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.
New Times cover story
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.
"I told Alex that I'd found Tina's ring, and he didn't believe me," Meislish recalled drily. "Then he realized I wasn't kidding."
Goudeau's wife, Wendy Carr, has insisted that this account by Phoenix police is a big lie, and that the cops planted all the damning evidence to frame her husband and grab the glory of solving one of Arizona's biggest criminal cases.
But evidence of such a historic conspiracy is nonexistent, and during Goudeau's recent murder trial in Maricopa County Superior Court, his defense team raised little to jurors but innuendo about the possible legitimacy of the search.
Calling it "the most sloppy, negligent search in the history of law enforcement," Goudeau's lead attorney Randall Craig told jurors, "There is just no way they didn't see that ring on that first search if it was there. Somebody entered the Mark Goudeau home after [September 6] and put it there."
Such as whom, prosecutor Suzanne Cohen asked rhetorically when it was her turn? The "actual" Baseline Killer?
The ziplock bag would become Exhibit 29 at Mark Goudeau's trial, a dream piece of evidence for the prosecutors in a case in which the police never did recover the murder weapon, a .38-caliber semiautomatic.
It was a case that relied heavily on momentous advances in DNA technology evolving at precisely the same time Goudeau was running wild.
Though it's easy to forget this, DNA evidence was introduced to the criminal justice system only about a quarter-century ago.
Thousands of people have been convicted and many freed (sometimes after having served long prison terms) because of the unique, coded, genetic information.
DNA can eliminate possible suspects — it did in the Mark Goudeau case — and it surely can lead to the guilty.
The Goudeau defense team knew that better than anyone. Attorney Craig repeatedly reminded jurors that prosecutors "will be hanging their hat on" the DNA, and in large part he was right.
Craig also reminded the panel, "You have not heard the defense's case on this. Once again, we will challenge the DNA."
But they didn't, calling no witnesses to try to refute the powerful DNA testimony of prosecution witnesses and, in fact, not presenting a defense case at all.
Scientifically, the case against Goudeau wouldn't have been nearly as strong even a few years before he began hunting women on the streets of Phoenix.
That was his tough luck.
The jury on October 31 returned guilty verdicts on 67 of the 72 charges against Goudeau, including all nine first-degree murder counts.
The panel now is deciding inside the courtroom of county Judge Warren Granville whether to impose the death penalty against the 47-year-old former construction worker.
Mark Goudeau's spree in 2005-06 — nine murders, eight sexual assaults, numerous armed robberies, and other violent crimes — engrossed and terrified Valley residents.
His ascendancy as a serial killer came at the same time that the so-called "Serial Shooters" also were wreaking their own brand of havoc, randomly murdering at least six people around the Valley and shooting many more. (Mesa residents Dale Hausner and Samuel Dieteman now are on death row and serving a life sentence, respectively.)
The tale of Phoenix's serial killers went worldwide.
On July 28, 2006, London's Daily Mail newspaper wrote this headline: "U.S. City in Fear as Two Serial Killers Stalk Streets."
Hausner and Dieteman did most of their killings from their car, à la D.C. snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who killed 10 people over a terrible three weeks in 2002.
Both sets of snipers seemed driven more by "sport" than anything.
The Baseline Killer's motivations clearly were sexual domination and sometimes money. He was cunning and careful much of the time, yet he ultimately was ruled by his violent compulsions.
Goudeau increasingly stuck to familiar turf as time passed, as the dragnet, the size of which was unprecedented in Phoenix police history, intensified.
His final slaying of 37-year-old Carmen Miranda on June 29, 2006, occurred near the busy intersection of 32nd Street and Thomas Road — minutes by foot from his home and in an area that came to be known to investigators as the Baseline Killer's ground zero.
Goudeau was an in-your-face murderer who interacted verbally with his victims before abruptly ending their lives with his potent .38.
His communications were basic: If you didn't do what he wanted, he would kill you.
