BUTLER COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) — Connie Goodwin woke up on the morning of Saturday, Sept. 17, determined to bring her son home and bring an end to seven years of heartache and family grief.
Her son, Edward Goodwin, was murdered in the summer of 2015. His murder went unsolved for two years until a break in the case led to arrests and, eventually, convictions of the men responsible.
But this was not the closure the Goodwin family needed. Edward Goodwin’s remains were still out in the wilderness. But Connie Goodwin says the Butler County Sheriff’s Department knew where her son was located and dragged its feet for years in retrieving his remains.
After waiting for authorities to act, Connie Goodwin decided she’d had enough and, with the help of her family, got her son back.
Connie Goodwin said her son was a self-employed tile layer and hard worker. He was a good son and better father, she said. He and his ex-wife had two children together: a son and a daughter.
Edward Goodwin was last seen on June 29, 2015. When he missed a Fourth of July family gathering, his mother reported him missing the following day.
For two years, the Goodwins had no idea where he was. By October and November 2017, both Connie Goodwin and local law enforcement came to believe Eldrid Smith and Rickey Hurt were responsible for Edward Goodwin’s disappearance and death, though Connie Goodwin disagrees with Sheriff Mark Dobbs on the motive for the crime.
By November, the sheriff’s department was told Edward Goodwin had been dumped in a small, private pond. Authorities partially drained the pond and found human hip bones, a femur bone and some ribs, Connie Goodwin said.
Medical testing confirmed the bones were those of Edward Goodwin.
Both Smith and Hurt pleaded guilty in 2021 to second-degree murder charges in his death. At present, Smith is serving a 12-year sentence at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, and Hurt is serving 18 years at Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri.
Connie Goodwin says Sheriff Dobbs promised her family that law enforcement would return to the pond to search for the rest of her son’s remains.
So the Goodwin family waited — for five years.
Connie Goodwin said she got the run-around when she asked for updates from the sheriff’s department. She said they gave her a litany of reasons for the delay: other investigations, inclement weather, not having the necessary equipment at the moment, or waiting on the Missouri State Highway Patrol for assistance.
“How can a parent go on thinking about leaving the rest behind is beyond me,” she said.
In fall 2021, the sheriff’s department attempted to drain the pond but did not get enough water to recover any remains. At one point, Connie Goodwin said authorities told her coyotes had taken the rest of her son’s remains, but she refused to acknowledge that.
On Sept. 16, she and her husband rented a sump pump of their own to drain the pond themselves. The following morning, they were joined by their daughter, as well as their grandson Gage Goodwin — Edward Goodwin’s son — on the trip to the pond.
The Goodwins arrived at 8 a.m. By 8:30 a.m., they started pumping the water out. Connie Goodwin said the family could see bones sticking up through the water by 10:30 a.m. She contacted Butler County Coroner Jim Akers around 12:30 p.m. to tell him they were getting her son’s remains.
Akers sped to the site by himself and arrived within 10 minutes of the phone call, Connie Goodwin said. By then, her grandson was in a kayak in the middle of the pond. Akers waded out in knee-high mud to pull the bones from the muck.
The county coroner recovered several large bones from the mud as well as a skull. He passed some of the bones to Gage Goodwin, who was then pulled back to shore in the kayak.
The coroner and Gage Goodwin also retrieved cinder blocks and barbed wire from the mud that had been used as a makeshift anchor to submerge Edward Goodwin’s body.
Connie Goodwin said Akers was very professional under the circumstances, describing him as an “honest man.” However, she has less-than-kind words for the sheriff’s department and former county coroner.
She said the Butler County Sheriff’s Department’s inaction denied her son justice and her family closure for five unnecessary years.
“Edward was stripped from his rights. And to be treated like this is inhumane,” she told KTVI.
Connie Goodwin said her son’s remains have been cremated, and she expected to get his ashes back as early as Tuesday.