On the morning of November 30, 1984, the body of 21-year-old Sherry Ann Fales Williams was found near a freeway off-ramp north of Beaver, Utah. She was bound at the knees and wrists and was nude below the waist except for socks.
An autopsy showed she had suffered at least eight blows to the head. She also had what appeared to be defensive wounds on her hands and had been sodomized with a blunt instrument.
Police determined that Williams had met 34-year-old Bruce Goodman at the Arizona State Fair in October 1984 and they had moved to a hotel in Las Vegas. At the time, Goodman was working at a ranch south of Las Vegas.
On November 19, Williams decided to end the relationship and to re-unite with her estranged husband. That same day, Goodman asked to borrow a truck from his employer, saying he needed it to move personal belongings.
Goodman was arrested on a traffic violation in December 1984 in San Antonio, Texas, and voluntarily returned to Utah for questioning.
Goodman denied involvement in the murder and said that he locked the keys in the truck and left it in a truck stop parking lot on the same day he borrowed it. However, a truck stop worker said it was not there until he found it shortly after midnight on the day that Williams’ body was found, eleven days after it was borrowed.
He was charged with murder in December 1984 and went on trial in February, 1986.
Evidence was presented that showed a cigarette butt found near the body had saliva from someone who had blood type A and was a secretor and that Williams had sex with a type A secretor 24 to 48 hours before her death. Goodman was a type A secretor—as is about one-third of the population.
Jurors were told that rope used to bind Williams was similar to rope used on the ranch where Goodman worked.
Eyewitnesses contradicted Goodman’s claims. A gas station attendant said he saw Goodman and Williams together in Goodman’s employer’s truck on November 22 in Beatty, Nevada.
There were two alleged sightings of Goodman and Williams together within 24 hours of the discovery of Williams’ body. A truck stop cashier testified to seeing them arguing at around midnight on the night of November 29. And a casino worker said Williams and Goodman were in the Peppermill Casino in Mesquite, Nevada between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. on November 30.
Goodman claimed he was in Stockton, California at the time of the murder and presented two witnesses who said they were with him.
On February 15, 1986, Goodman was convicted by a judge who heard the case without a jury. He was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2002, Goodman requested help from the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Lawyers from the center petitioned for DNA testing and a judge granted an order allowing tests to be performed on the rape kit as well as the cigarette butt.
The tests revealed the same male DNA profile on both the rape kit and the cigarette butt and excluded Goodman. Further analysis of the rope showed that the weave of the fiber was different from any type of rope used on the ranch where Goodman worked.
On November 3, 2004, on the recommendation of the Utah Attorney General’s Office, Goodman’s conviction was vacated and the case was dismissed. Goodman was released from prison on November 9, 2004.
– Maurice Possley