Photo/Story Gallery 2003

FHP’s Most Wanted Fugitive Captured

RhodesThe Florida Highway Patrol’s Most Wanted fugitive, Walter Rhodes, was captured September 9th in Tonasket, Washington as the result of coordinated efforts by FHP and the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office. Thanks to an initial alert instigated by Corporal John Schultz and the self-motivation and strong investigative skills of Lt. Scott Henry, Rhodes is once again behind bars.

Rhodes, who was paroled in 1994, but absconded shortly thereafter, thereby violating his parole, had been on the run and hiding out with his ex-wife in New Mexico and Washington under the alias Michael Roderick Estes—an identity he had stolen from an Oregon resident. Rhodes had served an eighteen-year sentence for murdering two law enforcement officers, Trooper Philip Black and Canadian Constable Donald Irwin, at a Florida rest area. Shortly after his parole, Rhodes failed to report to his parole officer. A Florida warrant for his arrest was issued at that time.

Last week, after checking background information on the fugitive and discovering that Rhodes had a last known address in Washington State, Lt. Henry contacted the Washington State Driver’s License Bureau and obtained digital photographs of the alias Michael Estes, along with copies of his license application, which indicated that Estes had an artificial left leg. Lt. Henry was aware that Rhodes had had his left leg amputated as a result of being shot by a trooper during his initial capture. Based on this information and the similarities in the photos, Lt. Henry concluded that he had found the fugitive, Rhodes. He immediately contacted the Okanogan County Sheriff’s Office requesting assistance in locating and apprehending Rhodes.

The next day, deputies set up surveillance at the Rhodes residence and waited for him to depart in a vehicle. A traffic stop was made, and Rhodes was taken into custody. After confessing to his true identity, Rhodes was charged with identity theft and possession of a firearm. Rhodes will be extradited to Florida where he will face parole violation charges.

Walter Rhodes, Jr. Located in Washington State

The Florida Department of Corrections, Fugitive Absconder Unit and Lt. Paul Henry of the Florida Highway Patrol Bureau of Investigations have located and recaptured a 1994 parolee originally serving prison time for the murder of a Florida Highway Patrol Trooper and Canadian Constable. Walter Norman Rhodes, Jr. was arrested last night at his residence in Oakgnogon County, Washington.

On February 20, 1976, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Phillip Black was on patrol in the Palm Beach County area with Canadian Officer Donald Irwin riding with him. At approximately 7:00 in the morning, Black approached a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro at a rest area near the Deerfield Beach line. Inside the parked Camaro were Walter Norman Rhodes, Jr., Jessie Tafero, Sonia Jacobs and two small children. Trooper Black and Constable Irwin were tragically shot and killed by the suspects.

All three suspects were arrested and sentenced as a result of the shooting. Tafero was sentenced to death and executed on 5/4/990. Jacobs’ death sentence was overturned on appeal and she was released from prison in 1992. Rhodes was paroled from prison in 1994 and absconded after his release. He will be extradited to Florida for a hearing on his parole violation.

The Fugitive Absconder Unit has been in place since February 2000 and has cleared more than 10,000 warrants.