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THE MACKING OF A MYSTERYGRAHAM COUNTY SHERIFF RICHARD MACK'S INVESTIGATORS MADE SO MANY MISTAKES THAT NO ONE MAY EVER KNOW HOW STEPHANIE PROFFITT DIED

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Howard also conducted a test to look for drug residues in Stephanie's body. Despite Goodrum's assertion that Stephanie appeared to be under the influence of a drug, no traces of drugs were found.

Either Stephanie didn't take drugs the night she disappeared, or she died sometime after the drugs had been processed through her body.

Howard concluded there were "no physical changes indicating the cause of death."

With no cause of death, and no witnesses, Mack considered the case essentially closed.

"It's a sad case," Mack says. "I wish I would have had some better answer for the family. I wish I could play God for them, but I can't."

Matlock wasn't looking for divine intervention. Just solid police work.
Valenzuela's investigation, along with Matlock's own relentless digging, not only pointed out numerous deficiencies in Mack's probe, they also discovered a number of discrepancies in Goodrum's story.

After reviewing videotapes at a Safford gas station and convenience market, Matlock discovered that Goodrum purchased fuel at 3 a.m., nearly 90 minutes after Goodrum initially told sheriff's deputies he and Stephanie departed their home for the hot springs. Along with $10 of fuel, Goodrum purchased a carton of orange juice and a bottle of Gatorade, store records show.

Goodrum had told deputies that Stephanie drank some of the Gatorade on the way to the hot springs. Yet a Gatorade bottle--apparently the same bottle Goodrum said he left by the side of the road--was later picked up by Matlock, unopened. Matlock found two witnesses who claimed to have seen Goodrum purchase a second bottle of Gatorade at about 5:15 a.m. on the morning Stephanie disappeared. Goodrum made the purchase at a Circle K a few miles north of Haekel Road. Goodrum had told Valenzuela earlier that he stopped at the Circle K on the way back to search for Stephanie, but Goodrum claimed he had purchased coffee.

Valenzuela also learned that Mack was showing investigative reports on Stephanie's disappearance to Goodrum. Mack confirmed he showed Goodrum information, but only in the process of questioning him.

Valenzuela criticized Mack's slow response to the case, particularly his failure to immediately interrogate Goodrum and search his property. A three-page report prepared by Mack indicates he interviewed Goodrum on the afternoon of October 4, 1993. But Valenzuela's records show Mack was in Mesa meeting with him the same afternoon.

At first, Mack said Valenzuela was incorrect. He then said he could have interviewed Goodrum later that evening. "I can be in two different places on the same day," he said. Finally, he conceded the date he interviewed Goodrum "was on or about" October 4.

Even more disturbing to Valenzuela and Matlock were persistent reports that Goodrum was on Mack's payroll. The reports frequently came from other police officers.

Mack denies ever employing Goodrum--in any capacity. In the months following Stephanie's death, however, there is no doubt Goodrum and Mack were communicating regularly. But rather than acting as a drug snitch, Goodrum was teamed up with the sheriff's department's officer in an operation that eventually induced Gonzales to violate the terms of the injunction prohibiting him from harassing Goodrum. "Andreas became an agent of the sheriff," Valenzuela says.

The animosity between Goodrum and Gonzales escalated in the months after Stephanie's death. The men repeatedly reported the other one had violated the court orders against harassment that were still in place.

But the reports typically were one man's word against the other. No action could be taken by the sheriff's department without credible witnesses.

Mack had a solution to the running feud. It was to have a female plainclothes officer ride with Goodrum. The plan was for the two to repeatedly drive by Gonzales' house and see what he would do.

On February 26 and 27, plainclothes officer Rose Lacy and Goodrum rode by Gonzales' house, the first day in Goodrum's truck and the next day on Goodrum's new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Gonzales became enraged. When Goodrum and Lacy drove by in the truck and began filming him, Gonzales threw a rock and damaged a door on the vehicle. The next day, Goodrum and Lacy showed up on the motorcycle; Gonzales chased them down the highway in his truck.

He was arrested and charged with one count of misdemeanor endangerment, one count of felony endangerment, felony criminal damage and resisting arrest.

The arrests followed nine other charges that had been filed against Gonzales the previous two years, all related to altercations with Goodrum that stemmed from the relationship with Stephanie. During the same period, when both men were harassing each other, Goodrum was never arrested or charged.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty