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The Last Breath

by Ajahn Pasanno

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The story opens with somber drama: The body of a 2-year-old girl is removed from her grave and transported to a hospital for a second autopsy. In the small Gulf Coast town of Alvin, Texas, the bereaved mother, the child's grandmother, and the female detective who has risked so much to champion their cause, await the opinion of a visiting pathologist. Carlton Stowers, whose Careless Whispers won the 1987 Edgar Award for fact crime, brings all the right skills to this tale of a sullen, possessive man who liked to play cruel mind games on his loved ones and apparently killed his young daughter in a slow and deliberate fashion. Perhaps at the end, we don't really know why he did it, but we will have come to know and admire the three women who fought for justice.

From Library Journal
Of the many recent news stories about "sudden infant death syndrome," in too many cases what initially appears to be SIDS turns out to be cold-blooded murder committed by the closest care giver, generally a parent. Just after New Year's 1994, two-year-old Renee Goode was spending the night at her father's house in Alvin, Texas. The next morning she was found dead. The medical verdict was death from natural causes. Her mother was devastated and her maternal grandmother refused to accept the verdict. She hired a private investigator and convinced a police investigator, Sue Dietrich, to reopen the case, ultimately getting the body exhumed. An independent medical examiner determined that Renee had been murdered by suffocation. The police charged her father with first-degree murder and he was found guilty. Stowers (Careless Whispers, Pocket, 1990) illustrates the great difficulty in proving infant murder, in which scientific evidence is not always conclusive. Recommended for libraries with strong interest in true crime.?Sandra K. Lindheimer, Middlesex Law Lib., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Opening with the forensic examination of the exhumed corpse of two-year-old Renee Goode and concluding with the trial that found Shane Goode guilty of "squeezing the life's breath" out of his child, Stowers' true-crime account commands attention. Stowers lets the story unfold slowly, as he recounts Renee's parents' battle over custody issues. Although Annette Goode never felt comfortable when Renee visited Shane, she allowed the child to attend a sleep-over at his home. The next morning, Renee's dead body was discovered by the other children at the party. An initial autopsy showed that Renee died of natural causes. Were it not for the tenacious efforts of Renee's maternal grandmother, who sought a second autopsy, the case would never have been brought to trial. Stowers apologizes for his inability to explain "what drove Goode to commit such an unspeakable crime," but there is no need to apologize for this masterful chronicle of a troubling case. Sue-Ellen Beauregard

From Kirkus Reviews
A tragedy is rendered toothless as Stowers examines a child's murder in a tiny town in Texas. Veteran crime journalist and Edgar Award winner Stowers (Open Secrets, 1994; Sins of the Son, 1995; etc.) here studies the mysterious demise of Renee Goode, two years old at the time of her death in Alvin, Tex. Her mother, Annette, and grandmother Sharon Crouch immediately suspect Annette's creepy ex-husband, Shane. Renee had been conceived during a brief reconciliation between the two, and Shane had insisted that Annette abort the fetus; failing that, he simply ignored Renee. After the divorce, Shane relented and after one year asked to see Renee. The little girl was terrified of her father and hated to go to his house, but Annette felt obligated to encourage the relationship between daughter and father. One terrible night, Annette received a shocking call: Renee, who had been sleeping at her father's house, was dead. The coroner ruled the death natural and did only a cursory autopsy. Annette and her mother, Sharon, a sometime private investigator, sprang into action. After both the police and the medical examiner's office rejected their claim of foul play, they researched on their own and discovered that Shane had taken out a life insurance policy on little Renee weeks before her death. Sue Dietrich, an Alvin police officer, took over the moribund case and took it to trial, where Shane was convicted of murder. While the case is certainly horrible, Stowers fails to elevate it to an outrage; the writing is stiff and the characters read like a shallow combination of blue-collar and Nancy Drew. The police work until the entrance of Dietrich was truly shoddy and ruined what should have been an open-and-shut case, but Stowers's account simply doesn't crackle with the energy the three women poured into getting justice. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Book Description
On January 22, 1994, two-year old Renee Goode played happily with her sisters and cousin, as the four of them enjoyed an impromptu "slumber party" at the home of her father, Shane Goode. The next day she was dead.The local medical examiner could not determine the cause of the little Renees death. But her mother Annette and grandmother Sharon were convinced she'd been murdered--and that they knew the identity of Renee's killer: her handsome father, Shane Goode, a manipulative, emotionally abusive man who displayed virtually no interest in Renee--until he took out a $50,000 insurance policy on her life.With the help of a courageous female police investigator and Assistant DA, Sharon launched a case against Shan and had Renees tiny coffin, lovingly filled with her favorite stuffed animals, exhumed from its final resting place. And her small corpse revealed what her grandmother had suspected all along: cold, calculating Shane Goode had murdered his own daughter to cash in on her death.

From the Publisher
This book, To the Last Breath by Carlton Stowers, won the 1999 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime.



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