By the Book

It was almost midnight when the banged-up Dodge Neon began weaving from one lane to another along North Central Expressway, traveling so slowly that it was impeding the normal flow of traffic. As the car approached the Lovers Lane exit, it barely escaped a collision with a fast-moving 18-wheeler, then another passenger car. Finally it had come to a stop in a middle lane of the freeway.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Patrol Officer Joe Alejandro, nearing the end of his shift and assuming he'd happened on yet another Sunday drunken driver, quickly got on his public address microphone and ordered the driver off the freeway and onto an access road.

All of which made that July night last year pretty routine for the 30-year-old DART cop whose duties generally ranged no wider than patrolling the routes of buses and trains, checking the transit system's parking lots for lurking burglars, making certain things were safe and orderly at bus stations and responding to occasional calls that a rider was creating some manner of disturbance. While transit police have no criminal investigation department, and thus are subordinated to local police in the event any possible felony is detected, Officer Alejandro, concerned for travelers' safety, chose to make the traffic stop.

Initially, the bearded driver, stocky and wearing glasses, identified himself as Lonnie Joe Lee, yet the photograph on the drivers license that he produced was obviously of someone 20 years younger. As the suspicious officer questioned the man about his identity, he became aware of a cloying, deathlike odor coming from inside the car and could see that all the floorboard carpeting had been removed. When he noticed a knife on the passenger seat, Alejandro sent out a backup call to oft-times partner Billy Rawlinson.

Alejandro had just ordered the driver, whom he would later describe as "creepy calm," from his car and was handcuffing him as Rawlinson arrived. Both officers' suspicions grew following a routine pat-down during which they found eight different drivers licenses, wrapped by a rubber band, in the front pocket of the baggy jeans the 58-year-old man was wearing.

The driver soon admitted he'd lied about his name and said he was, in fact, Jerry Thomas Goad, then gave the officers permission to search his car. Leaning into the foul-smelling backseat, they found a Remington 30-06 rifle loosely wrapped in newspapers and a Colt .22 revolver inside a small canvas bag. There appeared to be specks of dried blood on the stock of the rifle, which had one spent round in its chamber. Rawlinson then discovered that the license plates on the front and back of the car did not match.

A computer check soon revealed Goad had not only been convicted of no less than eight felonies over a 20-year period, but that he was wanted by authorities in Smith County in East Texas for questioning in an investigation into the recent disappearance of a 26-year-old Tyler woman named Stacey Jones. The DART officers gave Goad his Miranda warning then placed him under arrest for unlawful possession of the firearms. Alejandro got on his phone, contacting his supervisors, the Smith County sheriff's office and the Dallas police.

The quiet Sunday night was quickly evolving into a bizarre and ghoulish tale better suited for a Stephen King novel; one that would, for the next 14 months, involve the officers, causing one of them unexpected grief and, ultimately, justice for which neither would receive much credit.

As he had sat watching over Goad in his patrol car, awaiting the arrival of Dallas police officers, Rawlinson felt a growing uneasiness as his prisoner talked nonstop in a ramble of soft-spoken unfinished sentences. He had, he explained, been attempting to involve himself in an automobile accident that would end his life. It was a suicide plan he'd arrived at while recently staying at a Carrollton motel. When it had been interrupted by Alejandro's order to pull over and stop, he had briefly considered retrieving the rifle from the backseat and pointing it at the officer as he approached, hoping to force him to use deadly force.

He bragged of being a boyhood friend of Charles Harrelson, the man convicted of the murder of U.S. Judge John Wood in San Antonio, of his connections with the Las Vegas Binion family and his past role as an informant for the FBI. The odor in his car, he explained, was the result of having carried a dead dog he'd run over in his trunk for several days before disposing of it.

And Goad repeatedly spoke of someone named Stacey, whom he referred to as his "girlfriend." "We went as far as we could," he told the officer, "and it had to be done...She woke me up and told me, 'You've got to do it.' I loved her, and I respected her...See, I was supposed to kill myself, but it didn't work out that way..."