Unreasonable Doubt? – Times Publications, June 2009
Three years after Mark Goudeau was arrested and charged as the sole suspect in the Baseline Killer murders, an alarming report has surfaced that reveals another possible suspect in the crimes. As Goudeau prepares to stand trial for his life, his defenders say the details contained in this report could raise reasonable doubt in his pending murder trial.
Eleven hours after two women were shot and killed inside their lunch truck in west Phoenix, a man at a bus stop on 35th Avenue and Baseline was bragging to witnesses about how many people he had murdered.
Just miles from where four other victims were discovered in south Phoenix, the same man was interrogated by police on three separate occasions for following women around in parking lots and inside a hardware store.
And twice within 48 hours of being released from jail, a murder was committed just blocks from where he was living.
Police say these murders were part of a crime spree committed by the Baseline Killer, one of the most notorious serial killers in state history.
But the man identified in the pages of these police reports is not accused killer Mark Goudeau; he is Terry Wayne Smith, a 36-year-old convicted felon with known ties to the Goudeau family.
Three years after Goudeau’s arrest, a disturbing report written by a Phoenix police officer has surfaced, outlining a number of instances where Terry Wayne Smith exhibited abnormal criminal behavior and was interrogated by police on several occasions at locations near crime scenes attributed to the Baseline Killer. But despite numerous questions raised by the report, much of this information was never made part of the official investigation.
Prior to arresting Goudeau in September 2006, police investigated dozens of possible suspects, including Terry Wayne Smith.
Phoenix police say Smith was dismissed as an investigative lead and that all the forensic evidence points to Goudeau as the sole suspect in the crimes.
But a detective who worked on the case and other Phoenix police insiders say the report was mishandled by investigators and purposely withheld from the defense due to its potential to damage the case the department had already built against Goudeau.
“I firmly believe that they were covering this up,” says Billy Coleman, a representative for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. “Here’s the sad part: It’s possible that Goudeau is the killer. It’s very possible. But it’s every bit as possible that this other guy might be the guy. I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t know how this information was handled.”
The Times obtained a copy of this investigation through a credible Phoenix police insider. The information contained in the report has been researched through official police reports and numerous interviews with officers, detectives and attorneys.
The circumstantial evidence detailed in the 166 pages of the report reveals possible holes in the Baseline Killer investigation and brings to light shocking allegations of police misconduct in its highest ranks.
The Smith Report
In April 2006, Rusty Stuart, a 20-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, was dispatched to a Home Depot on 32nd Street and Thomas to investigate the complaint of a woman who claimed she was being followed by a suspicious-looking man. According to the police report, the man, later determined to be Terry Wayne Smith, had allegedly followed the woman around the store and approached her in the parking lot.
It was during that investigation that Officer Stuart, who was assigned to the Career Criminal Transient Program, began his background investigation of Terry Wayne Smith.
“This was a regular part of my duties,” Stuart later wrote, “and I was not aware of the Baseline Killer investigation at the time.”
While at the scene of the Home Depot, Stuart questioned Smith and ran a background check, which revealed that in addition to convictions for armed robbery and aggravated assault, Smith was a suspect in two homicides. In one of those homicides a mother and daughter were robbed at gunpoint and the mother was fatally shot in the head.
According to Stuart’s report, while Smith resided in California, his participation in gang activity had been documented by police and he had been arrested in connection with several violent crimes, a trend which continued after his move to Phoenix in 1990.
“Terry was in and out of prison on parole violations and escape charges over the next few years,” Stuart wrote. “During one of these periods of release, Terry committed another armed robbery… at a car wash.”
Smith was convicted of armed robbery and sent back to prison.
While incarcerated, Smith was held in the same Tucson prison wing where one of Mark Goudeau’s brothers was also serving time. Smith was released in May 2005, three months prior to the first sexual assault attributed to the Baseline Killer.
Nearly a year later, when Stuart first interrogated Smith outside of the Home Depot, the Baseline Killer’s crime spree was sweeping Valley streets.
The body of the killer’s eighth victim, 26-year-old Kristen Gibbons, had just been discovered under a pile of debris. Police suspected this murder was tied to dozens of other sexual assaults, kidnappings and robberies in the area committed by a serial criminal they dubbed the Baseline Killer.
Nearly 200 officers were assigned to a task force to investigate the crimes, and after nearly a year on the loose, the story was making national headlines. Pressure was mounting within the department for police to make an arrest in the case.
“Everybody from the mayor, to the chief of police, to the investigation’s commander was constantly asking if everything’s being done, if there were any leads. It was just do everything you can to solve this case,” says a Phoenix homicide detective assigned to the Baseline Killer investigation. “And everyone wanted to be the one who was going to shine in the media when the case finally broke.”
Meanwhile, since Smith’s release from prison, Stuart learned he had been interrogated by police on several occasions for following women and bragging about having killed people, according to the report.
One of the incidents took place on February 20, 2006, just eleven hours after the bodies of Romelia Vargas and Mirna Palma-Roman were found shot to death inside their lunch truck in west Phoenix, a crime police later linked to the Baseline Killer.
For the next several months, as part of his responsibilities in the Career Criminal Transient Program, Stuart monitored Smith’s criminal activities.
Then in September 2006 the Baseline Killer homicide task force got a break in the case. DNA evidence was discovered on a rape victim that police say matched the Goudeau family blood line and connected Mark Goudeau to the crime.
On September 6, 2006, Goudeau was arrested and later charged with all 74 crimes attributed to the Baseline Killer.
Two days later, Terry Wayne Smith was arrested on unrelated charges at his mother’s home after allegedly kidnapping his family and holding them at gunpoint for an entire night. That incident was the eighth time in seven months police had confronted Smith for alleged violent and suspicious behavior.
Knowing Smith’s criminal background, Stuart wrote that after that incident he was “in fear for the well being of (Smith’s mother) and her family.” He contacted Smith’s family with his concerns.
In his report, Stuart describes meeting with Smith’s mother:
“I asked (his mother) if she ever saw her son with a firearm,” he wrote. “She responded by asking me, ‘you think he is the Baseline Killer, don’t you?’ I told (his mother) I did not say any such thing, but she was obviously thinking about that.”
According to the report, Smith’s mother also told Stuart that her son had bragged to his family about the number of people he had killed, and she stated that on more than one occasion Smith had come home with blood all over his clothes. She also told Stuart of an incident that occurred after Goudeau’s arrest, while Smith was watching the news. When Goudeau’s picture was shown, Smith turned to his mother and said, “rape, maybe, murder never,” according to Stuart’s report.
Additionally, according to the report, inside of the Smith home police found news clippings from stories about sexual assaults that had occurred in Ahwatukee.
Alarmed by what he had found and what Smith’s mother had told him, Stuart became increasingly suspicious that Terry Wayne Smith might be connected to one or more of the Baseline Killer crimes.
Consistent with department protocol, Stuart gathered the information and gave it to his supervisor.
But sources inside the department say that’s where protocol ended.
In September 2006, as news reports were breaking that Phoenix police had arrested the Baseline Killer, Officer Rusty Stuart was drafting his report, detailing his suspicions about Terry Wayne Smith.
As part of his investigation, Stuart mapped out the locations of the Baseline Killer crimes, along with the known addresses of Smith as well as locations where he had been interrogated by police. That map placed Smith at 14 separate locations, each near crimes attributed to the Baseline Killer.
“It is certainly unclear whether Terry Smith had any involvement in any of the cases attributed to the Baseline Killer,” Stuart wrote in his report. “However, he definitely has strong connections to the suspect identified as being involved by the homicide task force and strong evidence of criminal activity in each area the suspects have struck.”
Shortly after Goudeau’s arrest, Smith was convicted on unrelated criminal charges and sentenced to more than four years in prison. The Times contacted Smith in prison, but he declined requests for an interview. Smith has not been charged with any of the crimes associated with the Baseline Killer, and he is not currently considered a suspect in the case.
Meanwhile, Stuart collected the information he had gathered on Smith in a large blue binder and presented it to his supervisor, who instructed him to hand it over to the homicide task force. That binder contained hundreds of pages of police reports, charts, interviews and maps.
A commander in the task force reviewed Stuart’s investigation and ordered him to create a summary report on Smith, says Billy Coleman, who retired from the Phoenix Police Union shortly after his interview with The Times.
But in a departure from police protocol, Coleman says the commander ordered Stuart to create a summary report of his investigation in a Microsoft Word document, rather than using the standard Police Automated Computer Entry System.
“He said, ‘I did a supplement, but I was ordered to do it in a Word document,’” says Coleman, who was contacted by Stuart last year. “Needless to say, his Word document is not in (the official police report).”
As a Word document, the report would not be accessible by way of a public-records request, he added. According to Coleman, Stuart’s binder of evidence was “buried” and the supplemental report was cursorily “paraphrased” in the official police report.
The paraphrased information on Smith takes up just a few pages in the official Baseline Killer police report, which consists of thousands of pages.
Coleman believes this information was concealed from most homicide detectives and from the Maricopa County Attorney’s office in order to protect the case against Goudeau.
However, Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill says Stuart’s information was handled properly and that Smith was investigated, and subsequently dismissed, as a potential lead when it was discovered that he was in jail during one of the Baseline Killer’s murders.
“There was no Terry Wayne Smith report. There was a supplement written about that person as one of many, many investigative leads,” Hill says. “His information was taken and that information was investigated by the lead investigator (Detective Alex Femenia) on the case. In the official report he was looked at as one of many, many suspects, but ruled out.”
Coleman says, however, that even in the case of the murder Hill says absolved Smith as a suspect, the victim’s exact time of death was never precisely determined. In addition, forensic DNA discovered on numerous pieces of evidence from the Baseline Killer crime scenes is inconclusive and has not been matched to any suspect, including Goudeau, according to police reports.
Regardless, Hill says other forensic evidence points to Goudeau as the one and only suspect in these crimes.
“There were many, many people that had a criminal history or that had information, or that lived in the area, or the general area that would cause us to look at somebody,” Hill says. “But there was only one suspect identified in the case.”
According to Stuart’s report, even before he could present all the information on Smith, detectives and Phoenix police commander Benny Pina seemed dismissive, he wrote.
“I have been told by Lt. Pina and other detectives from the Baseline Killer task force, on four separate occasions, Terry was not a suspect and had been eliminated as a possible suspect in their investigation because they believe they can show he was in jail at the time of one of the homicides,” Stuart wrote.
Stuart added that be believed Smith’s circumstantial connections to the crimes “should not be overlooked because of any one single case.”
Because this is an ongoing investigation, Stuart was unable to speak with The Times.
While working for the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, Coleman was contacted by Stuart, who presented him with a copy of the Smith binder.
Although Coleman says he was skeptical at first, after reviewing the documents, supporting police reports and maps, he says he was shocked.
“I said, ‘Holy crap. This guy looks more like the killer than this guy,’” he recalls. “This is nuts.”
Because Stuart’s investigation was conducted by a patrol officer and not by a homicide detective, the task force did not view it as credible, Coleman says.
“For whatever reason, now we have this arrogance that the task force, the one we spent all these millions of dollars on overtime on, has to be the one who catches him,” he says. “Who pays the price for that? Who pays the price for that kind of arrogance?”
A Phoenix homicide detective who worked on the Baseline Killer case says this evidence was withheld from many police investigators who were working to catch the killer.
“It was kept a guarded secret. Only a handful of detectives knew about this report, and those who knew were ordered not to talk,” the detective says. “It’s a huge cover-up, it’s just sickening. It’s unethical, and it’s against the law.”
The source also said that Phoenix police dismissed Stuart’s investigation because they were convinced of Goudeau’s guilt.
However, Sgt. Hill is quick to point out that detectives and officers with conflicting opinions on this complex investigation may not have been privy to all the information on the case.
“Investigators are entitled to their opinion, but the lead investigator on the case, and the supervisor and those people who worked on that case every day and had all that information in front of them, are the ones that go to the trial, raise their hand up and swear to tell the truth,” Hill says. “There is only information that points to one suspect, which is supported by all the forensic evidence.”
In August 2008, Coleman says he provided the Smith binder to Keith Manning, a prosecutor for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
“I knew that was probably going to create a problem for the prosecution of the case, but doing the right thing, giving it up, is what we have to do,” he says. “It’s the law.”
Coleman says prosecutors indicated that it was the first time they had seen the information.
Sgt. Hill disagrees and claims that all of the evidence in the investigation, including everything police had on Terry Wayne Smith, was provided to the county attorney’s office.
“All of that information was submitted to the investigators and the county attorney,” Hill says. “There can’t be anything hidden, because sooner or later it comes out anyway. So there’s no reason for us to do that.”
Mike Scerbo, a spokesman for the county attorney’s office, declined to comment on the Smith evidence, due to Goudeau’s pending murder trial.
While Coleman says the county attorney’s office received this evidence in August, Goudeau’s defense attorney Randall Craig says he did not know it even existed until nearly a year later.
In April 2009, after several meetings between the prosecution and the judge in the Goudeau case, and nearly a year after Coleman says the county attorney first received it, the Terry Wayne Smith binder was finally handed over to the defense.
Craig says the law requires all evidence to be provided to both the prosecution and the defense in a timely matter in order to conduct a fair trial.
“The state of Arizona is under an absolute duty to disclose anything that is exculpatory in nature, and it’s their absolute duty to present this information to the grand jury,” Craig says. “The state doesn’t get to make the call on what is exculpatory. That is the defense’s call.”
