By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
At least, that was the psychic's conclusion to Stephanie Proffitt's life.
Morris spent eight hours over the next two days following up on St. John's leads, searching water holes and old ranches near Haekel Road, Tanque and the nearby communities of San Jose and Solomon.
He found no trace of Stephanie.
Psychics can be useful in police investigations, but they aren't typically called in until after all standard evidentiary leads are exhausted. In Stephanie's case, the psychic became the controlling factor in the investigation.
"They were relying on psychics instead of going out and doing their job," says Valenzuela.
The department did conduct brief interviews with a number of Goodrum's associates, as well as with friends of Stephanie. Sheriff's investigators eventually searched Goodrum's single-wide trailer and his van. But those searches occurred months after Stephanie vanished, and after the property had been sold. Mack could not provide dates for either search, which, apparently, were nothing more than a cursory walk-through.
Goodrum even accompanied a sheriff's deputy through the single-wide trailer, which by then was on a mobile-home sales lot. The deputy noted the trailer was "super clean."
The sheriff's department reports on interviews and searches weren't immediately written and placed in the investigative file during the initial months of the investigation.
"It appears they backdated reports," Valenzuela says.
Numerous interviews were conducted with people who may have had information about Stephanie and Goodrum. But those interviews were either not memorialized in reports, or the reports were stored in a file separate from the main case record on the disappearance.
When Valenzuela reviewed the case file in late 1993, after Stephanie's body had been recovered, he found a void. There wasn't even a detailed report on finding her remains.
The Graham County Sheriff's Department did not focus its early investigations on Goodrum, the man who said he left Stephanie in the desert in an impaired state. Instead, the sheriff's department put Stephanie's boyfriend, 42-year-old Robert Gonzales, under immediate scrutiny.
It seemed logical, at first. Whenever Stephanie left one of the men, she soon ended up at the other's house.
Mack explains the emphasis this way: "Tell me who had more motive" to harm Stephanie. Gonzales, who Stephanie had just ripped off for $2,400, or Goodrum?
Sheriff's deputies questioned Gonzales the morning Stephanie was reported missing, pulling his vehicle over while his son was driving him back from town to his home. Gonzales said he hadn't seen her since the day before, and he invited deputies to search his property, which they did. They found nothing.
Gonzales was convinced that Stephanie was dead as soon as the deputies told him she was missing.
For the next two and a half weeks, Gonzales says he went out to the desert every day looking for Stephanie. When the sheriff's department decided not to conduct an aerial search, he hired a private pilot to fly over the area searching for her.
"I checked the whole area and mapped it," he says.
He found nothing.
Other citizens searched for Stephanie, as well. No one found a trace of her, even though one woman said two weeks before Stephanie's remains were discovered that she was within ten paces of where the body was later found.
"I don't think she was there," says Elois Flowers.
Returning to the site the week after Stephanie's body was removed, Flowers was able to locate the spot where she had stood. She had been eating a pomegranate; the rind was still on the ground. Even though investigators had removed the body, the stench was overwhelming. It was a stench she didn't notice just three weeks earlier.
"I know she wasn't there [earlier]," Flowers insists. "I would have smelled her."
While Gonzales and the family continued to search the area, the sheriff's department slowly escalated the scope of its probe. But weeks passed, and Stephanie failed to show up.
A week after she vanished, Mack had polygraph tests administered to Goodrum and Gonzales. Both men passed the polygraph, which asked if they were withholding information about her disappearance. The accuracy of the polygraph later came under question because of the lack of information provided by Mack to the polygrapher.
But Mack relied heavily on the polygraph results conducted by former Pinal County Sheriff Deputy Chris Wesbrock.
"I thought the polygraph was a very thorough interrogation," he says. With the polygraphs clearing both men, Mack says there was no immediate need for another intense interrogation of Goodrum or Gonzales by his department.
He also said there was no evidence that Stephanie was harmed in any way, and therefore no basis to obtain a search warrant to examine Goodrum's property.
"There wasn't probable cause," Mack says.
But Mack later admitted that he wasn't aware of the extent of Goodrum's criminal record, which could have been supporting evidence in seeking a search warrant.
He said he didn't even know Goodrum had been charged with beating Stephanie with a tire iron in 1989, until New Times questioned him about the charge last month.
At the same time, Mack says he knew the intimate details of Stephanie's and Goodrum's relationship.
"We knew more than anyone around here about the relationship between Stephanie and Andreas," he says.