Investigation Discovery’s ‘On The Case With Paula Zahn: Crime and Injustice’ chronicles the tale of how Michelle Mitchell was found murdered in the garage of a residential home in Reno, Nevada, on February 24, 1976. Michelle’s case has been baffling from the get-go. But in the mid-2010s, when it turned out that Rodney Halbower, a suspected serial killer by the name of The San Mateo Slasher, might have been involved, things took a turn to become even more complex and disturbing. So, let’s find out all that there is to know about him, shall we?
Who Is Rodney Halbower?
Rodney Halbower was born on June 27, 1948, in Wisconsin, but moved to Muskegon, Michigan, with his family soon after, which is where he spent most of his teenage years. He grew up in a disadvantageous environment, which led him to show signs of anti-social behavior and deviance quite quickly in his life. By the early 1960s, it was evident that Rodney had no interest in education, so after he was arrested for an attempted carjacking, he was kicked out of school and sent to a juvenile facility, from where he ran away and resumed a life indulging in criminal activities.
By the mid-2010s, Rodney’s record showed that he had been arrested at least ten times as an adult, convicted of larceny, rape, attempted murder, and various other felony violent charges. In 1975, he had been indicted and arrested for raping a Reno blackjack dealer. But he was out on parole in February of the following year, when Michelle Mitchell was brutally slain. And then, in 1986, while he was serving time in a Nevada state prison after being convicted of the aforementioned rape, he escaped and made his way to Oregon, where he stabbed a woman in a parking lot.
Rodney was returned to Nevada to serve out the rest of his sentence before being sent to Oregon to begin his life imprisonment there for the attack he committed as an escapee. It was while he was incarcerated there that a blood sample was taken from him for DNA testing, which, in turn, implicated him. Rodney’s DNA genotypic profile matched not just the DNA found on the cigarette butt that was near Michelle’s body, but also the evidence that was left on two of the five 1976 Gypsy Hill serial killings’ victims – teenagers Paula Baxter, 17, and Veronica Cascio, 18.
Where Is Rodney Halbower Now?
With that DNA evidence tying him to the cases, Rodney Lynn Halbower was extradited to California in January of 2015 to stand trial for the murders of Paula Baxter and Veronica Cascio. In 2016, he underwent a series of medical examinations to see if he was suffering from any mental illnesses, and when he was deemed sane, the process for his trial began. Rodney then filed a petition to represent himself in court, but it was denied after a team of experts proved that he was incompetent to appear at his trial without a defense team.
Subsequently, when the trial finally did begin in 2018, Rodney refused to plead guilty and frequently argued with both the judge and the prosecutors during the sessions. In the end, though, on September 18, 2018, after the 12-member jury deliberated for a little more than an hour, Rodney was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder. A month later, he was given two life sentences without the possibility of parole in Redwood City. Also, we should mention that Rodney is yet to stand trial for Michelle Mitchell’s murder.
Currently, at the age of 72, Rodney is incarcerated at the Two Rivers Correctional Institution in Umatilla, Oregon, completing the penalty for his previous conviction. According to the Oregon Department of Corrections, his tentative earliest release date from there is May 14, 2026. Following this, Rodney will immediately return to California to begin his two life imprisonments in state prison for Paula and Veronica’s murders. It will be three if he gets extradited to Nevada before that and gets convicted for the slaying of Michell Mitchell as well.
Read More: How Did Michell Mitchell Die?