Three cover-ups at Shelby Sheriff Dept.

Sherry Goodman murdered by deputy

On Friday July 26th 1996, a Shelby sheriff’s deputy was shot at Thomas and Weakly in North Memphis. 

(We updated this post on 4/3/2019 See End).
According to a Commercial Appeal report quoting Sheriff AC Gilless statement of Friday 26th, printed two days later, Deputy Sherry Hopper Goodman (38) made a traffic stop at 2:18 AM in Frayser, and arrested Roderick D. Cobb, reportedly for violating probation.   A second deputy, Duane Noffsinger, pulled up, helped search Cobb for weapons and place him, handcuffed behind his back, in the back of Deputy Goodman’s cruiser.   Deputy Noffsinger departed on another call, and, at 2:59 AM, Deputy Goodman drove via Danny Thomas, US 51, to bring Mr. Cobb to 201 Poplar.

SherryHopperGoodman
Deputy Sherry Goodman

Goodman’s crashed cruiser was found at Thomas and Weakley, which is about seven minutes or 3.9 miles from the Carrolton and Creston traffic stop.   The crash was reported by a civilian fifteen minutes after the cruiser left the traffic stop.

Goodman was dead on the scene, with multiple bullet wounds to the left side of her head, and Roderick Cobb was gone, according to the CA.   Goodman’s service weapon was missing and a .38 revolver was reportedly found on the front seat.  Sheriff AC Gilless’ account ended at this point and no theory of the crime was offered that would have allowed Cobb to shoot the deputy while unarmed and handcuffed behind his back.

Subsequently, from  Shelby Sheriff Official History:   The prisoner was apprehended 8 hours later, convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Roderick Cobb was arrested after 10:00 AM at a friend’s house near where he lived with his mother and sister in Whitehaven.   He was badly beaten up by law enforcement on his way to 201 Poplar, and was denied visitors for three months.

Cover-up One: How we found the Cobb case.

Earley_Story_H&S
Deputy Earley Story

We found a cover-up in the Sheriff’s office.   Earley Story was falsely arrested and convicted of selling weed to confidential informant CI#2282, Alfredo Shaw.   In a separate case, Tony Carruthers was tried and condemned to death in a trial where Shaw also testified.  In 2017, Carruthers sent Story a copy of a Confidential Informant ledger, with a document trail proving it was genuine, which showed that  Shaw had no drug transactions on the days he testified he bought weed from Mr. Story.   Earley Story has filed a motion of Error Coram Nobis in Shelby criminal court to get his conviction overturned on the basis of this new evidence.

tony_carruthers_tennessee
Tony Carruthers

Mr. Story is certain that he was targeted by this SCSO conspiracy to cover up facts about the jail, which he had leaked to the FBI and others.   The false prosecution was intended to discredit Story as a witness to abuses in 201 Poplar which eventually led to Federal court action and the decertification of the jail in 2001.

Earley Story was arrested with five other people, two other deputy jailers, Victor Campbell and Bernard Kimmons, and three civilians, on 31st January 1997.   We ascertained that the two deputies’ cases featured the same Sheriff’s deputies, confidential informant Shaw, prosecutor and judges as Mr. Story, and that their alleged marijuana sales also had no corresponding entries in the CI ledger.    The three deputies cases were virtual carbon copies.

CA_1997On investigation, we found that Campbell and Kimmons had not been involved in whistle blowing on jail conditions, like Earley Story had, so there must have been another reason why they had been targeted for a cover-up.

Cover-up Two:  Cobb’s jailers.

DeputyBernardKimmons2crop
Deputy Bernard Kimmons

We investigated why Campbell and Kimmons might have been targeted in cover-up two.   It turns out that the two had been custodians of Roderick Cobb while he was jailed awaiting trial, in the latter half of 1996, on the second floor of 201 Poplar.   According to a confidential source in the jail, Cobb had discussed the case with his jailers and revealed that the shooter in the drive-by was wearing a Sheriff’s Deputy uniform.   The cover-up was designed to discredit any evidence the jailers might provide to Cobb’s upcoming trial, and to silence them.   We have spoken to numerous people involved with the case who have been warned, with threats, to be silent.  Essentially, the jailers had discovered cover-up number three, which was the framing of Roderick Cobb for the murder of Deputy Sherry Goodman.  In the hotbed of gossip that is a jail, any interest by Kimmons and Campbell in the mechanics of the cover-up would likely raise red flags to the conspirators.

