK’s character and how he viewed women.

I would like to share a few things about my mother, Pauline Hamilton. She was an amazingly strong woman and she loved her family more than anything. She could have a sharp tongue when she needed to but the day she was confronted by RDK’s mother she just cried. She didn’t lash out verbally because she knew RDK’s mother was hurting. However, my mother hurt for his mother more than she could know. She loved RDK and was hurting deeply. She said she had lost three children that day: Rhonda, Donnie and RDK. We were angry that this happened to her, but she never talked about it. She just forgave and moved on. I learned through her the true meaning of forgiveness and trusting God.

Another incident regarding RDK was in court and this reinforced his guilt to me. I’m not sure at what point of the trial it was, but I think this might have also been the day of sentencing. I also can’t remember who all went to court with us that day. I remember my mother and me and one or two other people, possibly my sister-in-law and cousin. We were sitting up in the front row in the courtroom. At one point RDK was being led out of the courtroom and had to walk past us. As he walked by he stopped briefly and looked down at my mother. The look was one I had never seen and shocked me. A lady sitting behind us actually gasped! My mother didn’t react at all.

A few months after RDK was released from prison I decided to go through all the old newspaper articles from the trial to help piece things together. I certainly couldn’t go by my memory after all these years, but I had also been excluded from the courtroom so I wasn’t present for any testimony, so the newspaper reports were all I had to go by.

I found that a neighbor of Rhonda’s testified that Rhonda had told her that RDK had slapped her once. Another neighbor testified that Rhonda told her Craig tried to live her life for her and that, “Every breath she breathed he’d take half of it.”

There was testimony from employees of RDK’s physician. RDK had gone to see his doctor on November 2, 1978 (nine days before the murders). One employee, the office manager, said RDK appeared, “About to cry.” Another employee, the doctor’s medical assistant, testified that RDK appeared, “Upset, disturbed and depressed.” She said he spoke about problems with his parents and girlfriend, and she said he was crying. The next day, November 3, 1978, RDK returned to the same doctor but this time he brought Rhonda in because she was sick. The medical assistant said RDK looked at her for an instant, “In a strange way —petulant, broody, sort of hateful,” a side of him she had never seen. She said the glances bothered her for two or three days but then was forgotten. She also said, “It was not a very pleasant glance. A mean look around the eyes, face and nose. His mouth was turned down. His eyes flashed. He was frowning.”

RDK’s ex boss testified that RDK had not completed required paperwork associated with his job. He said RDK left inventory undone, was late for work, and added that RDK had never ran a good shift.

RDK’s psychotherapist also testified that she had counseled him four days before the murder and she said he was “acutely depressed” the day of their meeting. She said he told her he had lost a lot of weight, was not sleeping well and he was going through some very unhappy times. She felt he needed treatment. She said RDK, “Felt rejected and suffered a loss of self esteem because Wicht had broken off their intimate relationship, and that Rhonda had told him she wanted a brother-sister relationship rather than a romantic one.” He also mentioned that he was having problems with his parents.

My cousin and a couple of his friends had moved to California and were staying at my parents’ house temporarily. My cousin testified that he had a telephone conversation with RDK where RDK told him, “You can tell ***(cousin’s friend) if he thinks he’s going to be with Rhonda he’s going to have to go through me.” I personally don’t know why RDK felt threatened by the friend but obviously he was upset about this enough to confront my cousin (over the phone and not face-to-face since he was such a coward).

A waitress who had a conversation with RDK the early hours of 11/11/78 (the day of the murder) also testified. Apparently they were old friends as they had worked together at some point. But according to her testimony she said RDK had asked her out to breakfast after her shift at around 2 or 2:30 a.m. but she turned him down because she already had a date.

About a year ago I came across a document online. It was a scanned copy of RDK’s 2nd appeal filed 4/1/1987. The first appeal had been denied. The argument against the appeal did go into RDK’s state of mind at the time around the time and leading up to the murders.

The following is directly from that appeal with acronyms for names as necessary:
RDK was having problems on his job, at the same time his relationship with Rhonda was deteriorating. Rhonda told her mother that she did not feel she should have to raise a 32-year-old man as well as a 4-year-old child. RDK did not want the relationship to end no was very unhappy about it.
Rhonda told a friend that she wanted to meet new people and that RDK was becoming too possessive.
During this time Rhonda became sexually active with NS. Rhonda and RDK by this time had an agreement that he would call before he came to her apartment. However, one night when NS and some other friends were visiting RDK arrived unannounced. After some conversation with Rhonda RDK appeared angry and left, slamming the door.
Rhonda was frightened and called her mother who suggested NS spend the night
(this was before anyone knew of the relationship between NS and Rhonda). About 2:30 a.m. RDK called Rhonda’s mother and asked to speak to NS who usually stayed there. Her mother said everyone was asleep. RDK appeared at Rhonda’s apartment the next morning.
On November 2, 1978, RDK consulted his doctor about the problems he was having with his parents and Rhonda and the doctor prescribed an anti-depressant drug. On the next day, Rhonda went to see the same doctor about a throat infection and RDK went with her. The doctor suggested that Rhonda and RDK should see a family counselor, which advice upset Rhonda.
On November 5, RDK took a lady friend to dinner and indicated how unhappy he was about his diminishing relationship with Rhonda and Donald.
On November 6, RDK went to see a psychiatric social worker and appeared acutely depressed and in need of medication. RDK confided that he had lost weight, was unable to sleep, concentrate or function in a normal manner and that it was his girlfriend who has initiated a separation who was responsible for his problems.
On the 8th, RDK phoned Rhonda’s mother and said he felt like he was going through another divorce and was concerned about custody of Donald.
During this period Rhonda told her mother that RDK was trying to live her life and it seemed to her that he was taking half of every breath she took, and she told a neighbor she was not seeing RDK anymore.
On the 10th RDK phoned Rhonda’s mother and also spoke to Rhonda who was there at the time. She told him she didn’t want to see him “face to face right now” and that she had been “cheated.”
On the night of the 10th, RDK worked late at his job. At 1:30 a.m., the lights were on in the office and his truck was still in the parking lot. Before 2:00 a.m., RDK went to visit a friend at another restaurant in town. He also spoke with another friend telling him that he was breaking up with Rhonda and was unhappy about it. He seemed wound up. No injuries were visible on RDK at this time. RDK took the bus boy home at about 4:30 a.m. because it was raining heavily.

And then of course we know that the next door neighbors heard the commotion in Rhonda’s apartment around 5:30 a.m.

Further down the appeal document indicates physical evidence found in RDK’s apartment after the murder:
In the search of his apartment certain items were found. Inserted in the middle of his dirty clothes pile in his closet were a beach towel with bright fresh human type O, a man’s t-shirt, and a child’s Mickey Mouse t-shirt like the ones Donald wore. The bloodstains came from the lining areas of the body, such as inside the mouth, nose or vaginal area.
The beach towel also revealed reddish-brown fiber in one of the bloodstains. The fiber was similar to and consistent with, originating from the same source as the fibers in the brown velour Rhonda was wearing at the time of her death.
The man and boy’s t-shirts contained spermatozoa from blood Group type A, of which RDK was a member. The child’s t-shirt also contained human feces, small yellow fibers similar to those originating from the yellow pajama sleeper Donald was wearing at death, and blood of Group type A, Donald’s exact blood group type.
(A piece of this child’s t-shirt is what was found in a lab and extracted DNA from in 2016.)

After reading this maybe one might understand how I have come to my conclusions of RDK’s guilt for all these decades since the murders. After being given information regarding the “new” investigation I still believe in his guilt. Despite a couple interviews by some media where I have given my opinion of RDK and why I believe he is still guilty none of it has been reported. This is why I decided to create this blog.

Dreams or Premonitions

I do believe that God gives us dreams and visions that are truly of things to come or answers to prayer. I know everything He does has a purpose that sometimes we don’t see the why right away but the pieces to the puzzle come together eventually.

My mother’s name was Nora Pauline Hamilton but she went by Pauline. She was very protective of us, her children, but also allowed us to be kids and explore our world. She was outspoken and opinionated. When she had something to say she came right out and said it. But she was also a very private person.

She once shared a dream with me

she had which could either be viewed as a premonition or irony. I believe it was a premonition.

In 1954 Mom was in the hospital after just giving birth to Rhonda (her second baby). She was lying in bed dozing off when she had a dream of a little girl with blonde hair being grabbed by a man. The dream startled her and she woke up. She said it scared her enough that she was thankful her little girl had been born with dark hair.

She had forgotten the dream until Rhonda’s hair started coming in blonde as she got older.

When Mom first met RDK she said he looked familiar to her. She had to ask him if they had ever met before.

Rhonda was a blonde for a brief time as a child but the rest of her life she was a brunette, as were all of us. However, at the time of her death she had her hair frosted to the point that it was almost blonde. She was even described in the newspaper after her death as a blonde.

