David Monroe Goodwin was granted parole on Wednesday in Miami
A woman who has spent 32 years hoping for her fiancé’s release from a life sentence in prison is overjoyed that he’s about to be released.
David Monroe Goodwin, 70, was on Wednesday in Miami granted parole from the life sentence he’s serving for participating in an infamous 1977 drug smuggling and murder conspiracy known as the Sandy Creek Murders. His release on parole is set for May 2.
His fiancée Wanda Pate, 82, met Goodwin through her daughter, who is married to the inmate’s younger brother. The two exchanged letters for two years before she drove to meet him in person at a state prison.
‘I felt sorry for him at first and we fell in love with each other,’ Pate told the Tallahassee Democrat. ‘I never would have dreamed that I would have fell in love with somebody that was in prison. But it happened.’
Goodwin was one of 17 men charged in the Sandy Creek Murders, and is the last living offender in the case remaining behind bars.
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Crime Scene: Goodwin was helping unload 20 tons of Colombian marijuana from a notorious drug-running shrimp trawler in Sandy Creek Bay when his accomplice murdered four people
On January 23, 1977, a night so cold it was snowing in Florida, Goodwin was helping unload 20 tons of Colombian marijuana from a notorious drug-running shrimp trawler, The Gunsmoke, in Sandy Creek Bay near Panama City.
Two ex-cons happened to be driving a pair of underage teenage sisters out to the isolated beach that night, and they stumbled across the smuggling operation.
Walter Steinhorst, armed with a rifle and pistol, was standing guard for the smugglers, and shot one of the ex-cons dead on the spot. Steinhorst tied up the two girls and the other man, and drove them over 100 miles away to a hunting lodge.
Steinhorst forced the teens and the man to their knees and shot them execution style. Weighing them down with concrete blocks, the killer tossed their bodies in a 55-foot deep sinkhole filled with water.
It would be eight months before divers searching for Native American artifacts discovered the skeletons of George Sims, 39, Douglas Gene Hood, 21, and sisters Sheila and Sandy McAdams, 16 and 14.
The pieces in the case came together when investigators found bales of marijuana floating in Sandy Creek Bay on the night the four victims disappeared, and connected them to the shrimper Gunsmoke, which the panicked smugglers had intentionally sank in the waters off Tampa Bay.
Victims: George Sims, 39, Douglas Gene Hood, 21, and sisters Sheila and Sandy McAdams, 16 and 14 were shot and thrown into a water-filled sinkhole with their bodies weighed down
Steinhorst was proven in court to be the gunman, and died in prison in 1999 while awaiting execution.
Goodwin wasn’t armed that night, and never pulled a trigger. He argued that Steinhorst was on a rampage that cold January night, and his own role was limited to bringing the killer rope under threat of death.
But Goodwin was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder after prosecutors argued that he helped Steinhorst tie up Hood and the McAdams sisters.
A judge imposed the death penalty on Goodwin, but it was overturned on appeal, and he got life in prison. He has been behind bars since 1978.
His fiancée Pate said Goodwin has become very religious behind bars. They talk on the phone four times a week, but she hasn’t seen him in person in six years.
‘He sounded really happy. Happy, happy,’ she said after speaking to him on Wednesday, after his parole was granted. ‘After 40 years it’s time.’
Everglades Correctional Institution in Miami, from which Goodwin will be paroled on May 2