My First Murder Investigation
Still in a state of shock, I shuffled to the back of the gas station. I couldn’t believe the interview I had just finished. I opened the cooler and grabbed a six-pack, replaying the scenes over and over. Walking to the counter, I couldn’t stop staring at my shoes. I hated those shoes — too cheap to be expensive, but too expensive to be casual. They made me look fake, like a guy playing dress up when I put them on. Despite being on the newspaper staff for two months at that point in late 2015, I still felt like I was playing the role of journalist, as opposed to really being one.
At the counter was a foreign attendant. He was the first non-white person I had met since moving to this small town in Virginia. I wondered how many Apu from “The Simpsons” references he hears, either as a joke or maliciously. He asks for my ID. I had shaved my beard in an attempt to look professional, but really it just made me look much younger.
I got back in my car and after a few minutes down the road, looked around to see if I was alone, and opened the first bottle. The smell instantly relaxed me as the bottle lingered at my lips. I took a drink and tried to process what had just happened. Let’s start from the beginning.
. . .
I was still new to the area, so I was easily lost. I had driven past Cary Good’s house, and had to swing back around. As I sat down on his couch, I gave my shoes a disgusted glance. I felt so out of place in my black pants and tucked in button-up. The clothes were still wearing me, as opposed to the other way around.
Cary had called the office a few days earlier and left a message for my editor. He wanted us to write a follow-up article about his daughter, Rachel Good, who had disappeared in 2003, 12 years ago at that point. She was presumed dead, and had been legally declared so in 2010. (I guess still unsure of my journalistic skills, my editor would occasionally try to test me. Instead of giving me the man’s number and telling me to call him, I had to sit in his office and take notes as the voicemail plays. Then he asked me what the number was. Passing the test, I was off to see if this was a story worth exploring.)
I looked at Cary, then 65, and my heart went out to him. Overweight, elderly, broken down, each step seemed like a monumental task for him. He settled into his recliner and didn’t move for the hour-plus I was there. For some reason, the Ice Cube film “Next Friday” was on the television, and I felt uncomfortable asking him if we could turn the volume down. A small yappy dog ran to me. Cary and his wife both yelled for the dog, Gracie, to leave me alone. “It’s fine,” I said, giving a courtesy pet and pretending that I like dogs.
It was time to get to business. I held up my notepad and pointed to what I had written. “I researched this before I came over, but this is all the information I have.” Cary smiled, and attempted to sit up a little more in his chair. “I’ll tell you anything you wanna know. Can I get you some coffee?”
. . .
Several miles down the road, I looked around again and saw nothing but asphalt, open fields, and mountains. I put down the window and threw the first bottle out. It hit the grass with a thud and kept rolling as I cracked open another. The first had gone down quickly, and I was going to let the second linger. I was starting to come down from the rush of the interview. I enjoyed speaking with this man, but maybe I couldn’t handle the pressure of what we were talking about. This wasn’t a town council meeting or a ribbon cutting; things I usually spent my days reporting. This was a murder.
. . .
Cary paused to process his thoughts. I stared at my shoes. I looked up as he began talking. “There was never no problems out of her; it’s just a sad story,” the grieving father said about his daughter, Rachel. “There’s a lot of stuff going on; I’ve heard we have enough on this guy to hang him, but they’re afraid to try it without a body.” (“This guy” is Adam Williams, the man who was dating Rachel at the time of her disappearance. We’ll get to him shortly.)
Cary and Brenda Good were married in the late ’60s, and had two children — Rachel in 1983 and a few years later her brother, Adam. The two ended their marriage around 1990. It was not a friendly divorce, and they had not been on good terms for years leading up to the split and since. Cary is matter-of-fact, but remorseful when remembering the past with his children.
“I won’t say I was a bad father, but I was a truck driver,” Cary said. “I stayed gone.”
Cary paints a rough life for his two children with their mother, especially after the divorce. “Rachel called me on many a night; not once or twice, but many a night. I would ask what’s wrong and she would say ‘Mama’s new husband took everything out of my room, I’m sleeping on the floor, and there’s nothing in the fridge to eat.'”
As Rachel got older, she began associating with the wrong crowd. “I have no idea who she was with most days,” Cary said. “She had some friends, and she had some rowdy friends. You know how young girls are.”
As often happens to a young woman with no direction or parental guidance, Rachel got pregnant. By the time of her disappearance at age 20, Rachel was a mother of three. And, it is believed by many close to her that she was pregnant with a fourth.
Cary paints a confusing picture of his daughter toward the end. He believed her to be getting her life back on track, but also notes that she was asking him for money. An October 2003 evening, she called and asked to borrow $100.
“I told her I’ll give it to you and you won’t have to pay me back,” Cary said.
The $100 did come with a small catch, though. “I said, ‘Now, listen, if you ain’t in church on Sunday, don’t ask me for no more money.'”
Rachel showed up to church that Sunday, October 12. It was the last time Cary ever saw his daughter. During their final meeting, Cary and Rachel talked about the new man in her life.
“She said, ‘Daddy, I’m dating a policeman. You want to hear him?’ She pulled her phone out and I heard his voice [on a voicemail]: ‘Rachel, how you doing? Just wanted to say hey.'”
