ST. CHARLES, Mo. – Two women are speaking out about the murder of their sister and why the suspect was sentenced to just 20 years. They spoke to FOX 2 after being silenced by the courts for years.
In 2019, a day before Mother’s Day, a husband shot and killed his wife while their three children were at home.
Catherine Rhodes’ sisters, Kim Shaw and Angie Jones, are speaking out for the first time since 2020.
“We saw first-hand that it’s such a fight for victims that it makes complete and total sense that so many victims don’t fight,” Shaw said.
“Catherine was not the only victim of this horrible day. There are so many people that have been victimized by that one stupid action,” Jones said.
There was an early plea deal of just 20 years for Jamal Rhodes, but the defendant initially rejected it, and Catherine’s family said Judge Daniel Pelikan would not accept it when Jamal reconsidered.
“(Judge Pelikan) is one of the few actually fighting for domestic violence victims. He is one that actually sentences appropriately,” Shaw said.
FOX 2 was following the case at the time, including our report about a powerful impact statement from one of the children.
Then the defense got a new judge on the case, Deborah Alessi, who then silenced the parties with a court order.
“Having to be quiet and gagged through that whole process was really painful,” Jones said.
Shaw shared her thoughts about the process.
“It was really hard because it felt like he was winning, because not only had he silenced her, but he had silenced us,” she said.
The new judge then accepted the 20-year plea deal.
“I’m not surprised, because this happens all the time,” said Lizzie Harrison, a domestic violence survivor.
Harrison now helps others through her non-profit, Harrison’s Referral Services for Women & Children.
“I decided I wanted to turn my pain into power,” Harrison said, adding that her voice may be her most powerful weapon – “When you’re silenced, you’re basically helping the abuser continue to abuse even more.”
Catherine’s sisters are now ready to use their voices to keep their loved one’s memory alive and help others.
“You are not alone, and this isn’t a private issue,” Jones said. “This is not just something that’s behind closed doors. You need to look out for your neighbors.”
The St. Charles County Prosecutor’s Office responded to FOX 2 report by saying, “Crimes between intimate partners are some of the most difficult cases to prosecute. Our primary objective in each of these cases is to reach a just result, but we also recognize that oftentimes, the criminal justice system is not going to provide victims and their families complete satisfaction and the closure they unquestionably need.”
Jamal has already served about three and a half years. He could be released in about 13 to 16 years.