Inmate Michael Whiteley

Michael Whiteley stands with boxes of papers related to his case at the Idaho State Correctional Facility outside of Boise in this March 2008 file photograph.

The Idaho Innocence Project that fought for the exoneration of Christopher Tapp is taking a look at another case from Bonneville County.

Greg Hampikian, director of the Idaho Innocence Project, confirmed an investigator with the organization is examining the 1991 conviction of Michael Whiteley for the kidnapping and rape of his ex-wife, Sylvia Canido.

“We are looking at the case,” Hampikian said. “I don’t have any public statements at this time.”

Whiteley, 69, was arrested in January 1991 after he reportedly kidnapped and raped his ex-wife, Sylvia Canido. Whiteley was convicted in a jury trial based largely on Canido’s testimony and in August of that year he was sentenced to up to life in prison. He has been incarcerated for 27 years.

Hampikian said the group is investigating and tracking down witnesses connected to the case.

Whiteley and Canido met in August 1990 when she answered an ad he posted for house cleaning. Whiteley said Canido, an immigrant from Bolivia, pursued him in the hopes of gaining citizenship. Canido has denied that claim.

Whiteley and Canido married just two months after meeting, a wedding Canido later claimed she was forced into. The wedding was annulled when it was learned Canido already had a husband in Bolivia named Carlos Almanza.

Whiteley was convicted based primarily on Canido’s testimony that he entered her car in January 1991 and took her against her will on a drive to Cedar City, Utah. Canido said Whiteley never let her out of his sight and that he raped her three times on the drive and once on the way home.

The case was handled by then-Idaho Falls Police Department Officer Jared Fuhriman, who also investigated the murder of Angie Dodge for which Tapp served more than 20 years in prison.

Canido’s testimony stands in contrast to statements by Melvin Osborne, who said he met the couple during the trip. Osborne said Whiteley introduced him to Canido, who he said did not appear to be held against her will.

Shirley Higbee, who was a maid at the Astro Budget Inn in Cedar City, Utah, in 1991, saw Canido while she was reportedly being kidnapped. Canido was alone, Higbee said, and she did not see Whiteley.

Neither witness testified at Whiteley’s trial.

Like Tapp’s case, the Whiteley case also includes allegations of false, coerced statements with Fuhriman playing a key role.

Whiteley’s case file includes two letters signed by Canido. The letters state Canido lied about the accusations against Whiteley and say she was threatened with ex-communication from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by her mother, Raquel Gonzales. Canido later said Whiteley wrote the letters.

In a recorded phone call presented at Whiteley’s trial, Gonzales is heard threatening Canido with ex-communication, and telling Canido she would put Whiteley in jail.

Fuhriman, the officer who arrested Whiteley, also is named in a certified statement submitted by Joyce Williams in March 2018.

Williams states she used to be in a relationship with John Commander, Canido’s fourth husband, and that Canido told her and Commander that Fuhriman, who had served as an LDS church bishop, told her to lie about the rape, and that she would be excommunicated from the church if she didn’t lie.

Efforts to reach Canido, who reportedly now lives in New York, for comment on Whiteley’s case were unsuccessful. The Post Register reached out to her through a Facebook account that had been verified as hers, but that account has since been removed.

The Innocence Project will not make a decision on whether to advocate for Whiteley until its investigation is complete.

Reporter Johnathan Hogan can be reached at 208-542-6746.