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FBI Seeks Help In Kansas City, Kansas Woman's Death, A 22-Year-Old Cold Case

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3

Social justice advocates in Wyandotte County called the FBI's announcement "eye-opening" and hoped it would help build trust with the community.

State and federal authorities in Kansas are seeking the public’s help in identifying those responsible for the unsolved 1998 murder of a Kansas City, Kansas, woman.

The FBI and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation want to know who killed Rhonda Tribue, a 33-year-old mother of six whose body was found during the early morning hours of Oct. 8, 1998.

Tribue, who sometimes went by her maiden name, Rhonda Easley, was discovered in the road in the 500 block of South 94th Street, the border of Kansas City, Kansas, and Edwardsville and a short distance from the Kansas Avenue/Interstate 435 interchange.

Tribue was seen earlier that day at the Firelight Lounge at 18th Street and Parallel Parkway in KCK, where she was known to be a regular. She was wearing a dark purple corduroy jacket, a gold lace top, pumpkin-colored jeans and brown sandals, according to the FBI.

An autopsy showed Tribue died from multiple blows to her head and extremities. The autopsy also said there were indications that her body may have been dragged.

Earlier this year, The Star and KCUR requested from the Kansas City, Kansas Police Department the reports and investigative records of Tribue and several other Black women who were found murdered in Wyandotte County but whose cases remain unsolved.

The KCKPD released only the autopsies of Tribue and the other women and denied access to the remaining records, citing an exemption under Kansas open records laws that keeps files related to ongoing investigations off limits from public view.

On Monday, the KBI referred questions about the Tribue case — why has the agency revived the investigation, and is it related to any previously announced investigation? — to the FBI.

Bridget Patton, an FBI spokeswoman, said Monday that new information had come up, but she couldn’t discuss specifics.

“We are working with the KBI. During the course of the year new information has come to light...during the course of this matter, which is causing us to seek the public’s assistance to see if anybody can remember anything,” she said.

Khadijah Hardaway, a lead organizer with Justice for Wyandotte, said news of the FBI announcements regarding Tribue was “fantastic.”

“I think it’s an eye-opening discovery,” Hardaway said. “This is something the community wants to know: What is the FBI working on.”

Rhonda Tabue, whose maiden name was Easley
Tabue's family
Rhonda Tabue, whose maiden name was Easley, some time in the mid-1980s.

Tribue’s name is on a list of more than a dozen murdered Black women from Kansas City, Kansas, that Hardaway keeps. She hopes to gather more information on each of them and bring the cases to justice. Justice for Wyandotte wants the FBI to offer a liaison to the community during its investigation.

“That would help build trust and help some of these victims and advocates come forward,” Hardaway said. “This is a good day for those who can’t speak for themselves.”

Lawyers Cheryl Pilate and Lindsay Runnels also were happy the case was getting attention. They were among a team of lawyers who pursued the exoneration of Lamonte McIntyre, a Kansas City, Kansas, man who served 23 years in prison for a double-homicide he did not commit.

“We are familiar with Rhonda Easley Tribue’s case and the grief and pain suffered by her family. We believe her case — as well as the unsolved cases of 15 or more other women who were killed in the 1990s and 2000s — should be deeply and vigorously investigated,” Pilate and Runnels said in a statement to The Star.

“Why have these cases been abandoned and left untouched for so long? All of these women were loved and valued members of their families and their communities. Their deaths deserve the careful attention of investigative agencies.”

I’m a veteran investigative reporter who came up through newspapers and moved to public media. I want to give people a better understanding of the criminal justice system by focusing on its deeper issues, like institutional racism, the poverty-to-prison pipeline and police accountability. Today this beat is much different from how reporters worked it in the past. I’m telling stories about people who are building significant civil rights movements and redefining public safety. Email me at lowep@kcur.org.
Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
Steve Vockrodt is the former investigative editor for the Midwest Newsroom.
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