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Widow’s disappearance is baffling Arizona town

SHARE Widow’s disappearance is baffling Arizona town

SNOWFLAKE, Ariz. — Just about everyone in these parts assumes that June Goodman must have seen a vehicle winding its way down a quarter-mile gravel road to her ranch-style home on that cold, clear late March evening.

After all, investigators said, she'd been sitting in the recliner in her living room, watching TV, with a good view of the road outside her picture window. She had even flipped on the outdoor lights and half-opened the sliding glass door, authorities said, and is believed to have gone outside.

Then, the 66-year-old widow, mail carrier, doting grandmother of 18 and great-grandmother of 7, and cousin to powerful GOP politicians such as state House Speaker Jake Flake and U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake, disappeared without a trace.

Law officers and family believe she was abducted. But they don't know why.

The case has baffled Snowflake police, Navajo County sheriff's investigators and the FBI since Goodman failed to show up for work at the town post office the morning of March 29. More than 300 interviews have been conducted and a $100,000 reward has been offered by family and police agencies for her safe return.

Still nothing.

In Goodman's house everything was where it should be. Her billfold and valuables hadn't been touched. Even all her shoes were accounted for. Her work van was parked in its usual spot and a daughter had borrowed her other vehicle earlier. Investigators fanned out for miles in all directions, but they couldn't find a footprint or even a sock print of the woman.

Goodman's health was excellent, family members said, so good, in fact, that she only bothered with medical checkups once every two years. She rode her exercise bike religiously every day and easily handled the rigors of her six-day-a-week mail carrier job.

For Navajo County sheriff's Cmdr. Larry Dunagan, it's the most frustrating case in his 34 years of law enforcement.

There was no theft, no scuffle, no evidence.

And, Snowflake isn't exactly the kind of place where violent crime is an everyday occurrence. The town is so strait-laced that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built a temple here two years ago.

"When Mrs. Goodman walked out that back door, it was like she disappeared into thin air," Dunagan said.

But there is one man who investigators have more than a little interest in talking to.

Patrick Michael Conn, 44, had lived on Goodman's rural mail delivery route east of Snowflake. Conn, like many others along the route, had been upset that the U.S. Postal Service had refused to deliver mail to people unless they used designated addresses for their homes for correspondence.

Conn had a confrontation with Goodman one day early last year while she was delivering on her route, which she noted in a report to her supervisor. Conn then went to the Snowflake post office and threatened Goodman's life in a discussion with her co-workers, said Pat Fawcett, Goodman's sister, who said Goodman was "deathly afraid" of the man.

Shortly after that incident, in February 2002, Snowflake had its first homicide in recent times, and Snowflake police named Conn the prime suspect. The body of a Snowflake man, identified as Donald Sewell, was found slumped in his vehicle along the side of Arizona 77 in the undeveloped northern part of town. He had been shot 13 times, Dunagan said.

Local law officers thought they had their man when they were notified late last year by police in Espaqola, N.M., that Conn had been arrested and detained for shoplifting. But while officers in Navajo County thought Conn was in custody and began extradition proceedings, it turned out that the last name of the man jailed in New Mexico was spelled differently, Dunagan said.

Conn's whereabouts are unknown, and police are focusing their search for him in Hocking County, Ohio, were he was born and raised.

Meanwhile, Fawcett said police also are interested in interviewing a local handyman, who is in custody on unrelated drug charges, whom Goodman had called to repair her TV about a month before she disappeared.

"June and I were talking one day on the telephone about how he had brought the TV back and it still wasn't fixed and how she was wondering if someone in our family could work on it," Fawcett said. "She said that she felt very uncomfortable around that guy."

Dunagan said investigators began with 40 possible suspects in Goodman's disappearance and that the list has been whittled to "five or six." Goodman's family has erected a billboard on one of the main roads into town seeking information as to her whereabouts. Family members also have put up a Web site; www.junegoodman.com about the case.

Fawcett said her sister had been eagerly anticipating retirement from the Postal Service in July, after 20 years of work. She said that had been one of the main subjects of discussion when Goodman came to her house for dinner on the evening of March 28 and spent two hours.

Goodman stopped at a Snowflake supermarket, where she bought four candy bars at 8:25 p.m. Then, she apparently went home and turned on the TV. It was still on the next morning when Fawcett arrived after getting no answer when she tried to call Goodman at 7 a.m. and learning that she hadn't shown up for work shortly after 8 a.m.

"We've been brainstorming hundreds of scenarios," Dunagan said. "When you don't have a single piece of evidence or a good suspect, that's about all you can do."