Cornerback Dwayne Goodrich: "The Cowboy Who Killed Those Kids"

Former cornerback Dwayne Goodrich comes to grips with his hit-and-run of three Good Samaritans as he plans for life after prison

Goodrich, after an afternoon of PlayStation videogames with teammate and boyhood buddy Bashir Yamini at his Coppell home, decided to venture out into the clear, cool night. First to the Olive Garden on Highway 183, then to The Lodge gentlemen's club on Northwest Highway and finally to Silver City Cabaret at Interstate 35 and Mockingbird Lane.  

Goodrich says he had five mixed drinks in four hours, but only water in the final two hours at Silver City.  

"I know the perception is that I was drunk," he says. "I'd probably think that too if I heard some dude ran over three people. I'd think he was drunk off his ass. But I wasn't."  

Trying times: On August 15, 2003, criminal defense attorney Doug Fletcher (left) stood by Goodrich as the jury returned its guilty verdict after six hours of deliberation.
AP Photo/Kim Ritzenthaler
Trying times: On August 15, 2003, criminal defense attorney Doug Fletcher (left) stood by Goodrich as the jury returned its guilty verdict after six hours of deliberation.
Good times: At the University of Tennessee, Goodrich was named MVP in the Volunteers' 1999 National Championship Game victory over Florida State. His proud father, Walter Goodrich, attended the post-game celebration.
Good times: At the University of Tennessee, Goodrich was named MVP in the Volunteers' 1999 National Championship Game victory over Florida State. His proud father, Walter Goodrich, attended the post-game celebration.

As he left Silver City just after 2 a.m. and headed toward Interstate 35, Goodrich's 2002 silver BMW 745i made a light that caught Yamini.  

"If I would've ran that yellow, who knows?" Yamini would later say. "It could've just as easily been me as Dwayne."  

While Goodrich sped north toward 635—admittedly driving his normal 85 mph—up ahead the deadly dominoes began falling.   

Driving a 2002 black Mitsubishi Galant with a suspended license, no insurance and opened beer cans in the back seat, Frederick Lamont Person—a 27-year-old male with a Garland address—clipped the rear end of an 18-wheeler in the far right lane of I-35, according to the Dallas Police Department's accident report. The collision, at 2:05 a.m., sent Person's car careening across the freeway 220 feet and into the concrete median, which catapulted it another 60 feet before it came to rest diagonally in the far left lane.  

With Person unconscious from the impact, his car's engine burst into flames.  

Matthews and Wood, who were in the same car, and Josef parked their vehicles on the right shoulder of I-35's Merrell overpass, ironically, just across from SpeedZone. As they scrambled for a sharp object to cut Person from his seat belt and out of the burning car, Goodrich barreled toward them.  

Driving in the second lane and closely following a Nissan Pathfinder driven by a Silver City dancer ("Total coincidence," says Fletcher), Goodrich claims he never saw the pileup. When the SUV slammed on its brakes, he violently swerved to the left.  

"Next thing I know there's a car on fire and nowhere for me to go," Goodrich calmly explains. "So I go to the left, between the car and the wall. I was so concentrating to make sure the left side of my car didn't scrape the wall that I never saw what I hit. Deep down I probably knew, but my mind wouldn't let me believe that I'd just run over a person. I panicked. After that it's really fuzzy, like my subconscious has blocked it out."

Goodrich, who later testified at trial that he thought he'd struck "debris," reiterates today that he didn't see any of his three victims. "You see a car on fire like that," he explains, "and the last thing you'd think is that people would be standing around it. I was focused on avoiding a wreck myself. I never saw them."

Photos of the scene depict horrifying carnage.  

Though witnesses claimed Goodrich was going 100 mph, the state's accident reconstruction expert at trial estimated that Goodrich's car slammed into the three Good Samaritans and the Mitsubishi's driver door at 54 mph, in the process crushing Josef's leg, momentarily embedding Wood's head into his BMW's windshield, and impaling Matthews on the hood and depositing him 155 feet up the freeway. The impact of the collision knocked the jeans, shirts and shoes off the two fatalities.   

Matthews was pronounced dead at the scene by the medical examiner. Wood died at Parkland Hospital three hours later.  

Investigators found hair and blood under the weather stripping around Goodrich's windshield and human tissue lodged into the right headlight. All Goodrich left behind was his right mirror.  

"It was total chaos," recalled Yamini who immediately came upon the wreckage. "Cars were on fire. People were running all over the highway. It was hard to tell what was going on. I saw two bodies laying on the road, and the first thing I thought, 'Where's D?'"  

Yamini arrived at Goodrich's house to find his friend dazed, kneeling in his driveway. When he saw the condition of the BMW, he knew. But he wasn't sure Goodrich did.   

"You hear these eerie stories about people going into shock," says Yamini, now a corporate IT specialist in Dallas. "He was shaking like he was in a freezer or something. He was mumbling, almost speaking in tongues."  

After Goodrich gained some composure, Yamini drove him back to the scene, which had been mostly cleared away. He returned Goodrich home where he phoned his mother, the Cowboys and a lawyer. News of the two fatalities had hit the local morning TV. As Goodrich prepared to leave his house to turn himself in—21 hours after the accident—police officers, led to him by the serial number on his mirror, showed up at his door. Person, meanwhile, was treated for minor injuries at Parkland, released and—despite Goodrich's lawyers hiring private investigators to locate him—never heard from again.

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