By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
It became clear after time that the Baseline Killer's main target area was near 32nd Street and Thomas Road.
That was just a few blocks from where Rusty Stuart first encountered transient Terry Wayne Smith at a Home Depot.
Stuart was no stranger to Phoenix's meanest streets.
Stuart, now 44, has been an officer since 1988. The onetime Iowa State University football player worked dozens of cases as a key member of the gang squad before returning to regular patrol in the mid-1990s.
In 2004, Stuart became the police department's point man in a program with a business/residential neighborhood association to rid the area around 32nd Street and Indian School Road of homeless street criminals.
Business owners and residents appreciated the officer's presence.
On March 14, 2006, a month before Terry Wayne Smith first clashed with Rusty Stuart, the Baseline Killer murdered two young employees of a Yoshi's restaurant at 24th Street and Indian School. The pair had left work together after closing.
Someone found George Chou's body the next morning in an alley near 32nd Street and Indian School Road. He had been shot in the head. (Court records show that, months later, a crime lab identified Chou's DNA profile on blood lifted from one of Mark Goudeau's shoes.)
Liliana Sanchez's body was in Chou's car behind a fast-food restaurant at 22nd Street and Indian School. She also had been fatally shot in the head. The young victim's shirt had been lifted above her stomach and her belt unbuckled.
Police confiscated two .380-caliber shell casings from the car, which turned out to be the exact make and caliber they'd found at other murder scenes attributed to the Baseline Killer.
Then on April 6, a man walking his dog behind his pool-supply business on 24th Street south of Thomas came upon the body of Kristin Gibbons tucked between his shop and a storage bin.
Like the other Baseline Killer victims, she had been shot in the head.
The evidence (phone calls and other information) showed that Gibbons probably had been killed a week earlier, on March 29.
Court records say DNA testing later revealed the woman's genetic profile in a spot of blood on a ski mask found during one of the searches of Mark Goudeau's home.
On May 1, 2006, a man wearing a Halloween mask approached a woman who had just left a check-cashing store near 32nd Street and Thomas.
He pointed a silver gun at her and demanded a ride after telling her that his "boy" had just left him after they'd ripped off a nearby supermarket (the robbery hadn't actually occurred).
The masked man forced the woman to drive to a secluded location, then ordered her to disrobe.
When she resisted, the man told her she was going to die, held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger.
Miraculously, it misfired.
The woman grabbed her keys, jumped out of her car, and fled to safety.
But the Baseline Killer wasn't finished.
On May 13, 2006, a tip from a Phoenix patrol officer to the Baseline Killer task force mentioned Terry Wayne Smith.
The officer (not Rusty Stuart) noted that police had questioned Smith several times around the target area of 32nd Street and Thomas, "where he was stalking women."
But Terry Smith's approach was altogether different from the Baseline Killer's.
Police field-interrogation reports, including Stuart's, depict Smith as drunken, drugged up, and dysfunctional.
Smith certainly could appear intimidating — even dangerous — on the streets where he hung out.
But the dark-skinned African-American (about 5-foot-7 and 185 pounds, according to police accounts) usually made little or no effort to flee after accosting someone. Nor did he try to disguise himself, as the Baseline Killer usually did.
The people who survived the Baseline Killer's attacks described a strong, athletic, light-skinned black man who often donned disguises — masks and wigs — and quickly slipped back into the night to evade capture.
In May 2006, task force Detective David Barnes looked into patrol cop Stuart's message about Terry Smith.
Barnes learned that Smith had been in jail when Baseline Killer victim Kristin Gibbons was murdered on March 29, 2006.
The detective then formally "excluded" Terry Wayne Smith as their serial killer.
Rusty Stuart didn't know any of that yet.
By then, he'd already started to learn everything he could about Terry Smith — including the long rap sheet, the repeated interactions with police here and in his native California.
Stuart uncovered three 1989 cases in San Bernardino, California, in which Smith, then a 16-year-old, had been an investigative lead.
The cases included a robbery-murder, an attempted murder, and a car theft, and Stuart said in his 2006 report that Smith had been a "suspect."
Officer Stuart said his information came from a San Bernardino detective with whom he had spoken.
Stuart wrote, "WHEN TERRY MOVED TO PHOENIX IN 1990, HIS VIOLENT CRIME SPREE CONTINUED HERE," referring to three arrests — two for aggravated assault and another for robbing a car wash at 40th Street and McDowell.
He also claimed Smith had been a suspect in a 1990 Phoenix homicide case.
(New Times reviewed a Phoenix police report of that case. Actually, a homicide detective learned during his investigation that the victim of the alleged murder still was alive. Instead of homicide charges, Smith and another man got busted for assault.)