Osage County Looking Into Cold Cases With Help From TV Show
OSAGE COUNTY, Oklahoma - The Osage County Sheriff's Office is looking at some old cold cases thanks to the cable TV show Cold Justice on Oxygen.
Investigators from the TV show were able to team up with the Osage County Sheriff’s Office to solve a 1996 cold case where a woman's body was dumped in Bird Creek.
The woman who they believe committed the crime is now behind bars and the family said they are very relieved to finally have some closure on the case.
Joanne Goodwin's body was found in 1996 by some fisherman walking along Bird Creek.
“It was on top of the water, partially submerged,” said Investigator Kevin Burke from the Osage County Sheriff’s Office.
Burke said there was a home near where the body was found that was burned down, but there weren’t many houses in the area along bird Creek, to begin with.
“There’s still no reason for her to be out here. It wasn’t a place of hangout for anybody, so this whole section started to become a big role,” said Burke.
Investigators worked tirelessly to solve the case.
“You know, they did a good job but never got enough to make an arrest or anything,” said Osage County Sheriff Eddie Virden.
Virden took a second look at the case in the early 2000s but there still wasn't enough evidence to make an arrest.
“As time went on, witnesses, people we interviewed were passing away, and the odds of getting more than we had was slipping away,” said Virden.
Osage County Investigator Dale Hunter, along with Burke, started interviewing witnesses again thanks to some help from the TV show Cold Justice.
They believe that the motive may have been a love triangle gone wrong, but it’s hard to prove.
Witnesses have told them that a man was sleeping with Goodwin and Terry and they believe Terry got jealous.
“This is a bunch of 17-, 18-, 19-year-olds just cruising, mainly on the weekends, and now, all of sudden, the person who is a social butterfly is missing and turns up dead,” said Burke. “It affected this whole community. Some people left that never came back, and, to this day, they don’t come back to Pawhuska because somebody they knew did this to one of their friends.”
Not only did the case have a big impact on the community, but it also had a big impact on Goodwin’s son, Bobby Neighbors, who was 7-months-old at the time of her disappearance.
In a 1996 interview with Goodwin’s Mother, Lavern Neighbors, she said, "Whoever's done this, I want them to see what they've took away from this baby."
Since then, Bobby said he’s been on a mission to find closure.
Back in 2011, he even wrote a letter to his mother’s killer hoping that someone would come forward with more information.
"I think the least I deserve is the truth," Bobby Neighbors said in a 2011 interview with News On 6.
Now, he’s thankful to finally have some closure.
“Somebody is finally being put to justice, and my mom is finally getting the answers we’ve been looking for,” said Neighbors.
Neighbors and the investigators were very thankful to get a phone call from Cold Justice asking if they had any open cases that needed a second look.
“That one was pretty close to my heart because I spent so much time on it, and the family needs justice,” said Virden.
Through Cold Justice, they were able to locate witnesses and provide vehicles with video/audio recording capabilities. Investigators were able to revisit all witnesses that investigators had found, obtain new, recorded statements, and learned of a few new witnesses in the case.
“Cold Justice has brought in so many resources, and experience, and just the capabilities to take us to the places that it took these cases that are seven, eight and one's 22 years old, and we were able to get to the point of talking to the DA and moving forward with them in a week,” said Burke.
Burke was also able to sit down face-to-face with Cherri Terry, who they believe had a big part in Goodwin's murder.
“That was huge in this case, to be able to be in front of her,” said Burke.
And through that conversation, they were finally able to gather enough evidence to ask the Osage County District Attorney to issue a first-degree murder warrant for her arrest, bringing closure to the family and the community that rallied around Joanne Goodwin.
“Family and friends are what made this case a case, and without them, we wouldn’t be standing here today,” said Bobby Neighbors.
“Any time you can close a case out it's very refreshing to the family, to the investigators, to the community,” said Burke.
Cold Justice is also looking into two other cold cases in Osage County. One involves a woman named Donna Wilson who was reported missing in Lakeshore Heights in 2011. Virden said they were investigating a fire when a body was found inside a bus. They said the body was so decomposed that it was hard to identify.
“We had a pretty good idea of a pretty good suspect for seven years in this case, but the problem was positively identifying the victim because the fire was so intense,” said Virden.
Cold Justice was able to come in and do some additional DNA testing that would’ve cost the county $25,000.
“Unfortunately, they didn’t get enough DNA, but through opening that investigation on it, the District Attorney has agreed that we have enough probable cause on that warrant to come down, hopefully, next week,” said Virden.
The other case they asked Cold Justice to look at is the drowning death of Blayne Davis at Diamond Head on U.S. 64 and the county line in 2011. That case was determined to be an accidental drowning with no evidence being found of someone causing Blayne’s death.
The sheriff’s office hopes to revisit cold cases throughout the county to give them a second look.
Virden said it’s hard to tell how many cases they have open right now because there are so many files stacked up in boxes in the office.
He asks if people have any information on any open cases - like Joanne Goodwin’s or Donna Wilson’s - that you call the Osage County Sheriff’s Office at 918-287-3535 so they can take a second look at the case.
“We are eager and willing to work tirelessly on any of these cases, but when you get the opportunity to get more resources and more funding, it’s hard to pass up,” said Virden.
The Osage County Sheriff’s Office said they are very thankful for the additional resources provided by Cold Justice to assist in solving the cases.
The Cold Justice episodes featuring Osage County will air in Season 5, which is set to premiere this fall.