It’s not unheard of for murder cases to go unsolved. This only makes the pain even worse for the victim’s loved ones and family. Such was and has been the case for the family of the late Dr. Linda Goudey, who was found strangled to death in the trunk of her car in the parking lot of the New England Memorial Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, in October of 1993. Dr. Goudey had worked as an obstetrician at the hospital. She had also dated another doctor for the previous four years, an endocrinologist by the name of Timothy Stryker. Prior to her death, Goudey had confided to friends and family that she feared Dr. Stryker would “kill her if (she) didn’t accompany him on an upcoming trip to the Caribbean.” Shortly after making those statements, Dr. Goudey was found murdered.
Suspicion immediately focused on her boyfriend, Dr. Timothy Stryker, and while police and prosecutors never obtained enough information to formally charge Stryker with Goudey’s murder, he has always remained a suspect. Frustrated, and perhaps inspired by the family of Ron Goldman, one of the murder victims in the O.J. Simpson trial, Goudey’s family, led by her mother, Marguerite Rafuse of Concord, Massachusetts, filed a “wrongful death” suit against Stryker, seeking to hold him civilly liable for the death of Linda Goudey. If you click on the wrongful death link immediately above, you’ll be taken to that page of my web site, where it will explain more about that type of suit. As you can see, a wrongful death suit seeks to hold a person civilly liable for someone’s death, and seeks damages for the lost companionship, society, and/or support of that person. In murder cases like Ron Goldman’s and Linda Goudey’s, it can afford the families “another way” to hold a suspect who has either been criminally charged and found not guilty, or never criminally charged, civilly responsible for the murder.
Why would a family like Ron Goldman’s or Linda Goudey’s family, file a civil suit, when there is either insufficient evidence to charge a suspect criminally, such as with Dr. Stryker, or when a suspect has been charged, but found not guilty, as with O.J. Simpson? Because of two reasons: 1) Most importantly, the standard of evidence required for a plaintiff to prevail (win) in a civil case is much lower than the standard required to convict in a criminal case. In a criminal case, the state must prove their case – i.e., that the defendant is guilty of all the elements of the crimes charged – “beyond a reasonable doubt”. That is the highest standard of proof that exists in our judicial system, and for good reason: If someone is to be found guilty of a crime, perhaps a serious one where a criminal record and/or imprisonment could result, the standard of proof should be very high.
However, in a civil case, the evidentiary standard is much lower: There, the plaintiff need only prove their case by “clear and convincing” evidence, or in some cases, by “a preponderance of the evidence”. Both of these evidentiary standards are much easier for a civil plaintiff to reach, than is required for a prosecutor to reach in a criminal case. 2) Also importantly, monetary (financial) damages can be awarded against a defendant who has been found liable (which is not the same as “guilty”) in a civil case. In the Ron Goldman case, that family was awarded a multi-million dollar civil verdict against O.J. Simpson, holding Simpson liable to pay Goldman’s family millions of dollars in damages for the death of Ron Goldman. (The downside to that particular story is that Goldman’s family has seen little to none of that money. Simpson has demonstrated to the court that issued the judgment that he doesn’t have the money to pay the judgment, and in legal terms a person like this is known as “judgment-proof”. (In non-legal terms, you can’t get money out of a stone.)
Linda Goudey’s family won their wrongful death suit against Timothy Stryker, to the tune of $15 million. I’ll detail what allegedly happened next, and what Stryker has been charged with, in my next post.