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.