One woman who didn't go along with Goudeau amazingly survived and later testified against him.
The 31-year-old Phoenix woman later described in chilling detail how, in May 2006, a man wearing a beige, human-like mask carjacked her near 32nd Street and Thomas Road.
The woman had just left a check-cashing place in the strip mall where, months earlier, Goudeau had committed back-to-back armed robberies at a Mexican restaurant and a pizza joint.
(He erred by firing a round in the air as he fled into the night from the robberies. A shell casing from that bullet matched those found near the bodies of most of his nine murder victims, and ballistics experts later determined that all the casings had been fired by the same gun.)
Goudeau forced the woman at gunpoint to drive a few miles north to a residential area. He told her that he just had robbed the Fry's store on 30th and Thomas (the irony of that remark becomes apparent later in this story.)
Then, he made her disrobe, still seated in her blue VW Bug.
She testified, "He asked me to touch myself. At that point, I realized it was going to be a rape, and I was afraid to die . . . He said, 'Suck my dick,' and he was going to kill me if I didn't. I said, 'Go ahead and kill me.'
"He said he was going to blow my brains out in the car and my parents were going to read about it in the newspaper the next day. He pulled the trigger and there was a loud clinking noise. I realized that I wasn't dead, and so I got out of my vehicle and ran."
The Baseline Killer story is as much about Mark Goudeau's victims as it is about the murderer himself.
It's about those who survived sexual assaults, robbery at gunpoint, and, like the woman in the VW, miraculously escaped a horrible death.
It's also about the loved ones left to try to cope with their losses — the husbands, boyfriends, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers of those who were slain.
It's also about the good cops who cracked the case, despite serious missteps inside their own and other police agencies, and about a state DNA analyst (Lorraine Heath) and a Phoenix police ballistics expert (Danny Hamilton) whose testimonies were critical.
Finally, it's about prosecutors Suzanne Cohen and Patricia Stevens, who won the day at trial by considering all angles — legal and emotional — and letting it fly.
But for now, let us consider Mark Goudeau.
What causes a man to point a handgun in a stranger's face, order her to perform a sexual act, and then pull the trigger as easily as squirting a water pistol if she says no?
In the case of Goudeau, nothing particularly jumped out to say potential serial killer.
By all accounts, he was popular with neighbors, co-workers, and available single women, with his engaging smile and usually friendly manner. He was known as a hard worker at his construction job during two years or so of freedom after winning parole from prison in 2004.
A Phoenix native, Goudeau is one of 14 siblings from a lower-middle-class family.
A variety of sources — police reports, court records, news accounts, and interviews — suggest that the clan was touched by substance abuse, feuding parents, and other signs of dysfunction. But it also includes good people who have led decent lives and contributed to the community.
Mark moved in with an older sister in Tempe a few years after their mother died when he was 12.
He played football at Corona del Sol High but wasn't as accomplished on the field as older brother Michael, and he dropped out a few credits shy of graduation.
Though he usually held a blue-collar job, Goudeau never found a solid direction in life before going to prison in his mid-20s. He admitted years ago, and then at his parole hearing, to problems with cocaine and alcohol, often blaming his criminal woes on the substance abuse.
But millions of people from similarly troubled upbringings — and with drug and booze issues — barely get crossways with the law, much less become serial killers.
Of all the things said about Mark Goudeau, this may have been the most prescient, if unintentionally so:
"If the true assailant is not incarcerated, I am sure he'll do this again. He's probably done it before."
Actually, Wendy Carr wasn't exactly talking about her future husband when she wrote that to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rufus Coulter Jr. in May 1990.
At the time, the 25-year-old Goudeau was out of custody and waiting to be sentenced for assaulting and kidnapping a Phoenix woman at his apartment on East Osborn Road, not far from what later would be the Baseline Killer's ground zero.
Goudeau had plea-bargained to the reduced charges, which originally had included counts of sexual assault and attempted second-degree murder.