The man on the voicemail was Adam Williams. Cary thinks they had been dating for three or four months at the time of her disappearance. “And, we believe he was the father,” Cary said of the pregnancy.
Rachel was last seen by anybody on Saturday, October 18, 2003. When she disappeared, Cary thinks the case was compromised from the start. They were not public with their relationship at the time — as Adam was married. The officer assigned to Rachel’s case? Adam Williams.
. . .
Everybody at the office had gone home for the day, so I didn’t feel too uncomfortable sitting at my desk with a 4-beer buzz. I plugged in my headphones and began listening to my interview with Cary over again. “Next Friday” was a little too loud in the background, but I could still hear him clearly.
I stared at my notes as the last couple hours swirled around in my head. This seemed too insane to actually be true. The first four days of the investigation into Rachel’s disappearance, the case was being handled by her secret lover, Adam Williams.
That is such a clear conflict of interest. And, it would be one thing if Adam’s superiors weren’t aware of the relationship. But, why had he not said anything? Why did he not alert them to the fact that he was romantically involved with this woman? The speculation, of course, is that he used those four days to cover up his tracks.
I listened back to Cary describing his phone call with Adam a couple weeks after the disappearance, asking to meet at a McDonald’s to talk about the case. “He said okay, but never showed up.”
. . .
“We get leads all the time, like the lead on Lake Arrowhead,” Cary sadly stated. “We heard that she’s in a well in Lake Arrowhead. They went down and found the well, and it had been covered up two or three years ago. It would cost astronomical amounts to dig it up so we could find the body.”
When I asked for a dollar figure, he said it would be in the neighborhood of $10,000 to $12,000. “I ain’t got that kind of money,” he added. (Being new to the area, hearing “Lake Arrowhead” did nothing to me, but I later learned that it was only a couple miles from my apartment.)
The house on the land adjacent to the well had its basement completely remodeled right at the same time his daughter disappeared, Cary said. He does not believe it was a coincidence. “Maybe she was killed in the basement, and then thrown into the well?”
The other theory involves Adam’s father, who lives in Florida. And news of the affair coming to light could have been a motive.
“I don’t think Adam’s wife knew what was going on,” Cary said. “Rachel may have threatened, ‘I’m gonna tell your wife, I’m gonna tell everybody,’ so Adam called his father and hatched it out.”
Shortly after everything went down, Adam left Virginia. Cary called Adam’s parents in Florida, and spoke on the phone with the mother. She told him that Adam’s father would usually make a trip to Virginia in April or May, but in 2003 he made the trip in October — which is when Rachel disappeared.
“I think that his father orchestrated it all,” Cary said. “If it wasn’t the well, I feel like Adam said ‘Hey, Rachel, let’s drive to Florida.’ So, they went to Florida, killed her, and threw her in the swamp with the alligators.”
All Cary knows for sure is that he knows nothing for sure. “We’ve had so many leads, and then it all just goes and dies in a corner. I don’t have the money to do all this. I wish I did.”
While Cary wants this case wrapped up and some sort of closure for his family, he does realize that these things take time. “I would rather take 25 years and get him, than try to get him in 10 and mess up.”
. . .
The next day, I’m in my editor’s office telling him about my interview with Cary, in addition to a phone call with Cary’s attorney, Brad Pollack. Pollack went over the timeline of things with me, and summed it up by saying he was very sad for Cary and his family.
I explained to to my editor that while Adam had never formally been charged with Rachel’s murder, there have been attempts at a wrongful death lawsuit brought against him. Nothing has been successful so far, and the case technically remains active.
After hearing everything, the editor asked me his most important question: “Is there anything new?” He was intrigued by the Lake Arrowhead development, but much less so when he learned that the well was closed off.
We looked at what we had — a 12-year-old murder mystery a few towns over with no new developments. The only hook was the anniversary. The newspaper opted for a “hyper-local” approach to news, which basically meant if it didn’t happen in this county, we didn’t cover it. And, while Cary lived in the readership area, this case was technically a few counties over.
I was still too new to put my foot down and fight for something I believed in. The editor said no, so we didn’t give it any coverage.
. . .
As I reflect, I can see that talking to Cary back then and the little bit of work I did on this article at the time changed me in many ways. It helped me grow up. I could no longer be the dumb, anxious kid staring at his shoes. This wasn’t a town council meeting with a 30-minute debate over zoning regulations. This was a real issue — a father lost his daughter, and three children lost their mother. Had I been allowed to cover the story properly in 2015, this would have been a huge responsibility, and I hope I would have been ready for it.
The sad reality is that Rachel’s body will likely never be found. Whoever killed her will get away with it. Her children, who are becoming adults, will never know their mother and might not even have any memories to which they can cling. And, Cary, all he has left are memories.
After I left the meeting with my editor, I called Cary and told him we weren’t going any further with the article. I could tell he was upset, but told me he understood.
“Thank you for listening to me and trying to help,” he said.
Latest in the Rachel Good case, from the Associated Press in 2018: “Missing woman’s father frustrated by 14-year-old case”