The lead story on KPHO-TV's evening news last April 1 had bombshell potential.
With a mug shot of a sullen-looking African-American man looming in the background, Channel 5's anchor opened the newscast with:
"It's a new face on the most notorious crime spree in Valley history. This is Terry Wayne Smith. He once spent time in prison with Michael Goudeau, Mark's brother.
Paul Rubin feature
"He lived near several of the Baseline Killer crime scenes. And he allegedly hinted to his family that he was involved in some of the murders linked to the case."
This was scary stuff.
Phoenix police had arrested Mark Goudeau on September 6, 2006 (his 42nd birthday), on charges of sexually assaulting two sisters at a park near 31st Avenue and Baseline Road. The attacks on the sisters, one of whom was six months pregnant, had occurred one year earlier.
Goudeau had been released from prison on parole in August 2004 after serving 13 years of a 21-year sentence for armed robbery, kidnapping, and aggravated assault (a rape charge was dismissed in return for Goudeau's guilty pleas.)
A county grand jury added 74 new charges in early 2007, indicting Goudeau in the murders of nine people, the sexual assaults of 20 women, and other violent crimes. Goudeau is eligible for the death sentence if convicted.
Authorities alleged Goudeau was the sole perpetrator of a vicious crime spree that (with the concurrent Serial Shooter case) had terrorized Valley residents for more than a year.
Now, Channel 5 was implying that Terry Smith might have been in cahoots with Mark Goudeau, if Goudeau even was involved at all.
"Not long after [Goudeau's arrest]," the anchor said, waving a wad of papers, "a Phoenix police officer wrote this 20-page report with information that pointed to Smith as a potential accomplice in some of those murders.
"According to several people inside the Phoenix Police Department, investigators swept the document under the rug because it could have given Goudeau an alibi."
That officer was Rusty Stuart, a veteran cop assigned to patrol an east Phoenix precinct where the Baseline Killer had struck several times.
Stuart did not respond to repeated requests for an interview for this story.
But his own voluminous writings and other public records show that, in spring 2006, Officer Stuart apparently convinced himself that Terry Wayne Smith — a seriously mentally ill transient — was the Baseline Killer.
Terry Smith is a career criminal who has had serious issues with women, is no stranger to violence, and was in the vicinity of some of the Baseline Killer crime scenes (though not when the murderer struck).
That description also fits the profile of several other men who became investigative leads during the hellish year that ended with Mark Goudeau's September 2006 arrest.
But actual evidence against Smith as the Baseline Killer (or co-conspirator) appears nonexistent.
What the evidence does show is that the killer/rapist was extremely cunning, a serial night crawler whose violent acts were followed by coolly efficient getaways.
If Goudeau was a serial night crawler, Terry Smith was a serial night brawler — a petty street criminal with alcohol and drug problems.
But Rusty Stuart's fixation on Smith didn't end with Goudeau's arrest on charges related to the sexual attacks on the two sisters.
Though no one has yet emerged to say, much less prove, that Goudeau and Smith ever met, Officer Stuart theorized after Goudeau's arrest that the two men were murderous co-conspirators.
Though detectives on the Baseline Killer task force were skeptical of Stuart's suppositions, they asked him to summarize his "evidence" against Terry Smith in writing.
Stuart did so in October 2006, a month after Goudeau's arrest, submitting a 20-page summary of his "findings," as well as a 166-page supplement (typed in only capital letters) that included maps, news clippings, police reports, and his own analysis of everything Smith-related.
"THE TOTALLITY [sic] OF ALL THESE FACTORS," the officer said, "SHOWS A CLEAR PICTURE OF VIOLENCE AGAINST THE CITIZENS OF PHOENIX AND ACTIONS CONSISTENT WITH THE BEHAVIOR OF SOME OF THE CASES ATTRIBUTED TO THE BASELINE KILLER."
A review of Stuart's report finds it rife with speculation, innuendo, leaps of logic, and factual inaccuracies.
That Stuart's effort eventually found a receptive audience with an uncritical news media, a virulently anti-Phoenix PD Web site, and Goudeau's defense team is part of this tangled yarn.
Another part is how the police department failed to stop a rogue patrol officer from conducting a parallel quasi-probe into his own handpicked serial murder suspect, Terry Wayne Smith.
This story also flows through the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the union for whom Rusty Stuart now is a representative.
PLEA President Mark Spencer makes no secret of his union's disdain for Public Safety Manager (formerly called Police Chief) Jack Harris and his policies.