My mother once again remembered that dream of the man who grabbed the girl with the blonde hair. Could that have been a premonition which is why RDK looked familiar to her when she met him?

Maybe God was giving my mom a peak into a future event to prepare her, or maybe to give her an answer. I certainly don’t have the answer but I do know He is a loving God and everything He does works together for our good.

I don’t usually remember my dreams but I did have one a couple of years ago that I remembered clearly and immediately and wrote it down while it was still fresh in my mind.

Since the events unfolded with RDK being released from prison in 2017 I battled with all the factors and theories, what I believed versus what I was being told about the murder. Nothing was making sense and I was questioning my own beliefs about the murders. I was doing a lot of praying asking God to show me who murdered Rhonda and Donnie. It was just something I needed to know internally.

About a year and a half ago I had a dream with Rhonda in it. Since she died I think this is only the third dream I’ve had if her. In the dream I was sitting on a couch. Rhonda came walking in from the kitchen area of the house. She walked up to me, I stood up and we hugged. She turned to walk away from me and I asked her, “Rhonda, who killed you?” She turned around, looked at me and said “RDK” (his name, not the acronym). She just shrugged her shoulders and turned back again to walk away and as she did she said, “But it doesn’t matter because he’s in prison,” to which I said, “But they let him out.” She turned around and looked at me with a surprised look. That’s where the dream ended.

I even remember in detail what she was wearing. She had on a peach colored short sleeved ribbed knit top that buttoned at the neck. I went through all the family photos and could not find her wearing that top so I don’t think it was a memory of something she wore before.

Was this dream an answer to my prayer? I believe it was just for my peace of mind.

Photos

Dedication

I dedicate this blog to my brother, Rick Hamilton.

On December 23, 2020, my younger brother, Rick Hamilton, passed away.

In early 2020 the Covid-19 virus created a pandemic throughout the country. Local governments (depending on what state they governed) declared a quarantine and lockdown. Some states mandated wearing face masks. Some people who contacted the virus survived and some didn’t. Unfortunately one of them was Rick.

When he came down with the virus his wife had almost recovered from her illness and was no longer having the worst symptoms. I spoke to Rick two days before he died. He said he was feeling better but was still really tired. He never complained of any breathing problems but he did have one of the classic symptoms of having lost his sense of taste. His wife told me that all he wanted that evening before she went to bed was a cold glass of milk. His wife found him sitting on the couch around 3 a.m. and he had passed away. He was only 59 years old. Cause of death was stated as the Covid-19 virus but as far as I know no medical examination was performed.

His death left a huge hole in my heart. I miss him more than I thought possible. My only comfort is that he is with Rhonda, Donnie, Mom and Dad.

He was my brother and my friend, an uncle, and a father to three wonderful kids, a husband and a friend to so many people. He was very outgoing, friendly and kind. He loved baseball as well as pretty much all sports, and loved Disneyland. We have so many wonderful memories of Disneyland as kids growing up just an hour’s drive from there, and never missing an opportunity to take his kids throughout their lives making them forever Disneyland fans too.

He was my playmate as a child of which I have many memories of, but he always told the story of what a snitch I was. It was an ongoing joke with him. All I can say in my defense is I was either trying to protect him or have conveniently forgotten that part. I was 4 1/2 years older than him so it was my job, wasn’t it? I know he would just laugh and disagree with me.

But he was such a good sport and so easy going, just like our dad. If I wanted to go to the park across the street from our house to hit balls for him and his friends to catch, he would do it. If I wanted to get in the dirt and play with his Hot Wheel cars with him, he would let me. If I wanted to play store or school, he would do it. Always a good sport. He was forever gathering the neighborhood kids together to play baseball in the park. Mom was happy when he was old enough to get signed up with the local youth baseball league.

He moved from Southern California to Northern California not too long after marrying his high school sweetheart. A few years later I followed them so I could raise my kids in a better place and smaller town. He raised his family there and I raised mine. Throughout the years we never lived too far away from each other. At the time of his death we were about 700 miles away from each other but talked on the phone often. He was working hard planning his retirement in six years.

I know his greatest love in life was his children. He was a very hands-on dad despite not living in the same state as them. He did an amazing job and was very close to them. He worked hard. He wanted to be happy and no one deserved it more, but more than that he wanted his kids to be happy. The hole in my heart may be big, but theirs is so much bigger.

I thank God for the time He gave me with my brother and I look forward to one day seeing him again. Maybe I’ll find something to snitch on him about too, just for old time’s sake!