"No one can EVER convince me that Mark is capable of assaulting anyone," Carr wrote to the judge. "I am confident when I say that Mark has [N]EVER done drugs of any fashion. He is of high morals and sound mind."
The August 6, 1989, aggravated assault of a woman we'll call Darlene wasn't his first brush with the law.
A Phoenix police report from 1982 — when Goudeau still was in high school — contains allegations by a female student that he and older brother Michael raped her repeatedly at their home, which she apparently went to voluntarily.
The report notes that the young woman would not cooperate for a possible prosecution and soon left the Phoenix area.
Goudeau and Wendy Carr were sharing an apartment on 28th Street and Osborn in the summer of 1989.
But Carr apparently wasn't around in the wee hours of August 6 that year, when Phoenix police responded to calls of a man beating a semi-conscious woman with the butt of a shotgun in the parking lot. Officers found the woman naked from the waist down and bleeding profusely from her head.
Two passersby said the assailant had chased them while brandishing the shotgun and a stainless steel revolver before retreating.
Darlene suffered a fractured skull, deep lacerations, and bruises all over her body. She wasn't able to give a statement from her hospital bed for three days, but then gave police a complete account, including Mark Goudeau's name and address.
Darlene alleged that Goudeau battered her with the shotgun in the apartment, banged her head against a barbell repeatedly, and then hurled her into the tub, where he turned on the water and tried to drown her. (The police later found blood evidence around the apartment that corroborated part of her account.)
Somehow, Darlene was able to flee half-naked into the apartment parking lot with Goudeau in pursuit.
Police arrested Goudeau, and their reports show that he suggested at first that he and Darlene had consensual sex and were about to take a bath when two unknown men (one of them armed with an Uzi submachine gun) entered the apartment and beat her up before leaving.
He said he helped Darlene outside and was about to drive her to her grandmother's home for help when the mystery men returned and resumed beating her.
Scared, he said, he retreated to the apartment until the men again took their leave.
A quote from the Phoenix police report adds irony to the situation: "He said that he tries to avoid women like [Darlene]."
As for Darlene, a court pre-sentencing officer wrote of her close call, "She felt that she was in a room with the devil."
Darlene's account would have great similarities to that in one of the Baseline Killer murders. Sophia Nuñez was the only one of the 2005-06 victims who personally knew Goudeau. She was shot to death from close range in a bathtub at her west Phoenix home on April 10, 2006. Nuñez's 8-year-old son found her body in the overflowing tub when he returned from school.
Best evidence against Goudeau in the Nuñez case: Analysts detected his DNA profile on one of her breasts. The bullet that lodged in her head matched the ammo recovered from the other murder victims, and it was fired from the same gun. Goudeau had known Nuñez socially — they spoke more than 300 times by cell phone in 2005 — and he knew where she lived.
By rights, Goudeau should have been looking at a minimum of a few decades in prison after his vicious attack on Darlene — specifically in light of what happened next.
But it didn't play out that way.
What happened was a series of egregious mistakes by those in control of Goudeau's freedom.
First, a deputy county attorney allowed Goudeau to plead to three counts of aggravated assault, but with a stipulation that allegations of "dangerousness" would be dropped at sentencing against this defendant who practically had killed a woman.
That allowed Goudeau to be eligible for probation.
A deal with the devil, as one of the Baseline Killer detectives later put it.
Then came this remarkable turn of events:
On August 10, 1990, mere weeks before his sentencing, Mark Goudeau robbed a Fry's Supermarket on 30th Street and Thomas Road.
It was the same store that, years later, he falsely told the woman in the VW Bug that he just had robbed.
Goudeau held up two female store clerks with a silver handgun, not unlike the weapon described much later by many of his victims.
"If you know what's good for you, you'll come with me," he told one of the women, pointing the gun at her head.
The women did as they were told, leaving the store briefly with their assailant, who had grabbed more than $500 in a brown paper bag.
Goudeau fled in his Datsun 280-Z without harming the women, but passersby alerted police to the make, model, and license plate of the vehicle. Investigators soon tracked him down.
Back in custody, Goudeau denied everything, even though police found the paper bag with the Fry's money in it at his apartment.
Remember, Goudeau still was facing sentencing for the severe beating of Darlene.
These days, prison sentences for the separate assault and armed robbery cases would be longer and stacked atop each other.
But not in this case.
First, Judge Coulter sentenced Goudeau to the maximum, under the sweetheart plea bargain, of 15 years in prison on the assault case, of which he would have to serve at least 10.
But prosecutor James Blomo (and, presumably, his supervisor) then crafted a truly soft plea bargain. He agreed to a no-contest plea (the same effect as a guilty plea) to armed robbery and kidnapping and in such a way that Goudeau would only have to serve the equivalent of about four additional years in prison, or about 14 years total with good behavior.
Shortly before his January 1991 sentencing on the Fry's robbery, Goudeau told a presentencing officer that he had smoked crack cocaine before a pal gave him the idea of robbing a store.
"The next thing the defendant knew was, he was at the store with a gun, which he indicates was not real," the officer dutifully wrote. "He states that he is tired of lying and realizes that he has a drug problem and needs help."
Fast-forward more than 13 years to March 8, 2004.
Goudeau had served that much time in prison when he faced a state parole board considering his release.
He had been a fine inmate, in that his disciplinary record was scant, and he had completed several self-help programs.
Goudeau had married Wendy during his incarceration, and she remained as devoted as a lapdog to the proposition that he could do no wrong.
Speaking first on behalf of Goudeau at the hearing was Donna Hamm, a longtime prison activist and onetime judge who, too, had married a man who had been released from prison a few years earlier on a first-degree murder conviction.
"When you look at Mark on paper," Hamm said, "you think, 'Oh, my God, this is terrible stuff,' and it is. He does admit to the assault. [But] there wasn't a sexual offense."
Hamm went on to say Goudeau had done "an exemplary job of working on his problems."
For his part, Goudeau predictably blamed drugs and booze for his legal troubles.
"This offense happened 14 years ago," he told the board, not specifying which one he was talking about — the assault of Darlene or holding up the Fry's employees. "I was out of control, [but] I never wanted to hurt a soul. [Now] I think before I act."
Wife Wendy Carr got her say.
Weeping, she told the board, "I can vouch that if you put Mark on parole, you will never see him again — never!"
Carr turned out to be right about that, but for all the wrong reasons.
The five-person panel asked few questions of Goudeau before voting 4-1 to approve his release.
Less than a year and a half later, Goudeau murdered 19-year-old Georgia Thompson near Mill Avenue in Tempe, his first known homicide victim.
It came a few weeks after he sexually assaulted a pair of junior-high-age girls behind a church near Baseline Road as they walked home from a pool party.
Though Goudeau didn't have a "name" yet, the Baseline Rapist/Killer had been born.
Phoenix homicide detectives could not have known, in the early-evening hours of December 12, 2005, that they were dealing with a budding serial killer.
All homicides are inherently eerie, but the murder of Tina Washington on a chilly night behind a warehouse at 40th Street and Southern Avenue caused Detective Alex Femenia to mutter something at the scene.
"I've got a weird feeling about this one," he said. (I was there, reporting a series of stories on a Phoenix Police Department homicide squad, titled "Murder City.")
A woman had been shot twice in the head at close range under amber security lighting that cast dancing shadows as the wind picked up.
The body was splayed on its back, and a haunting river of blood was coagulating on a secluded concrete driveway.
The woman didn't have a purse or any identification, but a shopping bag with a holiday motif was near the body. Police learned later that the victim had gotten the bag at a "secret Santa" party across the street at the little preschool where she worked.