However, the full facts of Stuart’s investigation were not presented to the grand jury that indicted Goudeau on murder charges, he says.
Craig is currently under a gag order that prevents him from discussing the specifics of this evidence, but he did say that what was originally provided on Smith was “very brief and parts of it were redacted.”
He also added that this new evidence will likely factor heavily in the upcoming murder trial.
“It is extremely important to our case,” says Craig.
Three years ago, Mark Goudeau lived in a house on a tree-lined street in central Phoenix with his wife of nearly 20 years and held a steady job as a construction worker.
His arrest in connection with the Baseline Killer crimes came as a complete shock to his family, especially to his wife, Wendy Carr.
“I was totally blown away. He was coming home, it was his birthday. I didn’t even know what he was being arrested for, but I was blown away as to why he was being arrested at all,” Carr says. “I had no idea it was the Baseline stuff, until the next morning when it was all over the news.”
Although Goudeau had previously served 13 years in prison for aggravated assault, armed robbery and kidnapping, he was paroled in 2004 and appeared to be getting his life back together.
Carr says that at the time of his arrest, Goudeau was working 10-hour days at a construction job, where he had once been honored with the “employee of the month” award. After he was accused of the Baseline Killer crimes, his neighbors, family and his parole officer described him in news reports as a seemingly “nice guy.”
“He did everything right,” Carr says. “He had a job within a month of getting out of prison, and he saw his parole officer once a week.”
Police, however, say the forensic evidence points to a killer who never escaped his violent past.
“In this case, it was demonstrated through all analysis, the interviews and the investigation that there’s one suspect,” Sgt. Hill says.
After authorities say DNA from one of the killer’s sexual assaults connected Goudeau to the Baseline Killer crimes, police performed an extensive search of his small Phoenix home.
Three separate searches turned up nothing, police records show. It wasn’t until the fourth such search that police found evidence linking Goudeau to two of the Baseline Killer victims.
A ring police say belonged to one of the victims was found inside of a shoe belonging to Goudeau, and a speck of blood was detected on a different shoe found inside the couple’s shed. According to police reports, that blood was a match to George Chou, a college student who was murdered in March 2006. Other traceable amounts of DNA that did not match Goudeau’s were also found inside of the shoe, an indication that someone else may have worn them, records show.
Disguises, including the infamous wig and fisherman hat witnesses had described, were not discovered. The murder weapon, a .38 caliber pistol, has also never been found.
“The prosecution is trying to portray Mark as a monster, a highly intelligent, well thought-out criminal,” says Craig, who was appointed by the court in Goudeau’s defense. “Despite that, they still portray him as a man who will leave behind jewelry from a victim in his shoe? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It defies logic.”
Craig added that he believes the murder trial will prove Goudeau is innocent of the Baseline Killer murders.
“The evidence simply is not there to convict this guy on these capital crimes,” he says.
Regardless of the evidence police say identifies Goudeau as the Baseline Killer, Carr is standing by her husband. She says she doesn’t know how the jewelry or blood evidence got onto their property, but says she suspects it may have been planted there.
“I’ve read thousands of police reports, I went to six weeks of trial, I read the appeal transcripts,” she says. “The more I read the more I’m convinced that Mark’s innocent.”
Earlier this year, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association sent a letter to the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office asking authorities to investigate a series of complaints made by Phoenix police officers and supervisors against practices in the department.
One of the more shocking complaints outlined in the letter is made by a high-ranking supervisor in the department about the handling of “potentially exonerating evidence that may have had exculpatory value to Mark Goudeau.”
“This supervisor communicated to PLEA that there would be no surprise on their part if other Violent Crimes Bureau managers engaged in planting evidence,” the letter reads.
While allegations of planted evidence are completely unsubstantiated, a Phoenix homicide detective told The Times he believes the investigation was botched.
“It was 100 percent mishandled,” says the detective, who, fearing retribution from his superiors, asked to remain anonymous. “From the crime lab evidence, to how the information was disseminated internally, to the supervisors, to Terry Wayne Smith, it was all completely screwed up.”
The detective also says mistakes made in the Baseline Killer investigation are part of a larger web of widespread problems inside the Phoenix Police Department.
Late last year, Goudeau was convicted on 19 counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 438 years in prison.
Goudeau’s trial on murder charges is pending. If convicted, he will likely face the death penalty.
Smith remains in prison and will be eligible for parole in 2011.
“It’s such a huge injustice. Mark’s just such a good person, he’s not someone who snaps one day and goes crazy,” Carr says. “It doesn’t make sense for a reason.”