Last March 30, Spencer wrote a "letter of concern" about the Baseline Killer investigation to kindred spirit Joe Arpaio. What Spencer expected the Maricopa County sheriff to do is uncertain, but the allegations were astounding.
He claimed that an unnamed police supervisor had "communicated to PLEA that there would be no surprise on their part if other Violent Crimes Bureau managers engaged in planting evidence [to frame Mark Goudeau]."
Spencer also alleged in his letter that "this same supervisor stated that when Violent Crimes Bureau management was presented on multiple occasions [by Rusty Stuart] with potentially exonerating evidence that may have had exculpatory value to Goudeau, the response from both a lieutenant and a sergeant was, 'Why would you want to give that nigger an alibi?'"
Forget the completely unsubstantiated allegations of racial epithets.
The big question is, to what "planted" evidence might this "manager" have been referring?
Was it the ring of preschool aide Tina Washington, one of the Baseline Killer's nine known murder victims?
Phoenix homicide Detective Mike Meislish (not a "manager") discovered the ring during the final search of Mark Goudeau's home, weeks after his arrest.
Did Meislish, among the state's most respected crime-scene detectives, plant the ring in one of Goudeau's shoes to ensure conviction?
New Times wrote about the Washington murder six weeks before Goudeau's arrest ("Fear Factor," July 27, 2006). The paper was present when one of the slain woman's sons told a detective about the custom-made ring, which he insisted she always wore.
But the ring was missing after Tina Washington was murdered on December 12, 2005.
Police had scoured area pawnshops for months afterward, hoping in vain to find the keepsake — and with it, an investigative lead.
Or maybe cops planted shell casings that linked many of the homicides to the same gun? (The murder weapon never has turned up.)
Or perhaps it was Mark Goudeau's DNA, which the state lab detected on some of his alleged victims, that these Phoenix cops lied about?
In the latter scenario, crime-scene specialists and hospital personnel (a nurse, in the case of the sisters sexually assaulted by Goudeau) really hadn't lifted genetic material matching Goudeau's from some of the Baseline Killer's victims.
The odds of Goudeau's defense team convincing even one juror of any of that are about as long as making them believe Jesus Christ was involved in the conspiracy.
Rusty Stuart recently claimed that Terry Wayne Smith confessed to him that he was "one of" the Baseline Killers.
That, according to Goudeau attorney Randall Craig, in a court document filed last November 4.
Like the Channel 5 story, Stuart's statement would've been a bombshell if only he or anyone else could've corroborated the supposed confession.
But Stuart didn't mention any such confession in his 2006 summary.
Instead, he wrote at the time, "IT IS CERTAINLY UNCLEAR WHETHER TERRY SMITH HAD ANY INVOLVEMENT IN ANY OF THE CASES ATTRIBUTED TO THE BASELINE KILLER.
"HOWEVER," Stuart continued, "[Smith] DEFINITELY HAS STRONG CONNECTIONS TO THE SUSPECTS IDENTIFIED AS BEING INVOLVED BY THE HOMICIDE TASK FORCE, AND STRONG EVIDENCE OF CRIMINAL ACTIVITY IN EACH AREA THE SUSPECTS HAVE STRUCK."
But what about the "confession?"
Terry Smith tells New Times in an interview from prison that he never confessed to Stuart about the Baseline Killer cases.
"I never even spoke to him about that Baseline dude," Smith said in the phone interview from the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis, where he is serving six years for punching a man.
"Personally, I think that Mark Goudeau is a very sick individual who should be put out of his misery for what he did to those poor women."
Rusty Stuart responded to a radio call on the evening of April 18, 2006.
A woman had complained that a man followed her inside the Home Depot at 36th Street and Thomas Road and, then, outside in the parking lot. The man was Terry Smith.
Stuart later wrote about the incident:
"UPON MY CONTACTING TERRY, HE WAS VERBALLY ABUSIVE AND APPEARED TO BE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS. TERRY WAS EXTREMELY UNCOOPERATIVE, REFUSED TO GIVE ANY ADDRESS WHERE HE LIVED, AND WAS ACTING IN A VERY AGGRESSIVE MANNER TOWARD MYSELF [and another officer]."
Smith's version to New Times: "I mother-fucked [Stuart] every which way, totally disrespected him, and he didn't like it. This is where it started. He said he was not going to forget me, and he didn't."
It was a tense time in the Valley. Police were convinced that two serial killers were at large, striking at random.