Patrick Kotecki, the alert supervisor who was Detective Femenia's sergeant at the time, noted that the woman's bra was visible and her pants were pulled down a bit.
Kotecki recalled that a memo recently had circulated at police headquarters about a man sexually assaulting and (sometimes) robbing women near Baseline Road.
He wondered, along with homicide unit Lieutenant Benny Pina, whether any connection might exist between this murder and the other cases.
Police had an eyewitness, of sorts.
Pete Ochoa had escaped with his own life by a whisker — more precisely, a misfired handgun, the same weapon that the woman in the VW would be spared from months later.
Femenia interviewed Ochoa that night in the warehouse where the man operated a catering business. Ochoa clearly was dazed and trembling at times, though he was able to converse with the detective.
He told of hearing two bangs just outside the back door, figuring that some neighbor kids were playing football in the driveway, as they had before. He unlocked the oversize metal door and stepped out to shoo them away when he saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt crouching over a motionless body.
The man immediately rose to his feet, pointed a handgun at Ochoa, and fired once from a distance of about 10 feet. But the gun failed to discharge.
Ochoa slipped back into the warehouse and latched the big door.
A moment or two later, he told Femenia, he saw the door handle turn. The man was trying to get inside, but the lock held.
Ochoa said he wished he could be of more help in identifying the assailant.
Years later, at Goudeau's murder trial, Ochoa compellingly identified the defendant from the witness stand.
"I will never forget those eyes, never," he said of Goudeau.
But the overall Baseline Killer case, and this December 2005 murder, in particular, didn't hinge on the typically shaky eyewitness testimony of a traumatized victim.
More relevant were the two expended .38-caliber shell casings found near the body and one unspent bullet, the one meant for Pete Ochoa.
It would take police months to link those casings to the ones recovered at other murder scenes in Phoenix.
Within a day after her murder, fingerprints identified the victim as Tina Washington.
Femenia informed one of her grown sons of her murder and asked the young man whether his mom wore jewelry. Though broken with grief, he answered without hesitation:
That would be the "mother's ring," with the names of Tina's three sons inscribed next to each of their birthstones.
Femenia later also learned that one of Tina's co-workers had tried on a new bracelet of Tina's on the day of the murder before placing it back into a ziplock sandwich bag with the ring.
Tina, the co-worker said, usually took off her jewelry and put it in the bag, so as not to call attention to it when she walked across Southern Avenue from the school to the bus stop for her ride home.
That bag would become Exhibit 29 at Mark Goudeau's trial.
But it still would be months before Femenia had any clue that Tina Washington was Mark Goudeau's first homicide victim in Phoenix.
Nor did they know that, just a few months earlier, on September 5, 2005, Goudeau had gunned down Georgia Thompson in the parking lot of her Tempe apartment complex.
Thompson was shot once in the back of her head at close range shortly after midnight. Like Tina, her shirt was pulled up and her pants were unbuttoned when the police got there. Her purse also was missing. Thompson had just exited her car after an evening out that included dinner with her boyfriend and his parents.
The inscription on her orange T-shirt read "Better Luck Next Time."
This part of the Goudeau epic also would include slipshod police work by a Tempe police detective who tearfully apologized for her mistakes at Goudeau's recent trial.
Susan Schoville was swayed in late 2005 by career Kentucky con James Mullins that he had murdered Thompson after a meeting at a Tempe bar went sour.
Yes, Mullins confessed to the slaying, and the overeager Schoville bought his story after providing him with enough information to help make his tale sound at least plausible at first blush.
In truth, though, Mullins never had even set foot in Arizona before the murder, and he was guilty — in this jurisdiction — of nothing but stupidity.
The catalysts for Mullins included a tabloid television show — where he learned enough about the Thompson case to conjure up a yarn.
As nutty as it sounds, his apparent motivation was to get out of Kentucky and be housed in a prison facility where he might be allowed to smoke cigarettes.
