Connie Goodwin never imagined she’d have to bury her son, Edward. After his murder, she knew she needed to bury him the way she’d brought him into this world: whole.
But it wasn’t so simple. Butler County Sheriff’s Office found just 40 per cent of 32-year-old Edward Goodwin’s remains in a pond in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, in 2017 — two years after he was killed and his body was wrapped with barbed wire and concrete blocks to ensure it would sink.
Forty per cent was not enough for Ms Goodwin, but it was enough to make a case against his killers. The sheriff’s office moved on with the investigation, promising Ms Goodwin, her husband Ed and Edward’s son Gage, who was 15 at the time, that they’d return to retrieve the rest of the body eventually, Ms Goodwin told The Independent.
For two long years, Ms Goodwin and her family hoped for closure, but the version of justice that law enforcement gave them fell short, she said. The two men who took her son’s life were arrested, prosecuted and convicted, and yet, 60 per cent of Edward remained on the bottom of that partially drained pond.
“It was either the weather was [too] hot or [too] cold, or there was no manpower, [or they were] waiting in the highway department to get caught up,” Ms Goodwin said in an interview on Friday. Finally, after five years of empty promises by the Butler County Sheriff, she decided to drain the pond to recover the rest of Edward’s remains.
“We had to, I wasn’t going through another winter without finding my son,” she said.
On 17 September, Ms Goodwin, her husband and her grandson went to the pond off County Road 572 with pump equipment they had rented the day before.
“We were there at 8am, hooked the pump up by 8.30am and by 10.30am we were seeing my son’s bones sticking up in the water. We kept pumping and then saw the cinder blocks and bobwire,” she said.
Ms Goodwin then called Butler County Coroner Jim Akers, who hurried to the scene and got into the mud to help Gage retrieve the bones. It only took five hours to find the rest, she said.
“When I messaged Akers Saturday, he was shocked and was on the scene in 10 minutes,” Ms Goodwin said.
Ms Goodwin said it was “a sad day and a day of relief as well.” A day that she had been waiting for for seven long years of unanswered pleas and phone calls to the Butler County Sheriff’s Mark Dobbs.
The excuses about why the department could not retrieve the remains were varied, Ms Goodwin said.
”We were told there were no more remains in that pond due to animals carrying them to fox dens,” she told The Independent. “The last time I talked to Mark Dobbs was August 29, 2021. I’ve called and called and he’s never in the office, they say.”
Ms Goodwin said that after several messages sent to Mr Dobb’s Facebook account, she was blocked from sending more. The Independent’s requests for comment to the Butler County Sheriff’s Office are yet to be answered.
“Nothing happened, then a day before Veterans Day last year they went and pumped for four hours and told us they would be back in the morning and never showed,” Ms Goodwin said.
The sheriff’s office said they did not return to drain the pond because they did not have the required equipment to conduct the retrieval, People first reported.
“The highway department has all the equipment they need and use [to recover remains.] I called the main guy out there and he said he hasn’t talked to Mark Dobbs. They said all [the sheriff] has to do is get an order and it will be done,” Ms Goodwin claimed.
“I was promised then and at the so-called trial on 9 August 2021 that we will have our son’s remains in two weeks if we agreed to the plea bargain [the killers took].”
Two people were charged with Edward’s murder, his once close friends Ricky Hurt and Eldred Smit. Their charges were downgraded to second-degree murder and they were sentenced to 18 and 12 years in prison, KWOC reported.
Determined to close a painful chapter in her life and bring peace to her son’s soul, Ms Goodwin and her husband rented the pump equipment they needed to drain the pond, which was significantly smaller after it was first drained in 2017 by authorities.
“I couldn’t bury him till I had all I could find. Forty per cent wasn’t enough. And I couldn’t live knowing where the rest was when I did know due to the findings in 2017,” Ms Goodwin told The Independent.
Ms Goodwin said nobody from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office has reached out to her to offer apologies about the delay in finding the rest of Edward’s remains.
“I haven’t heard from no one, except the coroner, who back then he wasn’t the coroner.
On Friday, Ms Goodwin received the totality of Edward’s remains from the funeral home.
Although she’s not ready to bury her son just yet, Ms Goodwin said, she is relieved she can offer closure to her husband and grandson.