A suspect in the 1986 homicide and sexual assault of a 7-year-old North Las Vegas girl was arrested during a traffic stop Thursday in Ozark, Mo.
On Nov. 24, 1986, the body of April Marie Rhodes was found in a storage area at a housing complex close to her home after she was reported missing in the 2100 block of Statz Street near Lake Mead Boulevard and Civic Center Drive.
Registered sex offender Jasper Everett Goddard, 61, recently was linked to the case through DNA testing and arrested, according to North Las Vegas Police Sgt. Tim Bedwell.
“This is a tragic case,” Bedwell said. “We can’t change the facts. April’s gone. Families in the community always want closure in a case like this. This is a situation where there is nothing more fearful than to know that a child was murdered and not know who did it. Hopefully there will be closure in this case.”
After watching a drive-in movie, the Rhodes family settled down that November evening. Katherine, a recent divorcee, went to sleep about 11:30 p.m., and her 10-year-old son and daughter, who had the genetic disease Turner syndrome, were both in the bedroom they shared.
The next morning, April was found barefoot in a nightgown lying in a pool of her own blood, according to police reports.
The manager of the apartment complex that Rhodes lived in discovered the girl during a search for her after she noticed a chair in front of a storage area door.
Police recovered a cinder block that was used to beat the girl to death, and they found diamond-shaped shoe prints at the scene. An autopsy of her body discovered a male’s DNA.
But, the case grew cold as no suspects were arrested.
In 2009, Reno police requested the DNA from the North Las Vegas scene to compare with a similar case involving the death of 7-year-old Monica DeSilva they were investigating, but the cases were not definitively linked.
Reno police are waiting for the interviews with Goddard to finish in Missouri to see whether they can link the two cases, according to Reno police Sgt. Alan Salter.
In October, DNA evidence from April’s case, which was entered into the national DNA indexing system CODIS during the 2009 investigation, finally found a match.
Goddard registered as a sex offender in Missouri after he was arrested and served four years for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl in 1989.
A Missouri law went into effect in August 1991 requiring all convicted sex offenders to give a DNA sample. In 1996, the law was extended to include retroactively adding offenders in jail or on parole. In 2009, the law was extended to require DNA samples upon re-registration.
On Oct. 4, 2012, Goddard gave a sample to the Green County, Mo., sex offender registrar.
When his DNA matched the sample from April’s case, North Las Vegas police investigated, issued an arrest warrant and made plans to arrest Goddard, Bedwell said.
“These kinds of things allow us to get someone who committed a heinous crime 25 years ago because he was required by law to give a DNA sample,” he said.
Before North Las Vegas officers could travel to Missouri, Ozark police officers stopped Goddard for a routine traffic violation and discovered his Nevada arrest warrant.
“Our intention was to be there when he was arrested in Missouri so that we could immediately question him,” Bedwell said. “That was pre-empted by the traffic stop. That really doesn’t matter in the long run; we believe we have everything we need for this.”
In 1986, Goddard lived two doors down from the Rhodes. It is unknown whether they had any contact before the homicide, according to police.
Police are still investigating whether Goddard is involved in any other similar cases.
“There’s the potential that he could be involved in other cases,” Bedwell said.