In the middle of a small village in upstate New York lays a murder mystery. The players are varied and the questions that swirl around the case go unanswered. At the center is a 30 year old man sitting in a prison cell on a life sentence.
Did Shawn Michael Campbell make too many enemies during his life in Bath, New York to get a new trial? The 30 year old man is serving a life sentence at Wende Correctional Facility for the murder of Rhonda Bilby. It’s a murder that he plead guilty to but maintains that he did not commit.
Rhonda Bilby, 48, of 4734 Emerson Road, was found dead in her home’s yard around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday by Steuben County Sheriff’s deputies. Her husband, Rawlin, a Bath antiques dealer, reported her missing around 11:30 p.m. Monday.
That is the only known truth in this case. Rhonda Bilby was murdered. She was hit twice in the head with a tire iron and the blunt head trauma caused her death.
Campbell says that the real person slamming a tire iron down on Rhonda Bilby was her own husband Rawlin. Is it possible that is the truth? At one point during the court appearance for a new trial Campbell looked at Rawlin Bilby stating, “”You killed her not me, why don’t you get up here.”
“There are very few husbands that can say, i never once hurt her in 29 years, never raised my voice in anger, never, so that’s the type of person…so that’s the type of person i am,” said Bilby.
Researching the case gives more questions that answers. Why is the request for a new trial being denied? Why so many lawyers for the man, almost a revolving door. Why are there lawyers not present in court during important hearings? That the lawyer(Kelly) sent a letter to the poscetion that stated Campbell said where the murder weapon was and afterwards they searched the area with a dive team, nothing was found, the date on the letter was in December of 2004.
Here’s two new ones. How could an antique dealer in a town of 5,000 afford to leave it all behind and move to Costa Rica with a new wife? A wife that he was having an affair with at the time of the murder.
Bath isn’t the sweet little lake town that it appears. The village is a stop over for drug dealers going to New York City. It has the highest crime rate for the area.
What about the fact that Campbell helped investigators with drug kingpins. He had a prior on check forging. The check charges were from a drug addiction that fueled the young man’s life into that area of crime.
Campbell is not an innocent by no means. The man had a serious drug problem that he tried to conquer. He was in the process of getting his life back. He was known as a hard worker and had his own handyman business. He had known work for the Bilby’s in the past. He and Rhonda had a friendly relationship to the point of her lending him money.
What about the lack of DNA from the samples that were tested? What about the fact there was no blood found in the truck that Shawn Campbell drove away from the scene in nor on the clothes that he wore that night?
The fact does remain that Shawn Campbell plead guilty. Campbell plead guilty under the advice of his then attorney William Kelly. Judge Joseph Latham has refused to allow a new trial saying that Kelly was not at fault. Why did he? According to his family he was coerced into it. Told that it was his only way out. Turns out it was his way into life in prison.
Campbell has a new lawyer, Joe Valley. Valley contends that Kelly was inconsistent since the beginning of the trial. His lawyer wants to have a new trial for Campbell and in a new venue. They don’t think there could be an unbiased jury in the area. Former attonery Ferratella stepped aside after Shawn’s sentencing and may now be representing Charlie**.
Campbell’s own actions after the murder draw to question his innocence. He did have stolen items in his home from the Bilby’s. Two days after the murder Shawn called the propane company using Rhonda’s credit card to get gas service. Shawn said the credit card was his girlfriend’s. His explanation is that it was part of a cover up designed by Rawlin Bilby. Then there’s the fact that admitting of guilt the first time on Sept. 30, 2004 at time of booking. He said that Rhonda threatened to call the police on him. The one constant in all of his stories of hitting a buck starts up here. He said that he blacked out. That the blacking out happened because of the drug he was taking, Lexapro. He had been under stress because his wife had left him with their two children. The police never once tested him for drugs during his long interrogation.
Enter in a man named Charlie. Charlie had known in advance of the murder that it was going to happen. Campbell found the letters that Charlie had wrote to the DA’s office in his case file. Not one single person every mentioned this guy! Even the local news reporters knew about him, but didn’t leak a word of it! Charlie wrote to the DA’s office prior to the murder that there was being planned a murder and who was going to get murdered. The DA’s office did nothing.
Campbell’s mother has been in contact with Charlie for over a year now. She also thinks that charlie knows something.
Do I think the guy knows something? Yes! This was a pre-planned murder, planned with some other guys in prison…one which was paroled just a month or so before the murder. I have been helping Charlie to get these guys to roll over and talk…and my son thinks that Charlie is after his own agenda.
There are many loose holes in this case. Many questions without answers coming forth. Is Campbell innocent? Honestly I don’t know. Could he be? It’s possible.
One thought. How did a man who would so unwisely use a dead woman’s credit card in the same town that she had been murdered two days prior avoid any blood on his person during the crime? This woman was so badly injured that at first glance the investigators were not sure if she had been hit or shot. There was blood. A lot of blood. And yet Shawn Campbell drove his truck from the scene of the murder and no blood was in that truck. No blood was on his clothes.
With the many questions swirling around a new trial should be in order.
Campbell’s mother is clinging to a belief in her son’s innocence.
“I want to believe he is. I never, ever have seen him that kind of angry,” Deb Myer, Campbell’s mother.
“(Campbell) was solely convicted on his own statements,” said Ronald Overholt, one of Campbell’s uncles. “And he was afraid (when he made the statements).”
**name change due to protection issues