On the lam


Special Report | August 21, 2016

Brook Goode was wanted for nearly three years. Most of the time, he didn't even realize it.

Reporting Liz Navratil
Photography Andrew Rush

Brook Goode avoided arrest on Pennsylvania warrants for nearly three years — despite being arrested multiple times in another state.

Goode, whose criminal history includes charges in a shooting, was being sought this time for violating his probation on harassment and drug cases by failing to pay restitution and missing hearings.

Goode’s story isn’t one of a criminal mastermind: At some points, he didn’t even realize he was wanted. He didn’t change his name or appearance.

He was booked into a North Carolina jail but never sent back to face the Pennsylvania warrants. He was even sentenced to probation there and violated it.

Authorities didn’t find Goode until he returned to Pennsylvania on his own and got into trouble once again.

His story illustrates how easy it is to elude capture and continue to break the law. It also shows what happens when departments, strapped by budget constraints, struggle to keep up with warrants and how old technology and poor communication can hamper efforts to find people.

It left Goode with the impression that officials were, at best, apathetic.

“They didn’t want to contact me until it was convenient for them,” Goode said. “The people who get caught immediately just happened to get caught.”


‘We have to prioritize’

Goode, 35, doesn’t hide his criminal history. His rap sheet, he said, is the byproduct of poor decisions, youthful mistakes and the “lessons” he learned in facilities that were meant to rehabilitate him as a child.

Interviewed in April at a North Carolina recording studio where he was working on a rap album, Goode said he was free from confinement, probation or parole for the first time in 20 years.

Goode said he was on juvenile parole when he caught his first adult case at 15 — a robbery and gun conviction stemming from a Coraopolis shooting that wounded a 17-year-old girl. An assault followed, along with some prison time, then drug charges.

Brook Goode in a North Carolina recording studio.

“I was a terrible person,” Goode said, reflecting back. “I’m not hiding it. I’m not glorifying it.”

His most recent Pennsylvania cases — the ones on which he violated his probation — were for harassment and drug possession.

The Allegheny County adult probation office doesn’t have anyone devoted to finding violators and instead relies on the local sheriff’s office to arrest them.

Warrants that go to the sheriff’s office list the charges a person is wanted for and their last listed address — which deputies note is wrong more often than not. Keeping with protocol, the warrants don’t list information about someone’s past history.

The deputies on the sheriff’s fugitives squads have access to a database that allows them to find some information about a person’s past crimes. But often, because of the volume of warrants, they rely on the current charges and tips from probation officers to help them prioritize warrants.

Goode said no one contacted him about the warrants.

Allegheny County Sheriff William P. Mullen said his office didn’t find any records about attempts to locate Goode. His charges of harassment and drug possession would have made him a lower priority than some other fugitives, such as sex offenders, the sheriff said.

The sheriff’s office has 15 people dedicated to finding fugitives and estimates there are between 10,000 and 20,000 open warrants.

“We have to prioritize,” the sheriff said.

‘I never heard from her again’

Goode said that while he was on probation, his criminal record made it hard to find a legal job, and he had to pay court fees. He said his visits with his probation officer were infrequent and rarely helpful, so eventually he stopped going and “didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

Brook Goode, 35, begins discussing his experiences on probation and parole outside a North Carolina recording studio, where he works on a rap album. He says this is the first time that he's been free of probation or parole in years, noting that his first cases unfolded in juvenile court.

The mother of his children was living in North Carolina at the time, and Goode said he hoped to move there to be closer to his family.

Records show he missed one violation hearing in September 2012. Goode said he thought the purpose of the hearing was to ask the judge to transfer his supervision to North Carolina. He said his name wasn’t called in court, so he checked with a worker there who told him that his name wasn’t on that day’s list of hearings.

He said he went back to North Carolina and learned of a second hearing. He said he bought a bus ticket and intended to ride to Pittsburgh the day before the hearing, but Hurricane Sandy struck and transportation systems along the East Coast shut down.

