Lyndon D. Goodell is coming home for the holiday season. His victims will never be coming home.
Goodell, the Batavia man sentenced to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison for a 1987 drunken-driving crash that killed three Pembroke Central High School students and their driver-education teacher, will walk out of Auburn Correctional Facility as a free man Monday, three years before he would have completed the maximum portion of his prison sentence, and as a three-time Parole Board rejectee.
State prison officials were mandated under time-off provisions for good behavior to grant him an early release, according to Tom Grant, spokesman for state's Division of Parole.
"Our kids won't be coming home for Christmas. I don't think he should have a life. I hope he rots in hell," said Lin Bartlett-Taylor, mother of Kathlena "Mindy" Beals, one of the three 17-year-olds who perished in the collision.
Goodell, 34, will leave prison without remorse for his crime, which he still says was not his fault, according to state records.
He stands by a contention that he was not driving the car that slammed head-on into the driver-ed car with the three students and their teacher on Route 5 near East Pembroke on June 10, 1987.
In a strongly worded rejection of his 1998 petition seeking early release, the Parole Board stated:
"While your institutional adjustment is noted, the gravity of the offense militates against your release. You operated a motor vehicle while you were under the influence of alcohol. During this operation, you crossed a center line and hit an oncoming vehicle head-on. This resulted in four deaths.
"During this interview, you continued to deny being the driver of the vehicle, and it is noted that you displayed no remorse or recognition of the gravity of your criminality.
"All factors considered, it is determined that your release would be incompatible with the welfare of the community."
With his mandated release come a number of conditions, Grant said Friday.
"Despite the actions of the Parole Board to deny him release on three past occasions, his release was mandated because of time off for good behavior, but he will be placed under the most intensive supervision," Grant said.
Those measures include:
Monitoring of his movement with an electronic bracelet.
A strict curfew. Although the hours are yet to be determined, he is expected to be prohibited from late-night activity outside the home of the relatives with whom he will be living in Genesee County.
No consumption of alcohol and no driving of motor vehicles.
Counseling is also anticipated as part of the terms of his release, according to sources close to Goodell's case.
Genesee County Sheriff Gary T. Maha expressed dismay and surprise upon learning of Goodell's imminent return.
"He killed four people. It was like taking a gun and going out and shooting four people. I'm a little surprised that he would be released before the maximum term of his sentence," Maha said. "He should have done the whole sentence."
If Goodell violates the law, Maha said, he expects that his deputies would quickly learn of the situation.
"Certainly all our people will be made aware of his release, and if he does get into some type of trouble, we'll be made aware of it. This is a small community," Maha said.
One of Maha's deputies is Patrick Reeves, brother of Rhonda L. Reeves, another of the deceased students.
"Unfortunately, we've (suffered) the loss, and he doesn't comprehend the consequences," Reeves said of Goodell. "Hopefully, the system has rehabilitated him and will prove us all wrong. I'm not going to be vindictive, but as a family, you're at the end of your rope. We all knew this day would come."
One of Goodell's relatives said she feels a deep sense of sympathy for the families of the dead.
"The families have lost their children. They have suffered, everybody has suffered, and this brings all the heartache back, and it's Christmas. I'm sure those families suffer every Christmas," said an aunt of Goodell's.
During his trial, Goodell maintained that he was not the driver of the car and that it was driven by Carol Rokicki Elder, who was in the car with him. She was granted immunity in exchange for her testimony against him.
Goodell and Elder, according to testimony, were sharing a bottle of whiskey in Elder's car before the accident. A bumper sticker on the car stated, "I brake for hallucinations."
A Batavia woman later informed authorities that she saw a woman driving the car and that Goodell was a passenger, but court hearings to overturn his conviction and seek a new trial never succeeded.
Goodell was found guilty of four counts each of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter.
In a affidavit, Mary Arnold, who had lived in East Pembroke at the time, said she was walking down the street on June 10, 1987, when a car sped by and almost hit her. She said she saw a man sitting in the front passenger's side seat of the car.
Arnold said the incident took place minutes before the fatal crash occurred about three miles away. Arnold identified the man as Goodell after seeing him in television and newspaper reports.
But her story was called into question during the hearings, and appeals court judges refused to reverse Goodell's conviction.
Others killed in the crash were student Eric Hamm-Johnson and teacher Patrick E. Collins, 55.
Outside the entrance to the Pembroke High School on Route 77 near Route 5 is a double-paneled brick and stone memorial in memory of the four victims.