SAN DIEGO — A caretaker accused of killing an 89-year-old Rancho Bernardo man and draining his bank accounts of more than $500,000 will face life in prison without parole if convicted of murder and other charges, a prosecutor told a judge Monday.
Denise Michelle Goodwin, 45, is charged with murder and a special circumstance allegation of murder for financial gain in the death of Gerald Eugene Rabourn, who disappeared in October 2010. His body has not been found.
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charges today at her Superior Court arraignment and had her trial set for May 6, said Deputy District Attorney Bill Mitchell.
Goodwin was hired through a senior service to care for Rabourn’s 91-year- old wife, Carolyn, who died of cancer on Sept. 29, 2010. At Goodwin’s initial arraignment in August 2011, the prosecution alleged that Rabourn trusted Goodwin with all his assets, and within days of his wife’s death, the defendant began converting those assets for her own personal use.
Goodwin allegedly dissuaded family members from contacting police by giving them inconsistent reports regarding Rabourn’s whereabouts after his wife’s death.
Police said there was an abrupt end to Rabourn’s family contacts, cell phone use and financial activity after Oct. 21, 2010. After that date, his signature on a document to sell the family home and a title document to transfer ownership of his car were forged, according to authorities.
Mary Weaver, Rabourn’s daughter from his first marriage, testified during a preliminary hearing that she tried in October 2010 to convince her father to move to the Midwest, but he said “he was planning to live with Denise.”
Days later, when she checked back with her father, he said he was staying put in his home, Weaver testified.
Weaver said her father was financially “well” and had told her “he was leaving everything to me.”
She said an attorney she spoke with told her that her father and Goodwin had come to his office to change his will, but the attorney reassured Weaver that Goodwin couldn’t get any of her father’s money.
She said she last spoke to her father on Oct. 19, 2010, but didn’t report him missing until the following February, when she didn’t get a birthday card from him.
“He’s dead. That’s what it made me think,” Weaver told the prosecutor.
Goodwin was arrested in July 2011 as she boarded a plane for a European vacation.
In addition to murder and the special allegation, she is charged with elder abuse, embezzlement by a trustee, grand theft, forgery and auto theft.
Goodwin’s son, Michael, is charged with receiving stolen property — a car, Mitchell said.
By Kelly Wheeler, City News Service