Mack, outraged by Valenzuela's entry into the case, charged that the private eye was only trying to make easy money off a worried and desperate family.

"He's nothing but a liar," Mack says of Valenzuela.
The turbulence surrounding Stephanie's life spread, leading to a bitter professional battle between Valenzuela and Mack. The animosity escalated when Mack refused to follow Valenzuela's suggestion to seek at least second-degree-murder charges against Goodrum.

"I'm not going to charge anyone where there isn't evidence to support it," Mack says. But even if Mack is correct--if there is insufficient evidence to charge Goodrum--that doesn't mean evidence may never have existed.

Goodrum didn't appear to be worried about Stephanie after leaving her in the desert.

In fact, he saw it as an opportunity to make some money.
The morning he left her on a roadside miles from anywhere, Goodrum opened his business and placed a "for sale" sign on Stephanie's 15-year-old Chevy pickup truck. He had no legal claim to the vehicle; the couple was divorced and she was sole owner. But there it was, with the sign, parked at the tire shop where Goodrum also lives.

Within a few days of her vanishing, Stephanie's family says, Goodrum also sold several of Stephanie's animals--including horses and dogs.

Before long, the single-wide house trailer where Stephanie lived with Goodrum--the site of a party on the night of her disappearance--was sold and moved off-site. Goodrum would later tell Mack he found a syringe in the trailer he believed Stephanie used the night she disappeared to shoot herself up with drugs. One witness told attorney general investigators she appeared to be high on crystal methamphetamine.

Goodrum also sold the van which, he says, he used to drive back into the desert to search for Stephanie.

Piece by piece, Goodrum got rid of possessions that may--or may not--have contained evidence linking him to Stephanie's death.

No one may ever know if such evidence existed, because the Graham County Sheriff's Department failed to immediately search Goodrum's property and vehicles for incriminating items--including the syringe.

While it was failing to search, the department was also failing to interview. The sheriff's department didn't subject Goodrum, the last person to see Stephanie alive, to a formal interrogation for nearly seven weeks. Interrogation might be too strong a word to describe the relaxed, sympathetic interview Mack conducted with Goodrum in early October. During the interview, which Goodrum insisted be held in his trailer, Mack asked Goodrum how he "could keep taking Stephanie back after all the affairs she's had."

While Goodrum was selling off most of his property and replacing it, Mack continued to treat Stephanie's disappearance as merely another missing-person report.

After a four-person search-and-rescue team spent about 25 man-hours looking for Stephanie on Haekel Road--a search led by Goodrum--the sheriff's department called off the operation without finding Stephanie.

The team did find a set of faint foot tracks along the steep bank of Haekel Road that appeared to lead to U.S. 70, three miles away. No photographs of the tracks were taken. That omission proved to be a crucial mistake.

"The track we found and followed to Highway 70 had very tight lines across the bottom," Graham County Sheriff Deputy Jerry Nelson wrote in the department's initial report on Stephanie's disappearance.

Matlock says Nelson's drawing of the tracks appears to match the shoes she was wearing, not Stephanie's. Matlock speculates that she made the footprints during her search for her daughter.

Nevertheless, the sheriff's department's search team concluded that those were Stephanie's tracks and that she made it to the road, where she probably hitched a ride.

The deputies made that conclusion even though Goodrum himself insisted that Stephanie was wearing a pair of high-top black tennis shoes that have a different tread design.

When the search failed to quickly locate her daughter, Matlock insisted that the sheriff send out tracking dogs to determine whether the footprints leading to the highway were really Stephanie's.

The sheriff's office refused, saying an airborne search would be conducted instead.

But the airborne search never got off the ground.

Instead of investing time and money in a diligent ground and air search, Mack relied primarily on an Ohio psychic as a way of locating Stephanie Proffitt.

On August 27, nine days after Stephanie disappeared, Graham County sheriff's investigator Charlie Morris called Gale St. John, a Toledo psychic who has a reputation for finding missing persons. Matlock already had been in contact with the psychic.

St. John told Morris that Stephanie had made it to the highway, where she was picked up by a Hispanic male, whom she casually knew. The suspect drove her toward Safford and wanted to have sex. When she refused, the suspect raped her, and then bound and gagged her before taking her to the desert, the psychic claimed.

St. John said Stephanie was choked or suffocated. The murderer then panicked and left the body in the desert. After getting back to town, the suspect got his thoughts together and returned to the site where Stephanie died, recovered the body and took it somewhere else to hide it--possibly in a round tank or well within a three- to six-mile radius from where Goodrum left her.

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Excellent reporting!  Thank you for your hard work on this article!

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