We do not know the identity of the shooter, but clearly he has enough influence in the Sheriff’s Department to manipulate the murder investigation and instigate two cover-ups.   As the Earley Story cover-up was related to the Department’s relations with Federal oversight, which is a concern only of top management, we believe that all three cover-ups were orchestrated at the highest levels of the Sheriff’s Department in 1996-1997.

We wrote to Roderick Cobb in the Morgan County State Correctional Complex and he filled in some of the details in two letters we received on March 15th and 16th 2019.  (PDF).

Roderick Cobb’s account.

We have added comments delimited by <<  and >>.

In 1996, Roderick Cobb was 25 years old and disabled.   He was receiving disability and copious pain medication for a hip issue that subsequently required hip replacement .

In a letter from Morgan County State Prison, he sends his account of that night.

Mr. Cobb was driving a lady friend home in the early morning of Friday July 26th 1996 when Deputy Sherry Goodman’s cruiser passed them, circled the block and passed again, and finally came up behind and pulled them over.  Mr. Cobb asked the reason for the stop and was told that it was a routine stop.

map_of_journey
Two possible routes from initial stop to murder scene.

<< We have noted this pattern of multiple passes followed by a stop when LE claim they were looking for a suspect for a crime in the area, but driving while Black is a sufficient reason for a police stop in Memphis>>  Mr. Cobb maintains that he was not speeding and that his vehicle had no visible defect.

Deputy Goodman ran Mr. Cobb’s name and that of his friend, and Cobb’s came back with a suspended license, according to Mr Cobb.    Deputy Goodman arrested Mr. Cobb and placed him in handcuffs.   The issue of how the lady friend was to get home arose.   At that point another deputy, Goodman’s partner Duane Noffsinger pulled up offering assistance.

<< AC Gilless announced that Cobb was wanted for probation violation, but Cobb maintains that the suspended license was what Goodman cited when she arrested him.>>

hinged_handcuffs
Peerless brand hinged handcuffs as used on Roderick Cobb.

Noffsinger searched Mr. Cobb and put him in the back of his cruiser.   At that point he was dispatched on another call and Mr. Cobb was removed from his car.  Mr. Cobb is a very large man, at 5’10” and 275 lbs, and they could not get the handcuffs closed.  Deputy Nuffsinger providing a second pair of cuffs, and he was restrained with two sets of handcuffs linked together behind his back.  He was searched again by Deputy Goodman according to prisoner protocol.  These cuffs were the standard Peerless hinged cuffs where the two bracelets are directly hinged together without a chain between.  This type of cuffs is standard with both MPD and Sheriff’s Department street cops.

A tow truck was called to impound Mr Cobb’s car and he was let out of Goodman’s cruiser to show the tow driver how to start his car.   They dropped the lady companion at a nearby gas station so she could call for a ride home.   According to Sheriff AC Gilless’ statement on the day of the murder, she also made a call on Deputy Goodman’s cellphone.    We don’t know why two calls were required.

Goodman, with her prisoner, set off for 201 Poplar at (according to the Commercial Appeal) at 2:59 AM.  Mr. Cobb wrote that Deputy Goodman radioed in her prisoner transport.   A few minutes after the radio call, another car pulled up beside Goodman’s cruiser.   The car was described as a gray four-door with dark tinted windows and primer paint spots all over it.  According to the jailhouse confidential source, Roderick Cobb frequently said, while awaiting trial, that the shooter was wearing a deputy uniform, and that  Mr. Cobb saw the gun,  looked forward, heard three shots, and dived to the floor.   The cruiser sped up, veered to the left and crashed into something.    The shooter car continued south on Thomas and was not seen again.

Officer Goodman was unresponsive to his question.  Mr. Cobb broke out the rear window with his feet and got out through the opening.   He worked his feet through the handcuffs one at a time to get his hands in front.  We think this is impossible for most people with one set of hinged cuffs, barely possible for most with two sets of linked cuffs.

He opened the front passenger door and got in to check the deputy, who fell to the right.  He checked the deputy for breathing and attempted chest compressions to no avail.  There was no blood.

He removed the handcuff keys and her gun from the deputy’s belt and released the cuffs.   Linked cuffs are made so that it is almost impossible to key the lock while cuffed, but with two linked sets it becomes straightforward.  He says he walked a couple of blocks and dumped the handcuffs in a trash can behind a laundromat.