Goode said he called his probation officer and offered to send the money he owed, but she told him he needed to see the judge. “I never heard from her again,” Goode said.

Frank Scherer, director of the Allegheny County adult probation office, said he would not discuss Goode’s case, citing a departmental policy that he said prohibits him from discussing individual cases.

In the months that followed, in late 2012 and early 2013, Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donald Machen approved two probation violation warrants for Goode.

Sources: Durham, North Carolina, police records and court records, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, court records

Trouble in Carolina

Goode settled into life in North Carolina. He lived with his girlfriend, who had a steady job, and their children. He began to work as a landscaper using his real name.

He was arrested five times in North Carolina before he returned to Pennsylvania on his own. It was after one of those arrests that Goode learned of possible Pennsylvania warrants.

Durham police were called to a home on July 20, 2013. They charged Goode with assault and another crime after they said he hit the mother of his children and threw her cellphone as she tried to call 911. Goode said a police officer ran his name through a database and told him then that it appeared he might have a Pennsylvania warrant.

Goode’s warrants were valid only in Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

A spokesman for the Durham police said officers are expected to run people through a national database but didn’t provide details of what they found in Goode’s case.

Goode’s warrants were valid only in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Officials can ask a judge to change a warrant so they can bring someone in from different areas. The Allegheny County district attorney’s office has "no record of ever being contacted by North Carolina to tell us that Goode was in custody," according to spokesman Mike Manko.

Goode said North Carolina officials never mentioned the Pennsylvania warrants again and “being honest, I just didn’t speak on it again.”

Goode was eventually sentenced to probation in that North Carolina case — a probation he violated when he was arrested again, failed to attend required classes and tested positive for drugs, according to court records.

A spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (which handles probation) said officers didn’t have any information about Goode’s Pennsylvania warrants.

Their probation officers can check North Carolina records on their own or ask a few specific people in their office to run a check in other states. The spokesman, Keith Acree, said his staff reviewed Goode’s records and didn’t “see anything to indicate that there was a national query run.”


‘Going vigilante’

Goode ended up going back to Pennsylvania on his own in September 2015 after he got a call saying that his cousin had been killed outside of Pittsburgh. Jesse Jones, 29, of Moon, has since been convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the case, but at the time the killing was unsolved.

“I had all [intents] of going vigilante.”

Goode and his family, by then living in South Carolina, drove to Coraopolis for the funeral. Frustrated that an arrest hadn’t yet been made, Goode tried to get all of the information he could about the death.

The night before the funeral, Goode went to confront a man who he thought had the suspect’s phone. He said he hoped to learn information that could help solve the case. “I had all [intents] of going vigilante,” he said.

Police said Goode punched and threatened the man. Officers who came to the scene detained Goode, and he tried to run. An officer tased him.

Goode was arraigned on charges of assault, witness intimidation and other crimes. About three weeks later, all of the new charges were withdrawn at a preliminary hearing before District Judge Mary Murray. Court workers in the judge’s office said they do not have documents explaining why the charges were withdrawn.

Goode remained in the Allegheny County Jail until he was transferred to a Downtown halfway house. In late January of this year, he appeared in court for a violation hearing.

By that time both the judge and probation officer on his case were gone, and new officials had been assigned to the case.

During a brief hearing — so brief a transcript wasn’t taken — Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Phillip Ignelzi gave a new sentence. It wasn’t for more time in jail.

Rather, he was released.

The sentence: Time served.  

Liz Navratil - lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil

Part of the Missing Fugitives series

Other stories in this series

Victim's son: 'There were some serious mistakes'
A day in the life of a team of fugitive hunters
Allegheny County sheriff plans to ask for more manpower to track fugitives
Second Allegheny County councilman wants meeting on probation, parole issues
Minnesota officials ask for resources to find probation, parole violators
Third Allegheny council member seeks more manpower to track probation, parole violators
In pursuit of fugitives in Allegheny County
Sheriff asks Allegheny County Council for money to add deputies