By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
In here, past the endless cotton fields and wind-energy turbines at the West Texas intersection of desolate and dusty, he has too much time.
Out there, thrust into a violent vortex of disorienting speed, blurring fire and chaotic cars, he had too little time.
For six long years, Dwayne Goodrich has been haunted—and mostly handcuffed—by six short seconds.
The driver in one of the most disturbing hit-and-run accidents in Dallas history, the former Dallas Cowboys' cornerback has spent the last 39 months incarcerated for killing two Good Samaritans and injuring another on Interstate 35 early on January 14, 2003. After a night on the town that included topless bars and alcohol—but by his account, not intoxication—Goodrich swerved his BMW through a turbulent crash scene, struck three pedestrians who were attempting to free an unconscious man from a fiery car, and sped away without slowing down.
Ever since, he's been besieged by the jarring juxtaposition of having so much time to ponder not taking enough time.
"It's hard, but I try not to replay what happened over and over in my mind," the 30-year-old Goodrich says slowly in a private holding room at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Wallace Unit in Colorado City. "It all happened so fast, like a big blur. When I think about it, like what I could've done differently, it starts to drive me insane...I used to think about suicide, and a part of me will always be depressed. But I don't need to punish myself forever. This place does that for me."
Killed in the accident were childhood Plano friends Joseph "Joby" Wood (21) and Demont Matthews (23); the left leg of Joshua "Shuki" Josef (41) was also shattered. It also left Goodrich, a former University of Tennessee star and the Cowboys' top draft pick in 2000, with a bleak future void of football or freedom.
Cut by the team a month after the tragedy, Goodrich was charged with two counts of manslaughter and three counts of failure to stop and render aid. A jury found him guilty of the lesser offense of criminally negligent homicide with a deadly weapon and sentenced him to seven and a half years in August 2003. A judge tacked on five more years for failure to stop and render aid on January 5, 2006, after the appeal of the first trial had been affirmed. The judge stacked the sentences; the second beginning to run only after the first one had been served, making his total punishment 12 years in state prison. Though lawyers are commencing machinations aimed at freeing their client via parole next spring, Goodrich could remain imprisoned until 2011.
Once idolized by fans and coddled by coaches, he's now shunned by a society prepared to banish him into everlasting anonymity.
"Dwayne didn't have a bad bone in his body," recalls former Cowboys' teammate and mentor Darren Woodson. "But I knew he was doing some drinking and running hard on the streets. Sooner or later you hoped something clicked with him, because he was a smart guy. But I guess to really slow him down something really bad had to happen."
According to prison officials, Goodrich is a model inmate excited about a post-prison career he hopes includes motivational speaking, coaching and the establishment of college scholarships in his victims' names.
But not all wounds are healing.
"Am I ready to forgive him? No," says Laura Wood, Joseph's mother and now the caretaker for his 7-year-old son, J.J. "I still think about it every day. The thought never leaves my mind that my son is gone because Mr. Goodrich killed him. I don't see any remorse from him. I just know that I'm about to have to explain again to my grandson why his daddy won't be home for Christmas."
Until today—a crisp, clear mid-November afternoon—Goodrich too has refused to talk publicly. But after an exchange of 12 letters in the past eight months, he's allowing the Dallas Observer into his life, into his head and into what he says is a changed heart.
"I learned quickly that in here the hardest part is silence. When your mind sits there and races, that's when it really sucks. So you talk," he says. "In here everybody's got a story, so you can tell the raw, uncut truth, and nobody will think a thing about it. In here I don't have family taking my side or glossing things over. In here, I'm the Cowboy who killed those kids."
Once No. 23 in your Cowboys' program, Dwayne Lewis Goodrich is No. 1384254 in the state penitentiary.
That's him, with the dark eyes, white jumpsuit and—despite replacing the star on his helmet with a scar on his reputation—the surprisingly chipper disposition.
"I've adjusted to this OK," Goodrich says after a firm handshake. "But I'm definitely ready to go home."
Since September 20, 2006—after remaining free on bail during two years of appeals and serving his initial 11 months in Dallas County jail—he's been locked up in Colorado City, a blip of 4,000 along Interstate 20, west of Abilene and next to nowhere. Out here, 250 miles from Dallas, the collars are blue, the necks are red, and if you're not wearing a camouflage cap to lunch at the Dairy Queen, well, you must not be from 'round these perts.