<<We can’t find a laundromat currently in that location after 22 years.>>

He hitch-hiked to a downtown bus stop where he rode to his mother’s house in the Whitehaven area.   On approaching the family home, he noticed two plainclothes officers watching the house and continued past them to a nearby friend’s house.   He made four phone calls from this house, one of them to a pastor, Walker Wright, who was attempting to negotiate his surrender to police.   He says he hid Deputy Goodman’s side arm under the front seat of a car belonging to one Montrial Butcher, who he believes was a police informant who may have since entered a witness protection program.   Mr . Cobb suggests that Butcher may have been paid to testify against him.

Before he could surrender, he was arrested and beaten badly.   He was denied visitation from his mother and others for three months, possibly because of visible wounds from the beat-down he took during his arrest.  Or perhaps to keep him from telling his story.

Contradictory Evidence in the Cobb case.

The evidence and news media show a lot of discrepancies.

The Commercial Appeal  wrote that “Goodman took Cobb into custody after pulling him over and learning that he was wanted for violating patrol (sic)”.   We assume they meant “parole”.   As far as we can determine, Cobb was not on parole and it is possible that Cobb’s version, that he was driving on a suspended license, is correct.  He was initially held for violating probation.

linked_handcuffs
Linked handcuffs as “found” in Deputy Goodman’s car

The CA also wrote that Goodman’s side-arm was missing and a .38 revolver was on the front seat.   By the time the case came to trial, the .38 and a set of handcuffs was on the seat.   The handcuffs were not the same hinged model that street cops use for securing arrested people.   These “linked” handcuffs were joined by about six inches of chain, a model used in the jail while moving prisoners.   If Cobb did throw his cuffs away behind the laundromat , these cuffs were planted by someone in the investigation.

If the shooter fired from another car, the .38 was also planted.    The gun was traced to an out of town theft and was therefore hot.  This is the type of weapon LE keeps handy as a “drop piece” for occasions like this.    As the .38 turns up as reported by Sheriff AC Gilless’ media announcement the day of the murder, we assume that the .38 was planted by one of the deputies who immediately responded to the murder call.   As the shooter was in the immediate vicinity it would have been a simple matter to stay close to the scene and be the first sheriff’s deputy to respond to the radio call, after Mr Cobb had departed, in plenty of time to plant the weapon.  The shooter would have had the murder weapon available for the drop.

The CA, quoting Sheriff AC Gilless, said that Goodman had been found with bullet wounds in the left side of her head.  This version was repeated in the CA on the 27th and in North Shelby Times on July 30th.  This very early statement is consistent withOC_Smith

Deputy ME OC Smith

Mr. Cobb’s story of shots being fired from another car.   Medical evidence was given in the case by OC Smith, a deputy medical examiner who was later fired, in an episode where he placed a bomb on himself and made a false report to the FBI.    Smith’s evidence moved one of the bullet wounds from the side to the back of Goodman’s head and he also supplied a theory of how Cobb secreted a weapon, and drew and fired it while handcuffed behind from the back seat of the cruiser.   Smith also said that Cobb had fired a second shot into Goodman while she lay on her side on the passenger seat, while still wearing the handcuffs, to explain the wound on the left side of her head.   Smith’s testimony has been discredited in numerous cases since his 2002 arrest, and we believe that he fabricated this evidence.    Why would Cobb have fired a second shot into Goodman if she was already dead?   Cobb has said that there was no blood, so the deputy died instantly.

In the preliminary hearing, it was said that the initial stop was because the license tag was hanging off Cobb’s car.    Cobb wrote that the tag was held on with lock nuts that would have to be cut off.   Memphis police often cite some minor issue like this when explaining a “driving while Black” stop.    In any event Goodman would not have had time to compile an arrest report and Cobb’s car was not present at the murder scene.

In evidence prepared for Mr. Cobb’s trial, gunshot residue (GSR) testing was done in Goodman’s car.   GSR was found only in the left side of the car, not widely dispersed in the car, as it would have been had shots been fired from the back of the car and through the passenger  window, as OC Smith maintained.  Shooting through the passenger window should also have resulted in glass fragments in the wound.

The handcuffs “found” on the front seat of Goodman’s car were linked handcuffs.   Cobb wrote that he had dumped the handcuffs he removed from himself in a trash can at the back of a laundromat, presumably a few blocks south of the crash site.   These handcuffs were “linked” handcuffs, where the bracelets are connected by about six inches of chain.   The handcuffs on Cobb were the standard beat-cop variety, where the cuffs are directly linked together.   Linked handcuffs are primarily used in a jail, for transporting prisoners.   The .38 pistol, but not the handcuffs, were reported in the original AC Gilless news release.   The cuffs were planted by someone who had access to jail restraint equipment.

