STANFORD — With Minnie Goode watching, the four deaf women accused of plotting her murder entered “not guilty” pleas Friday in Lincoln Circuit Court in their first court appearance in what is likely to be a challenging case for the court system.
Judge David Tapp, aided by interpreter Marva Johnson, assigned public defenders to each of the defendants and set up guidelines going forward. Each of the women will be provided an interpreter certified by the state Administrative Office of the Courts for every lawyer conference and court appearance, and the AOC will pick up the tab, Tapp ordered.
“This is a matter of some significance and we need to get it tried,” the judge said.
Jessica N. Callahan, 27, of Danville and Autumn Drass, 23, Taquisa Horton, 27 and Kerry L. Zamara, 23, all of Columbus, Ohio, were each indicted last month for criminal attempt to murder in an alleged plot to stab Goode, 82, to death inside her Hustonville home on July 3. Police allege Callahan was the ringleader of the conspiracy, motivated to settle a score in a convoluted lesbian lovers’ quarrel.
Drass and Horton also were indicted on a count of first-degree burglary for allegedly being armed with knives when they broke into Goode’s home, and third-degree assault for allegedly attempting to injure Hustonville Police Chief Fred McCoy when he responded to the burglary call. Callahan and Zamara also were indicted for complicity in the burglary for allegedly being involved in planning the break-in.
Tapp left each woman’s bond at $100,000 and remanded them to jail. He strongly cautioned the women not to have contact or communication with any potential witnesses in the case should any of them make bond.
Goode, who admitted to being a bit bewildered after watching the 45-minute arraignment, said afterward she was “kind of nervous” and worried the women might be released from custody.
“I just thank the Lord for not being there that day,” Goode said.
According to police, the four women drove to Goode’s home that afternoon and went to the rear, where two windows were broken to gain entry. Callahan and Zamara then left in the vehicle. A neighbor’s suspicions were aroused and he called police. When McCoy arrived, he found Drass at the back door threatening him with a butcher knife. Horton also was inside and police said they found an additional knife.
Lincoln Sheriff Curt Folger, who later arrived with two deputies to back up McCoy, contends the two women were lying in wait to stab Goode to death when she returned home. Goode said she was visiting her grandchildren that day.
According to Folger, text messages and pictures recovered from Drass’s cell phone implicate the women in the murder plot. The sheriff declined to discuss the specific content of the phone exchanges, but said one was a plea sent after Drass and Horton had been taken into custody to delete all incriminating messages and photos from the phone.
After leaving Goode’s home with Callahan, Zamara grew scared and called a family member to bring her back to Ohio, Folger said. He was able to contact Zamara and she returned to Lincoln County for an interview, providing background information and other details that helped Folger piece together his theory of the alleged murder scheme.
Because she cooperated with authorities, Zamara was not immediately arrested. She was allowed to remain in Ohio until Friday’s arraignment, after which she was taken into custody. She is expected to testify against the others in a deal with prosecutors for a reduced charge.
According to Folger, Callahan sought revenge against her former lover, Debra Goode, Minnie Goode’s daughter. Debra Goode was helping Callahan’s then-current flame, Bridget Paige, escape from an abusive relationship and Callahan decided to retaliate against Debra Goode by killing her mother, Folger contends.
Minnie Goode said Friday that she did not know the Ohio women but was surprised to learn that Callahan allegedly wanted her dead.
“I know Jessica. When Jessica came down to visit with my daughter, she was friendly. I can’t understand why this was happening,” Minnie Goode said.
Folger and others familiar with Callahan’s reputation, however, describe her as mean and manipulative. Records at the Boyle County Courthouse reveal Callahan has had a troubled past dating back to 2005, when she was indicted for felony theft and pled guilty after it was reduced to a misdemeanor. Additional criminal charges involve both Debra Goode and Paige, according to court documents.
Court records show Callahan has been party to at least a dozen domestic violence cases and allegations of terroristic threatening and other misdemeanors involving men, women and family members. One case in 2008 shows Callahan was convicted of domestic violence assault against Debra Goode. A domestic violence complaint filed by Paige in 2010 was dismissed on July 5 — two days after police were called to Minnie Goode’s home in Hustonville — and Family Court Judge Bruce Petrie issued a no contact order.
Callahan is currently under indictment in Boyle County for third-degree rape on allegations she had sexual intercourse with a male under the age of 16 as an ongoing course of conduct between August 2008 and June 2009. She was out on bond on that charge when the alleged events in Hustonville took place. A¿status hearing on that case is scheduled for Oct. 2.
Callahan is also scheduled to be arraigned that day in Boyle Circuit Court on an indictment last month charging her with felony counts of identity theft and theft more than $500 for allegedly using Paige’s identifying information to withdraw $680 from Paige’s bank account on July 2, the day before the alleged murder plot was uncovered.
The extent of the relationship between Callahan and the Ohio women is unclear. Folger said they apparently met via the Internet and that Callahan visited them at least once in Columbus in the weeks just prior to the break-in at Goode’s home.
In trying to establish a timetable for the attempted murder case, Judge Tapp set Nov. 9 for a pretrial conference and wanted to set Jan. 7 as the trial date. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Carol Hill suggested a trial might last two days but defense attorneys thought a whole week should be set aside due to the hearing impairments of the defendants.
Other matters could delay the proceedings. Public defender Jenny Sanders, who represents Horton, said she will seek a competency hearing for her client to determine if she has the mental ability to aid in her defense, a process that usually takes at least 60 days. Other attorneys mentioned that their clients may seek to be tried individually rather than as a group.
“It’s going to get complicated,” said Matt Walter, who was assigned to represent Drass.