If all this seems too strange, consider that a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Mullins on second-degree murder charges and that former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods personally led the prosecution.
But in mid-2006, Phoenix police forensically linked the Thompson murder to crimes committed by the serial Baseline Killer. After several tense weeks that played out in the media, the case against Mullins was dismissed and he was shipped back to Kentucky ("I Dunnit," September 21, 2006).
As the Baseline Killer's body count mounted in early 2006, Phoenix police created a task force, assigning several seasoned detectives and more than 100 street officers to the case full time.
Also, in early 2006, the cops decided to go public with a composite sketch that combined the independent recollections of two victims from November 3, 2005.
That night, a man with a dreadlock wig and wearing a fisherman's hat had held up a lingerie store on 32nd Street just south of Indian School Road.
Immediately afterward, he forced a young woman at gunpoint to drive him out of the area. He nabbed her as she was dropping off clothes into a donation bin.
The woman went along with his sexual demands and probably lived as a result. Mark Goudeau's DNA later was identified on swabs taken from her body that night, among other evidence.
The composite sketch depicted a round-faced black man with a thin mustache, the dreadlocks, and a floppy hat.
It appeared all over the media and, later, on billboards, including one at 24th Street and Indian School, five minutes by car from Mark Goudeau's home.
Behind the scenes, though, Phoenix police seemed stalled on the all-important forensic fronts.
The Baseline Task Force detectives became increasingly vocal, as the summer approached, in their insistence that any DNA evidence had to get processed with greater urgency. (A pending lawsuit in Superior Court alleges that the department's failure to timely test critical swabs for DNA or to send the swabs to the superior state lab cost several Baseline Killer victims their lives.)
Crime-scene techs had found DNA on the right breast of one of the South Phoenix sisters from the September 2005 assaults. But the Phoenix lab scientists concluded it wasn't a sufficient sample to identify a suspect through the national or state DNA-linked databases.
The Phoenix lab also chose not to test the swab from the woman's left breast, which had been covered with dirt after the rapist made the older sister (six months pregnant) spit in his hand before he wiped it on the breast in an apparent effort to get rid of his own DNA.
That untested swab sat in a refrigerator at the crime lab for months.
Things were getting more positive on the ballistics front. In early June 2006, Phoenix police gunfire expert Danny Hamilton linked shell casings at the Tina Washington crime scene to those found at other Baseline Killer scenes.
Based on the firing mechanism, every weapon leaves distinctive markings on expended shells. Experts actually can tell whether casings come from the same gun, not just the same type of gun.
Phoenix PD is part of a nationwide network with access to data about shell casings recovered at crime scenes and elsewhere. The network, called NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistic Information Network), enables ballistics experts to compare spent casings by computer and to possibly link crime scenes.
Which is exactly what happened in early June 2006 when Danny Hamilton discovered that the shell casings from the Washington murder matched those found at the scene of Georgia Thompson's September 2005 death in Tempe.
That stunning information not only got goofball James Mullins off the hook for the murder, it also told Phoenix police that the killer they were hunting had killed at least once before Tina Washington.
(Tempe detective John Thompson much earlier had tracked down the location of a cell phone tower where Thompson's missing phone had "pinged" an hour after her murder. The tower was in Central Phoenix, about 200 yards from Mark Goudeau's home. But like his police colleagues, Thompson — no relation to Georgia — wouldn't hear the name Mark Goudeau for many months after her murder.)
By summer 2006, the task force had compiled a list of more than 100 convicted sex offenders who lived in the general vicinity of where the Baseline Killer was striking. (In the end, nine Baseline crimes occurred within three miles of Goudeau's home.) Lots of tips, but little of substance was coming their way, and the thinking was to look hard at each of the ex-cons as at least a longshot potential investigative lead.
But Mark Goudeau wasn't a registered sex offender — remember, prosecutors had dropped the rape charge in 1990 — so his name didn't pop up on that original list.