(The Serial Shooter turned out to be two men, Dale Hausner and Sam Dieteman, Mesa roommates who shot their victims from a car window with a shotgun or rifle. The pair killed eight people and wounded 17 during their rampage across the Valley from May 2005 until their August 2006 arrests. Hausner is now on death row, and Dieteman is serving a life sentence without parole.)
The other serial killer first had been dubbed the Baseline Rapist because of the location of his earliest identified crimes, sexual assaults near Baseline Road.
His was an utterly different modus operandi than that of the Serial Shooters — who killed and wounded at a distance from the safety of their car.
The man later recast in the spring of 2006 as the Baseline Killer grabbed women (mostly in Central and South Phoenix), often robbed them, sexually assaulted them, and then shot them to death.
Phoenix police convened two task forces in early 2006 to work the parallel serial-murder cases.
The detectives had to run down thousands of leads, analyze their databases, keep track of the increasing mounds of evidence, and break down the list of possible suspects.
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.)
For sure, Terry Smith has been in and out of prison — more in than out — since he was a teen.
"I am what they call a career criminal," the San Bernardino native tells New Times. "Lots of petty stuff — stealing cars and shit, taking shit from people. But I never killed no one, never."
Sometime in late spring 2006, Rusty Stuart approached members of the Baseline Killer task force about Terry Wayne Smith.
That October, Stuart would write: "I HAVE BEEN TOLD BY LIEUTENANT [Benny] PINA AND OTHER DETECTIVES FROM THE BASELINE KILLER TASK FORCE ON FOUR SEPARATE OCCASIONS [that] 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 MURDERS. HOWEVER, I WAS AWARE OF HIS BIZARRE AND CRIMINAL BACKGROUND."
Several members of the former task force tell New Times they were aware of Rusty Stuart's ongoing efforts, and that supervisors had urged (if not ordered) him to give it up.
But Stuart wouldn't let go — and apparently still hasn't, as will be shown later in this story.
The Baseline Killer didn't strike for almost two months after May 1, 2006, when his gun misfired during the attempted murder of the woman.
Then, on the early evening of June 29, Carmen Miranda was vacuuming her Ford Crown Victoria at a car wash at 29th Street and Thomas.
The mother of two was talking to a male friend on a cell phone. He later told police that he heard a man ask Miranda for change and then heard what sounded to him like a struggle.
A blurry videotape from a closed-circuit camera installed at the car wash showed the unidentifiable man pushing Miranda into her car and driving away in it.
Miranda's body was found two hours later in her car, parked about 100 yards away, behind a barbershop. She had been shot once in the head. Again, a .380-caliber shell casing was found on the floorboard.
The homicide marked the last-known criminal act of the Baseline Killer.
Mark Goudeau first came to the attention of the task force on July 14, 2006.
At first, it was just another tip among thousands. It came from a woman who said she had seen the widely disseminated composite sketch of the man believed to be the Baseline Killer. (Most people who lived in the Valley at the time will remember the sketch. It showed a black man in dreadlocks and a fisherman's hat.)
The woman told authorities that the man in the sketch was Mark Goudeau.
Hers was the extremely violent case that had landed Goudeau behind bars for 13 years of an original 21-year sentence.
Court records show that in 1990, authorities accused Goudeau of bashing the woman's head with a barbell and shotgun and raping her.
Goudeau plea-bargained those and other charges in an unrelated case (an armed robbery of a Phoenix supermarket) down to a reduced sentence.
Records show that a task force detective went with Goudeau's parole officer to a home on 28th Street and Pinchot Avenue, where Goudeau had been living with wife, Wendy, since his parole.
By foot, the residence is literally a minute or two from the site of Carmen Miranda's murder and easy walking distance from other Baseline Killer crimes.
The detective reported that Goudeau, a muscular construction worker with a sincere manner, had answered questions adequately.
Still, task force supervisors ordered surveillance on Goudeau because of his violent past and the proximity of his home to the Baseline Killer's target area.
In August 2006, Phoenix police finally sent DNA swabs from the 2005 sexual-assault case involving the two sisters to the state crime lab.
(The Phoenix PD's failure to deliver the swabs from its lab to the better-equipped Arizona Department of Public Safety facility in a timely manner was the subject late last year of "notice of claim" letters — a prelude to a lawsuit against Phoenix police — that a local attorney sent on behalf of the families of two Baseline Killer victims.)
A hospital nurse had collected the previously unidentified DNA from the breasts of the sisters shortly after the assaults.
The state soon ran the swabs through its Y-STR DNA testing system (Phoenix PD didn't utilize such a system). It's said to provide a more accurate reading of the DNA of males.
