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

The Victims  

While he sits here in prison, Goodrich's meter is running. Interest is compounding on a $6 million civil judgment awarded Josef and the Wood family in August 2006, these days running the tab upward of $9 million. A Dallas County jury found Goodrich negligent in the two deaths, but cleared Silver City and The Lodge of any responsibility. Laura Wood received a $5.3 million judgment and Josef $755,000. The Matthews family settled out of court.   

If he chose, Goodrich could have those debts to Josef, the families of Matthews and Wood, and any other creditors discharged in bankruptcy. Imprisoned Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick did it, why not Goodrich?  

"I know the perception is that I was drunk. 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."
Mark Graham
"I know the perception is that I was drunk. 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."
Former Dallas Cowboy Dwayne Goodrich is serving a 12.5-year sentence in the Wallace Unit in Colorado City for negligent homicide and failure to stop and render aid.
Mark Graham
Former Dallas Cowboy Dwayne Goodrich is serving a 12.5-year sentence in the Wallace Unit in Colorado City for negligent homicide and failure to stop and render aid.

"I don't want to run from my responsibilities," he says. "Do I have any money to pay anyone? No. But I plan to do what I can."   

Barring a lucrative NFL comeback or a lucky lottery ticket, it's unlikely Goodrich will amass enough cash to fully pay the victims, who in 2004 were awarded national Carnegie Medals for their extraordinary heroism.  

Says Fletcher, "Nothing would make him happier than being able to provide for the people who depended on those who were taken away."  

Goodrich paid for both funerals and his Allstate insurance policy paid its limit, giving each victim $100,000. (Because Goodrich was never proven to be intoxicated, more lucrative lawsuits against the parent companies of Olive Garden, The Lodge and Silver City were dismissed.) Before depositions were taken in the civil case, Goodrich sat on a park bench outside Fletcher's office with Laura Wood and offered a face-to-face apology.

But only Josef, who escaped death because he was inside the Mitsubishi with only his leg dangling out, seems willing to forgive. With Goodrich already behind bars but appearing in a Dallas courtroom for his failure-to-render-aid sentencing, Josef—walking painfully with a cane after five surgeries—stepped down from the witness stand and embraced him with a long hug. "I forgive you," Josef told Goodrich. "I'm sorry for you."  

Matthews' mother, Deloris, on the other hand, refuses to forgive Goodrich, convinced he was intoxicated the night he killed her son. "I believe he was drunk and on some type of drugs," she says from her home in East Texas. "He says he wasn't, but that's bullshit. I'm not going to help him get out of prison. I think he should serve his full time."

Laura Wood, who along with Josef lobbied prosecutors to seek stacked sentences, remains vocal in the fact that she keeps tabs on Goodrich in order to protect the interests of her grandson, J.J.   

"I have bad thoughts, horrible nightmares, about how my son died," Wood says. "But my main concern is my grandson. I feel like Mr. Goodrich owes him, not me. So far he hasn't as much as bought him a pair of shoes."

The Family  

A hard-working group that made ends meet in a modest Chicago neighborhood, the Goodrich family also has experienced its share of heartache.

Dwayne's parents divorced when he was in college. His oldest brother, James, just finished 10 years in an Alabama prison on drug charges and brother "Shank" died in a motorcycle accident in 2004.

 "We were always really close, all of us," Goodrich says. "It's been tough on me. Tough on everyone. Everything's come down on my mom pretty hard. Through it all she's been a rock."  

Dwayne's plight hit the family particularly hard. He was the youngest but most naturally gifted of his siblings. Whether he chased his dream of being an FBI agent or followed his natural attraction to a childhood plastic Hutch football helmet, no one doubted he'd be successful.    

"He was the easiest kid to raise because he had direction," says Pam, who makes the trek from Tampa to the Wallace Unit twice a year. "I always believed in him. Still do. But I'll be honest, this is the most devastating thing I've ever experienced."   

Other than a 1999 disorderly conduct arrest in Knoxville in which charges were quickly dropped, Goodrich never found trouble until Dallas. He had friends among the Cowboys but mostly kept to himself, apparently saving his charming persona for after hours. He's fathered two children—Jillian, 6, and Dylan, 3—from different mothers.  

"He's a great person and a good dad, and he'll be an even better one after going through all this," says Jillian's mom, Inetra Nelson, an elementary school teacher in McKinney. "While he's been in there, Jillian has learned how to write. When she sent him her first letter, I think it hit him pretty hard about what he's missing."  

Goodrich receives regular visits from his family, except Dad. "As a parent you never want to see your kid suffer any undue hardships," Walter says. "Walking away and leaving him in that place...it was very painful."  

Walter says he has difficulty leaving his job at a Chicago railroad for any length of time, and there's no doubt he harbors ill feelings about the entire episode. He attended Goodrich's trial, but stormed out before it concluded. "He wasn't treated fairly, and I couldn't take that," he says. "There was a loss of life, and he's truly sorry for that. We all are. But that shouldn't cost him all this time in prison. It just never made sense to me."

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