Goudeau struck again, apparently for the final time before his capture, on June 29, 2006.
That evening, he approached 37-year-old Carmen Miranda as she was about to vacuum her car at a self-service car wash on the north side of 29th Street and Thomas Road.
Miranda and her boyfriend were talking on their cell phones, and he heard her screams as Goudeau overpowered her with his fists, took the wheel of her car, and soon parked a few hundred yards behind a barbershop.
There, he shot her once in the forehead, leaving her body sprawled in the back seat, her eyes wide open in death.
A security camera at the car wash captured the carjacking on video, but the tape recording was too grainy and degraded for the killer to be made out.
The murder of the mother of two, as well as the continuing Serial Shooter mayhem, resonated throughout the Valley. Police held packed community meetings at which they urged calm and caution.
Local television reporters were reduced to interviewing psychics, such as the Valley's Allison DuBois, in search of possible answers.
DuBois, whose autobiography was the basis for the NBC show Medium, confidently told a local NBC reporter that the Baseline Killer was not from the Phoenix area (probably from California) and had long hair and a long juvenile record.
It made for a nice sound bite. DuBois, of course, was wrong.
At first, it was just one of what would be more than 7,000 "tips" from the public to Phoenix police about the Baseline Killer case.
The information came to the cops through a state prison investigator on July 14, 2006. He informed the task force that a woman had seen that composite sketch of the man with hat and the dreadlocks and knew who it was.
She identified him as Mark Goudeau.
It was the woman we're calling Darlene, the victim of the vicious aggravated assault and kidnapping that, in part, had put Goudeau behind bars for 13-plus years.
The task force supervisors took this tip seriously and, within a day, put around-the-clock surveillance on Goudeau.
After his arrest that September, Goudeau told his wife in a jailhouse phone call monitored by police that he had known someone was following him during that stretch.
On July 21, 2006, a Phoenix detective and Goudeau's parole officer knocked on his door. Later, the detective described a pleasant chat with the ex-con, who volunteered to provide any requested DNA or fingerprint samples.
The parole officer poked around the Goudeau residence a little during the half-hour interview but didn't notice anything in plain view that merited further consideration.
Task force supervisors decided to call off the surveillance of Goudeau.
But they didn't forget him.
In early August 2006 (two days, coincidentally, after the Mesa arrests of the two Serial Shooters), Phoenix police sent a list of 75 potential Baseline suspects to the state crime lab.
The list included the top-priority investigative leads that had come their way over the previous months.
Of those 75 men, about 30 were ex-convicts whose DNA profiles would be available in a state database.
One of the convicts was Mark Goudeau.
It was almost a year after the South Phoenix sexual assaults, and finally a forensic expert (from the state's crime lab, not the city's) had analyzed the swabs from both of the younger sister's breasts.
That analyst, Lorraine Heath, found what she considered identifiable DNA both on the previously untested left breast and on the already tested (but not put into the national or state DNA databases) right breast.
Heath utilized both a well-established testing protocol that looks for all genetic material and a newer procedure that detects only the male chromosome — a DNA fingerprint inherited from fathers.
The Phoenix police crime lab didn't have the newer procedure in place yet.
Her findings were the so-called smoking gun in the 2007 sexual-assault trial and also were critical — and not refuted by the defense — in Goudeau's recently completed trial.
On September 2, 2006, Heath informed Phoenix police that a preliminary "hit" with the new male-chromosome-only testing had revealed the name of Mark Goudeau from that list of prior offenders.
As the testing continued, the cops prepared to swoop in on Goudeau, not yet as the Baseline Killer, but as the rapist of the South Phoenix sisters.
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On the late afternoon of September 6, Phoenix police arrested Goudeau without incident in front of his home.
It was his 42nd birthday.
Several months later, the city of Phoenix issued a reward check for $100,000 to the woman whose information first had led them to the serial killer.
It was Darlene, Goudeau's assault victim many years before he became the Baseline Killer.