A state analyst determined that Mark Goudeau's DNA was on a swab taken from one of the sister's breasts (his DNA profile had been in the national database since his release from prison).
If accurate, that would prove Goudeau had been in physical contact with the young woman, a sure road to a conviction.
As all this was going on, Rusty Stuart stayed focused on Terry Wayne Smith.
He noted later that, on August 8, 2006, a Phoenix cop had responded to a call from a 7-Eleven clerk at 40th Street and Thomas. Smith suspiciously was standing in the dark on the side of the store for 30 minutes. He told the officer he was waiting for a girlfriend.
The next night, August 9, a different officer stopped Smith and another man (not Goudeau) for questioning after a frightened woman ran into a restaurant and called police, saying the pair were following and intimidating her.
As usual, an inebriated Smith stuck around for questioning. He was not arrested.
Two weeks after that, on the morning of August 23, a Phoenix officer interrogated Terry Smith at a gas station near 32nd Street and Thomas — ground zero for the Baseline Killer.
That officer wrote in his field report: "[Smith was] talking to self about shooting people."
Rusty Stuart would play up that comment in his report a few months later, as if the Baseline Killer would've been bragging loudly on the street about his exploits.
Police did arrest Smith the following day on a misdemeanor warrant, and he would stay locked up at the county jail until September 8.
That was two days after Mark Goudeau's stunning arrest on the sexual-assault charges involving the two sisters, and on a count of possessing crack cocaine (the cops found a usable amount of the drug after they pulled over Goudeau in his car).
No fool, Goudeau declined to speak with detectives after his arrest.
But the cops quietly were confident that physical and forensic evidence they still were amassing would prove that Mark Goudeau was the Baseline Killer.
Goudeau's arrest might have spelled an end to Rusty Stuart's not-so-magnificent obsession with Terry Wayne Smith.
Instead, Stuart soon morphed his theory, recasting Smith from a solo act to a new role as Goudeau's co-conspirator.
Smith himself provided an opening for the officer within hours after his release from jail on September 8.
That night, a drunken Smith got into a fight with an ex-girlfriend at the home of his mother, Renee, and threatened to kill everyone present, according to Stuart's account. (No charges were filed.)
Stuart soon got wind of the incident.
A week later, according to his October 2006 report, he showed up at Renee Smith's workplace and interviewed her.
No audiotape apparently exists of Stuart's interview of Renee Smith (who could not be located for this story).
But Stuart's 20-page summary includes his detailed recollection of the interview.
Stuart wrote that he didn't mention the Baseline Killer case to Mrs. Smith at first, telling her only that he knew about Terry's recent outburst at her far-west Phoenix home and feared for her and her family's safety.
He quoted Mrs. Smith as then asking, out of the blue, "YOU THINK HE IS THE BASELINE KILLER, DON'T YOU?"
She supposedly volunteered to the officer that she had wanted to call police a few times about her son's troubling behavior.
Stuart wrote that Mrs. Smith then told him Terry had insisted (at an unspecified point in time) that the Baseline Killer case involved two suspects, not one.
According to Stuart, Terry told his mother after he saw Mark Goudeau's face on television after his arrest, "Rape maybe; murder never."
Stuart said Renee Smith also told him that Terry "BRAGGED [at some unexplained point in time] TO ALL OF HIS FAMILY MEMBERS ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HE HAS KILLED."
Stuart also made note of a bloody shirt that Terry reportedly wore to his mother's home about the time of Carmen Miranda's murder on June 29, 2006.
(The bloody shirt would become one of Stuart's major talking points in his effort to convince people that Terry Smith was involved in the Baseline Killer crimes. But the police reports depict the Miranda crime scene as a small amount of pooled, undisturbed blood on a car seat, where the killer shot her.)
Finally, Stuart recalled Renee Smith's telling him that her son described the voices "OF WOMEN SCREAMING AND BEING RAPED."
Officer Stuart phoned state prison officials soon after Mark Goudeau's arrest. He learned that, in early 2001, Smith had been incarcerated "IN THE SAME WING OF THE SAME [Tucson] FACILITY FOR APPROXIMATELY SIX MONTHS [with Michael Goudeau]."
Michael is the brother of Baseline Killer suspect Mark Goudeau.
Stuart suggested in his summary that Michael Goudeau might have introduced Smith to brother Mark after Smith left prison in 2005.
However, no evidence to link Terry Smith to the Goudeau family — especially to Mark — has yet emerged.
