PHOENIX, AZ — On September 6, suspected serial killer Mark Goudeau — who was nicknamed the “Baseline Killer” after a string of sexual assaults and murders that terrorized Phoenix — celebrated his 53rd birthday behind bars from death row.
The “Baseline Killer” was first dubbed the “Baseline Rapist” after Phoenix police announced in the summer of 2005 that a sturdy, light-skinned black man was sexually assaulting females as young as 12 years old at gunpoint near Baseline Road in South Phoenix.
By September, the murders had begun. Police tied the murders together after ballistics connected shell casings found at the crime scenes to a single gun.
The attacks shocked with their brutality. Many victims took bullets to the head. Witnesses described the suspect as wearing disguises such as a Halloween mask or a dreadlocked wig. In some instances, the assailant reportedly impersonated a homeless man or wandering drug addict.
On July 14, 2006, an anonymous tipster said that Mark Goudeau, an ex-convict and construction worker who lived near several of the crime scenes, resembled one of the composite sketches of the suspect.
Police later matched Goudeau’s DNA to swabs collected from the breasts of one of two Phoenix sisters who were sexually assaulted in a Phoenix city park on September 20, 2005. His DNA was already in the system due to a 13-year armed robbery stint, and a 1989 arrest for sexual assault and battery.
The particular victim suffered a fractured skull. She later told police that Goudeau he hit her in the head with a barbell, tried to force cocaine up her nose, raped her, and tried to drown her in the bathtub. Goudeau denied it all
Within hours of his arrest in 2006, detectives seized evidence including a pair of Goudeau’s white Nike sneakers, which allegedly matched victims’ descriptions of shoes worn by the attacker. Investigators subsequently said they found DNA on the shoes from two of the Baseline murder victims.
The evidence piled up. Multiple testimonies reflected the perpetrator using a similar M.O.: he’d tell victims that he had just committed a robbery and needed to reunite with his friend.
Victims also described how the perpetrator forced those he sexually assaulted to walk or drive to a secluded area, where he would threaten to shoot them unless they complied with his demands.
According to court records, seven victims identified Goudeau as their assailant during his trial. One victim testified that he had seen Goudeau pointing a gun downward at a murder victim’s body. An eighth victim identified Goudeau’s voice from a voice lineup.
The State’s ballistics expert also testified that the same .380 caliber handgun was used to commit all nine murders and could be linked to the other charged crimes in which shell casings were found.
Despite the prosecution’s evidence, many unanswered questions remain in the case, including the fact that neither the gun used in the murders nor the infamous wigs were ever found.
Goudreau maintained his innocence the entire time. His wife Wendy remained convinced that the police had arrested the wrong man. They were not alone. A former Phoenix police detective who worked on the Baseline Killer case told the Phoenix New Times in 2010:
“There’s no eyewitnesses, there’s no confession, no fingerprints and the physical evidence is disputed. There really are a lot of holes in this case.”
But on September 7, 2007, Goudeau was tried and convicted of all 19 charges relating to the attack on the two sisters. The judge sentenced him to 438 years in prison.
Later, on November 30, 2011, a Phoenix jury sentenced Godeau to death on the murder charges relating to the Baseline killings.
Read more: State of Arizona v. Mark Goudot
Main photo: Mark Goudeau [Arizona Department of Corrections]