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Idaho man who hid mother’s body in home says he planned to bury her in Arizona crater

Crime Watch

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BOISE — A retired therapist who concealed the body of his late mother in his Eagle home for more than a year said at his plea hearing Wednesday that before law enforcement closed in, he had intended to take her remains to an out-of-state meteor crater to be buried.

William “Randy” Rhoton, 66, pleaded guilty to felony charges of concealment of evidence and grand theft by deception. In addition to failing to report Barbara Rhoton’s death, prosecutors say, Rhoton continued to allow her Social Security benefits and pension to be auto-deposited into an account he controlled.

The timeline in the case remains unclear: Authorities say that Barbara, who was in her 90’s and suffered from dementia, may have died as early as 2016, while Rhoton has said she passed away in 2018.

In court Wednesday, Rhoton said his mother had expressed a desire before she died to be buried in a meteor crater near Flagstaff in northern Arizona, where she had grown up. He added that he was simply trying to honor his mother’s final wishes.

“When my mother passed away with me right there with her, I prepared my mother in her temple clothing, etc., to take her where her wishes were to be buried,” he said. “That was an error on my part.”

After dressing his mother’s body in religious garments, Rhoton wrapped it in heavy clear plastic sheeting and moved it into a bathroom in the garage of his home.

“I took her body and respectfully placed it in one of the garages at our home on a platform there, and took flowers out there,” Rhoton told Judge Jason Scott.

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It does not appear that Rhoton ever actually attempted to take his mother’s body to Arizona.

Rhoton’s family members have testified that the defendant did not tell them the elderly woman had died, and deflected all their attempts to see or speak with Barbara Rhoton, saying that she was living elsewhere or was too unwell for a visit or a call.

As relatives’ suspicions grew, law enforcement got involved, sending detectives to Rhoton’s home in June 2019 looking for proof that Barbara Rhoton was still alive.

Rhoton told the investigators that his mother was visiting friends in another state, but refused to put them in touch with those people or set up a FaceTime call with her. Shortly after that visit, Rhoton admitted, he moved his mother’s body out of the garage bathroom, placing it in a bodybag inside an SUV that he parked on a neighbor’s property.

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“I moved her body because when they came, the law enforcement officers, I did not tell the truth. And I thought, ‘Well, I’ll get her body and I’ll get her down to meteor crater,'” he said Wednesday. “I was fixated on this thing of what I believed was taking care of my mother.”

Rhoton was arrested June 20 after the body was discovered.

He is not charged with causing his mother’s death, and has repeatedly denied harming her. An autopsy revealed Barbara Rhoton died from a hemorrhage that caused bleeding in her brain, although a forensic pathologist says the body’s advanced state of decomposition made it impossible to tell whether the hemorrhage had occurred naturally or from trauma.

Rhoton admitted that he continued to collect his mother’s monthly benefits, despite knowing she was dead. During the plea hearing, he claimed that he tried to contact officials at New York Life and the Social Security Administration to halt the payments.

“I don’t need her money. I never needed her money at any time,” Rhoton said. “I’ve been successful in my life.”

Both agencies have said that Rhoton continued to tell representatives that his mother was still living in response to their inquiries – including during a recorded phone call just three days before his arrest.

But Rhoton said the agencies asked him to provide a death certificate, affidavits and other documents – which he did not have, because he had not reported his mother’s death to the coroner’s office or anyone else.

Both agencies have said that Rhoton continued to tell representatives that his mother was still living in response to their inquiries – including during a recorded phone call just three days before his arrest.

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Rhoton himself acknowledged that he spent the money, rather than trying to send it back or hold it in an untouched account. He has agreed to pay back more than $47,000 in restitution as part of the plea deal.

“I was wrong,” he said. “I was wrong. I was wrong, wrong, wrong in what I did.”

Rhoton faces up to a maximum of 19 years in prison. Sentencing in the case is set for April 30.

This article first appeared on KTVB. It is used here with permission.

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