But to Officer Stuart, it all was adding up in the fall of 2006: Terry Wayne Smith surely was involved in the Baseline Killer case, no matter what the task force said.
The Baseline Killer task force learned later that day about Rusty Stuart's interview with Renee Smith.
A report by lead case agent Alex Femenia says a sergeant asked him to contact Stuart, which he did.
Femenia met with Stuart and Mrs. Smith at a police station, where he interviewed the woman.
According to Femenia's report, Mrs. Smith repeated to him some of what Rusty Stuart later put in his 20-page summary.
She also told Femenia there were papers at her home in which Terry wrote of his deep hatred of women. Femenia asked Smith's mother if she would show him the papers.
She agreed, and the trio — Stuart, Femenia, and Renee Smith — drove to her home.
As Mrs. Smith had said, the writings did include a litany of awful things her son had to say about women.
With Renee Smith's permission, Detective Femenia took the papers with him after the interview.
A month later, Rusty Stuart quoted some of Smith's more memorable passages in his summary to the task force.
Stuart remembered one passage that supposedly said, "SHOOT HER IN THE HEAD, THEN KISS HER ON THE LIPS."
Stuart wrote in his summary, "THIS IS SIGNIFICANT FOR OBVIOUS REASONS, BUT ALSO SUGGESTS PORTMORTEM ACTIVITY WHICH IS VERY DISTURBING TO THE SENCES [sic]."
But Rusty Stuart was mistaken if he figured the Renee Smith interviews and Terry Smith's unspecific written ramblings would turn the investigative tide in his favor.
Task force supervisors asked Stuart to compile his "findings" in a summary — the document that Channel 5 and other news outlets would latch onto a few years later.
In early November 2006, Phoenix police arrested Terry Wayne Smith on assault charges after he punched a man several times for no apparent reason near a bus stop.
The simple assault was increased to a felony after authorities learned that Smith's victim suffered from a neurological disorder that legally made him a "vulnerable adult."
The police officer who wrote up that latest case against Smith was Rusty Stuart.
Court records show that Smith's victim didn't need medical help after the assault and that he wasn't adamant that his attacker go to prison.
But a jury convicted Smith, who was facing up to 15 years because of his extensive criminal past.
Rusty Stuart sat next to the prosecutor during the trial, and Terry Smith concedes he verbally attacked the officer in court immediately after the verdict.
"His whole life turned into getting me for crimes I didn't commit," he says. "I'm a criminal. I admit it. But I ain't no Baseline Killer."
A judge sentenced Smith to six years in prison, a relatively light term. The career con will be eligible for parole next year.
But Smith's incarceration didn't mark the end of this story.
In 2007, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association — the union that represents a majority of the agency's line officers — elected Mark Spencer as its new president.
Relations between PLEA and department brass soured almost overnight. Spencer repeatedly and publicly attacked Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, calling him (among other things) "soft" in dealing with undocumented immigrants.
Rusty Stuart had quit PLEA during a previous president's reign but rejoined soon after Spencer took over. Later, Stuart became a union representative.
By the end of 2008, Stuart's report to the task force had become legend in some police circles and on a Web site dedicated to bashing Phoenix police brass.
Life was about to seriously change for Rusty Stuart.
As 2009 began, Officer Stuart was enmeshed in a bitter divorce case.
His split from wife Michele, a private investigator, had been finalized in September 2008, but numerous issues lingered.
Why that is relevant to this story becomes obvious in light of what happened last May.
Stuart called police in Gilbert (where his ex-wife lives) to complain that Michele had violated a court order by not turning over certain work documents to him.
Gilbert Sergeant Sy Ray looked into it.
The documents included information on a computer thumb drive that Michele supposedly still had in her possession.
Ray's police report, dated May 11, 2009, says Rusty Stuart asked him to secure a search warrant from a judge that would allow Gilbert police to enter Michele's home to retrieve the thumb drive "and other valuable items."
But Sergeant Ray wrote that he had no reason to believe Michele had committed a crime and that his asking a judge for a warrant would be wrong.
Stuart called Ray back and mentioned Channel 5's recent story about Terry Wayne Smith. He told the sergeant "a report mentioned in that newscast is the document that is contained on the thumb drive."
According to Ray, Stuart expressed "why he felt certain management-level staff members are trying to hide information . . . He felt that the Phoenix Police Department had wronged him and another employee, and they were going to have to answer for it, and it's not good for them."
Sergeant Ray concluded, "Some of the statements/accusations made by Mr. Stuart did appear to be completely illogical and/or unrealistic."