Irregularities in the Cobb case

As well as threats made by J.Q. Irvin, Mr. Cobb was also shown fabricated testimony that OC Smith planned to reveal on the witness stand, and was intimidated to take a plea to avoid the death penalty.   Much of the inconsistent prosecution testimony was never examined or challenged in court as a result.  It is unusual for prosecutors not to seek the death penalty in a police killing, unless they felt that their case was weak.

Updated 4/1/2019:  We spoke to Sharron Cobb, Roderick’s sister, who was quoted in the Commercial Appeal account.   Sharron says that she did not speak to Roderick while he was at large, and this is confirmed by their mother.    She also stated that she did not talk to the CA that day.

Pressure on Cobb

In Roderick Cobb’s 2001 appeal , he spoke at length about pressure placed on him.  He said he was “afraid of being killed in the county jail” and named deputy jailer J. Q. Irvin as one who had threatened him.

In Cobb’s letter, he talks about how members of his family, and the family of his lady companion that fateful night,  had been threatened to stay quiet about the case.  Archie Anderson, the slain Etienne Harmon, and Dante Dale were also threatened and told to keep quiet about the case.   We have started an inquiry as to why the three civilians were framed and have not yet found out why, or why Harmon was killed during the trials of the six.

Why Roderick Cobb ran?

It is easy to say that Roderick Cobb should have waited until police arrived.   However, he was a very young man who had just had shots fired into the car he was in, and he had witnessed a murder just inches away.   He was experiencing a massive adrenaline rush and the associated fight or flight response.  He is by no means the first young African American man in Memphis whose fight or flight response has not served him well.  In our experience it takes time to learn how to overcome that fight or flight response.

Roderick Cobb’s Probation Offer.

Mr Cobb was recently given probation hearings.   A prisoner given life with the possibility of parole is not allowed to apply for parole until she has served 51 years of her sentence.    It is inconceivable that Mr. Cobb, because of his sentence, would ever receive probation, so the offer was a cruel attempt by the parole board to gain additional control over Roderick Cobb’s silence.   An inmate who maintains his innocence is very unlikely to get paroled.     In Mr. Cobb’s letters, he describes the shooter’s car in great detail but omits even the most basic description of the shooter.

Three Cover-ups.

We know that the framing of Messrs. Story, Kimmons and Campbell were two cover-ups executed by the same team.   The existence of the Kimmons and Campbell cover up requires something else to hide, implying that Deputy Goodman’s murder was covered up also.

Acknowledgments

Earley Story and Sharon Rondeau contributed to this article.   Alfredo Shaw and Bernard Kimmons declined to comment.

When asked for comment, Shelby Co. Sheriff’s Office legal adviser Debra L. Fessenden emailed:

We would refer you to the extensive criminal court proceedings, from trial to post-conviction, for factual information surrounding Mr. Cobb’s guilty plea. For example, the handcuffs used to secure him and the key were located at the scene of the squad car accident. For another example, Deputy Goodman’s weapon was located in a vehicle that had been parked outside the residence where Mr. Cobb was arrested after the murder—and in the exact location he described in a letter from the Jail to a person he was instructing to dispose of the weapon. Fortunately, that person contacted law enforcement and the weapon was recovered.

Update on 4/3/2019.

After this post was published, we got some further information from our informants.

(1)   We quoted this Commercial Appeal article.  The reporter said she had spoken to Roderick Cobb’s sister, and that Roderick Cobb had spoken to her on 7/26/1996.  Roderick Cobb did not speak to anyone at their family home that night, and his sister did not talk to the CA.

(2) We posted the next installment of this story.

(3) After the Roderick Cobb sentencing, the Cobb family had two separate visits from two “white ladies”.   The first had a card that identified her as a Shelby Sheriff Internal Affairs operative and brought boxes of documents.   The second also had an official card, a Federal agency that the Cobbs don’t remember.    Both asked a lot of questions about the settled case.  When the Cobbs tried to follow up by calling the numbers on the business cards, they were told that the named operatives did not work there.
Why would these agencies have a continued interest in a settled case?   Why would they send undercover operatives?   See our “Jobs for Cash” follow-up.

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Follow out Prosecutor!!! section for further updates on this story, and other posts on prosecutorial and criminal justice misconduct.

— Concluded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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