A Serial Killer in the Making on Investigation Discovery tells the story of how Rhonda Krehbiel, a 36-year-old mother of three, was murdered inside her Newton, Kansas, home in May 1994. Before they discovered another comparable murder taking place nearby, her homicide had been unresolved for more than a year. Within the next few weeks, they made the necessary connections and captured the murderer. Here is what we know about the case, including the killer’s identify and present whereabouts, in case you’re curious.
How Did Rhonda Krehbiel Die?
Robert K. Schmidt gave birth to Rhonda Lou Schmidt Krehbiel on August 21, 1957. In the late 1970s, she began dating Von Krehbiel while attending college. Following a few years of dating, the couple wed in 1980. Natalie Krehbiel, one of the young couple’s three daughters, said the two made excellent parents. She remembered how Rhonda and Von would always dance in the kitchen or play with the kids. Rhonda quit her job as a nurse to be at home with her children, working in daycare centres and bringing her daughters to Sunday school.
Court documents show that on May 20, 1994, the 36-year-old mother travelled to Wichita with her two oldest girls, who were then ages six and eight. Around 2:00 pm, she arrived back at her Newton, Kansas, home with her six-year-old and a five-year-old friend of her daughter. While the oldest returned to class with her peers, the youngest daughter was still with her mother. However, when the friend’s mother Marla arrived to pick up her daughter from the Krehbiel residence, she discovered that no one had answered the door.
When the police finally came at 4:30 pm, they discovered Rhonda’s partially naked body on the bed in her bedroom. Her mouth was taped shut with white masking tape, her wrists and ankles were bound behind her with pantyhose, and a white tube sock was put over her neck. Rhonda was murdered by repeated hits to the head from a blunt object that had cracked her skull, according to an autopsy report. She had bruises on the inside of her mouth and legs, and her right eye was puffy and discoloured.
Who Killed Rhonda Krehbiel?
Court records indicate After school ended at 3:05 pm, Rhonda’s 8-year-old son walked home with a buddy while making a stop at a neighbor’s home. She was shocked to find the front door shut and her mother not awaiting her on the porch as usual when she got home. She even investigated the sliding glass door in the back of the house to see whether it was locked after repeatedly knocking and ringing the bell and still not receiving a response. She eventually went to a neighbor’s home with her companion since they believed the person would be there.
Around 3:20 p.m., Marla also received no reaction, so she went looking for Rhonda’s oldest child in the neighbor’s yard and picked her up. When she got home, she called Rhonda many times in vain after leaving a note for her. Worried, she started making calls to other people to attempt to locate Rhonda before calling Von, who was in Wichita for work. Von invited Kevin, the husband of one of Rhonda’s sisters, to visit the house and provided him specific details on where the spare key was stored. Kevin then called Von back.
The sliding glass door in the back of her sister-in-law’s house was open when Kevin arrived there by car. In the garage, he discovered Rhonda’s car, and in the laundry room, he discovered her purse. The six-year-old and her friend were in a wardrobe when he entered one of the kids’ rooms. He was told by the girls that a man had placed them there. Due to the kids, Kevin was going to enter Rhonda’s room but decided against it. Instead, he reported a potential intruder in the residence to 911. He was instructed to leave the house with the girls right away by the operator.
When the cops showed up, they discovered Rhonda’s body in the bedroom. They found a pair of sunglasses under the bed while searching for proof. When Rhonda answered the door to a knock at their house, the two terrified girls were having ice cream and watching television, the cops discovered after questioning the children. The kids claimed to have seen a man they did not recognise, and one of the girls said Rhonda appeared terrified. The individual was described as donning a red baseball cap with a fish logo on it. They proceeded to a room as instructed by Rhonda.
After some time had passed, the six-year-old stumbled into her mother’s room and discovered Rhonda lying on the bed with a gag in her mouth, her hands and ankles bound behind her. She stated that her mother attempted to speak to her but was unable to do so due to the gag. She was taken hostage by the burglar, who then placed her in the closet with her small pal after carrying her down the corridor. According to the girls, they heard seven to eight fringe, which led them to believe Rhonda had been shot. They stayed there till Kevin eventually came to get them.
Until September 1995, when officials began looking into the disappearance of Jonetta “Jodi” McKown, the case remained unresolved. She was last seen leaving a vehicle owned by a man named Michael Murphy at 1:30 am on September 16, 1995. She was a resident of Wichita. Police identified the driver as Chester Lee Higgenbotham, who said he picked up Jodi, a sex worker, and dropped her off close to a bus stop. However, the officers discovered various discrepancies in his statements, so they obtained a search warrant and proceeded to his Newton house.
When they located Chester’s former spouse Vickie Brault, she admitted she was unaware of her husband’s first name. She also revealed to the officers how, on the morning Jodi vanished, she had discovered her husband next to a storage container. Vickie claimed to have seen a woman slumped over and motionless in her husband’s front seat. On October 11, 1995, the police finally located Jodi’s remains in a remote ditch east of Newton. However, one of the detectives, who was also working on Rhonda’s murder investigation, discovered a startling resemblance between the two homicides.
Further research led authorities to the conclusion that Chester was living in a halfway house three blocks away from Rhonda’s house at the time of her murder. After learning that Rhonda and Chester, who worked as an assistant manager at a Newton inn, had a contentious fight while attending a Christian Women’s Club meeting a week prior to her death, they also discovered a potential motivation. After conducting multiple staff interviews, they discovered Chester made a number of incriminating comments in response to the publication of composite sketches of the murder suspect.
Vickie admitted to dating Chester to the cops and claimed he once wore a hat bearing a fish emblem. Additionally, coworkers described to the police how he was seen wearing sunglasses that matched those found in the storage container and under Rhonda’s bed. However, the DNA sample taken from the sunglasses collected as evidence was the most devastating proof against him. Chester was accused of premeditated first-degree murder in the death of Rhonda after the DNA sample matched his.
Where is Chester Higgenbotham Now?
On August 1, 1996, Chester was found guilty of first-degree murder in Jodi’s death and given a 40-year prison term. He was convicted guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping in relation to Rhonda’s passing. On December 2, 1999, he was given a second 40-year sentence on the murder charge and a subsequent 49-month term for the kidnapping charges. The 57-year-old is incarcerated in the Lansing Correctional Institute in Kansas, according to official court records.
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