By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
That police detective Mike Meislish led the search of suspected serial killer Mark Goudeau's home on October 7, 2006, was a godsend.
It could have been homicide detective Mike Polk, now in prison for possessing kiddy porn. Or it might have been David Barnes, another dick later fired after his felony indictment on charges of computer tampering and false swearing in a case involving former colleagues.
Both men were at the Goudeau residence that day in a middle-class neighborhood a block north of Thomas Road at 28th Street.
But the leaders of the Baseline Killer Task Force — Lieutenant Benny Pina and sergeants Patrick Kotecki and Mike Polombo — chose Meislish.
To steal a phrase used by professional musicians, he was their first call — their best crime-scene detective.
Meislish's reputation was impeccable, as was his jacket as a no-nonsense sort who would rather die than screw up on the job.
The Baseline Killer was first dubbed the Baseline Rapist after Phoenix police announced that a sturdy, light-skinned black man was sexually assaulting females as young as 12 years old at gunpoint near Baseline Road.
He evolved into the Baseline Killer in the spring of 2006 after investigators began to link a series of murders and armed robberies to the rapist.
Mark Goudeau already was in custody at the time of the October 2006 search. Phoenix police had arrested him a month earlier, on September 6, 2006, on charges of sexually assaulting and kidnapping two South Phoenix sisters in September 2005.
(He is serving a 438-year sentence after a 2007 conviction in that case.)
The growing body of evidence convinced investigators that Goudeau was the Baseline Killer. But county prosecutors were in no particular rush to seek a grand jury indictment for the nine murders and dozens of other charges now that he was locked up in the rape case.
Goudeau's high-profile arrest came within days after an analyst at the state police crime lab had linked his DNA to swabs collected from the breasts of one of the assaulted sisters.
Phoenix police belatedly had sent the swabs to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, whose lab technology then was superior to the city department's.
Goudeau's genetic profile already had been in a national databank since 2004, after he provided a DNA swab upon his release from prison after serving 131/2 years for a series of violent crimes in Phoenix.
Detectives had collected some startlingly incriminating evidence during their earlier search of Goudeau's home within hours after the September arrest.
Among the many items seized were a pair of Goudeau's white Nike sneakers. The detectives were focusing on white and black footwear because of earlier interviews with some of the assault and robbery victims.
The cops hit the mother lode.
Forensic testing between the September and October searches revealed that DNA from two of Goudeau's murder victims had remained on one of his sneakers, despite apparent attempts to wash away possible evidence.
(The analysts found a tiny bit of blood from the only male murder victim, George Chou, on the stitching around the familiar swoosh. The other DNA on the sneaker besides Goudeau's belonged to Nicole Gibbons, murdered in late March 2006 about two weeks after Chou and, like all the other homicide victims, shot in the head.)
The sneakers hadn't been the only windfall during the September search. Police also recovered a black ski mask from the bottom of a hamper, and testing revealed the microscopic presence of Gibbons' blood in five locations on it.
Alex Femenia, lead detective on the Baseline Killer Task Force, had been none too pleased when he learned that fellow detectives hadn't taken all of Goudeau's shoes during the first search.
The veteran cop suspected that blood and DNA evidence might emerge at some point because the Baseline Killer shot most of his victims at close range.
Femenia had been at the main police station as that first search proceeded, trying to persuade Mark Goudeau to submit to an interview. Instead, the suspect asked for an attorney.
The newly discovered incriminating evidence on the Nike and the ski cap led police to get another search warrant from a judge and take a second run at Goudeau's home.
This time, Meislish methodically collected every pair of Goudeau's shoes.
No small task.
The Imelda Marcos of serial killers, Goudeau owned enough footwear for 10 men.
At one point, Meislish reached for a pair of brown, leather shoes. As he picked up one of the shoes, a small, ziplock sandwich bag containing something metallic slipped from inside the top of the shoe to the heel.
The detective knelt and carefully opened the bag, which held a multi-colored ring, a bracelet, and a few other trinkets.
As a key member of the Task Force, Meislish knew that family members of 39-year-old Baseline Killer victim Tina Washington had reported that her precious "mother's ring" and a bracelet never turned up after her December 2005 death.
Washington had bought the ring from a Walmart a few months before she died, a special order that included the engraving of the names of her three grown sons.
It immediately struck Meislish that he might have hit the jackpot. As he stepped into the kitchen to get a better look, he smiled wryly in a hallway at Detective Femenia, a tenacious sort who had been working nonstop for about six months on the Baseline Killer case.