Ray noted that Stuart had requested the search of his ex-wife's home almost immediately after he was served notice that she had filed an order of protection against him.
Stuart contested the order, and a hearing was set for May 26. He asked for a postponement, writing to the court, "There is also a very sensitive issue involving the Baseline Killer case in Phoenix. I am the officer who wrote the report now being investigated by the County Attorney's Office. This is a very politically charged issue in my city."
But Commissioner Wes Peterson held the hearing as scheduled and ruled that Rusty Stuart "has committed acts of domestic violence or may commit acts of domestic violence, specifically harassment and failure to comply with a specific [earlier] court order."
A few days later, Sy Ray spoke to Michele Stuart, who said she already had turned over a thumb drive (without any Baseline Killer information on it) and paperwork to Phoenix police.
According to Ray, "Mrs. Stuart made it very clear to me she was afraid Mr. Stuart would kill her if he continued to experience problems at work and with the divorce."
Ray also wrote that he was considering filing criminal misdemeanor charges against Rusty Stuart for violating a court order in his divorce case.
Last June 1, the Scottsdale Times published a story called "Unreasonable Doubt."
It regurgitated every bad thing that PLEA and Rusty Stuart were saying about the Phoenix Police Department's alleged "cover-up" in the Baseline Killer case.
Using Stuart's 2006 report as a template, the piece trumpeted Terry Wayne Smith as the possible serial killer or, at the least, a confederate of Mark Goudeau's.
On June 4, 2009, homicide detectives Mike Meislish and Alex Femenia drove to the state prison facility in Buckeye to obtain a obtain a DNA swab from Terry Wayne Smith. (Femenia has retired from the police department and now works as an investigator for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office.)
Prison officials had moved Smith into a protective-custody wing from the general population after the Channel 5 story aired and Smith had gotten death threats from other inmates.
"Killing someone don't matter on the yard," Smith tells New Times, "but those rapes and doing bad stuff to some kids like [the Baseline Killer] did — that shit don't go over at all. It ain't cool. That story on TV was like Rusty Stuart putting a hit out on me for something I didn't do."
Smith allowed Meislish to take the DNA sample.
Police records show that Meislish immediately delivered the swab to the state crime lab for comparison with all the DNA evidence in the Mark Goudeau serial-murder case.
"I knew exactly what they were going to find," Smith tells New Times. "Nothing."
He was right.
Meislish's report says, "No DNA or Y-STR DNA testing revealed any match with DNA profiles found on the victims."
But Meislish, who has assumed the role of Goudeau case agent since Detective Femenia's retirement, wasn't finished.
Police records show he requested the reports generated by the San Bernardino Police Department after the 1989 violent crimes that Rusty Stuart had linked to Smith as a supposed "suspect" in 2006.
Meislish said he spoke to the actual case agent, who told him "there is no evidence of any kind linking [Terry Wayne Smith] to either of the violent crimes."
At least in California, Terry Smith didn't have a cop, a TV station, and a newspaper painting him as a likely serial murderer.
Last August 4, Gilbert issued a criminal citation against Rusty Stuart for interfering with judicial proceedings in his divorce case. He has pleaded not guilty, and the case is pending.
Gilbert police records show that the department also has forwarded to town prosecutors another 15 misdemeanor counts against Stuart.
What might the Rusty Stuart report mean to Mark Goudeau, scheduled to go to trial July 6?
One of Goudeau's attorneys suggested in a November 4 court document that it could mean a lot.
"It was and is ripe with exculpatory information pertaining to Mark Goudeau's defense," Randall Craig wrote, referring to evidence potentially favorable to a defendant.
"Terry Wayne Smith himself told [Stuart] that he was 'one of the ones' who had been committing the offenses."
County prosecutors countered by saying, "Officer Stuart has absolutely no evidence to support his opinion that Terry Wayne Smith was at all involved in any way with the crimes for which [Goudeau] is charged."
Under the law, the defense will have to convince Judge Warren Granville that Smith may have a bona fide connection to the Baseline Killer case.
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If not, the judge is likely to keep Smith's name out of Mark Goudeau's trial.
As for Officer Stuart, he's still patrolling for the Phoenix Police Department.
And he still works closely with the Indian School Corridor Citywide Business and Homeowner's Association, which is how he got started on his fixation with Terry Wayne Smith in the first place.
In Officer Stuart's glowing annual work review last July 22, his supervisor wrote, "You have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to complex criminal investigations."