Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Forgetting Lisa, Forgetting Gloria

I’ve always thought that many people who oppose the death penalty might feel different if they were to stand a few feet away and watch the murderer committing his or her crimes. There would be spine-curdling screams, groans, whimpers; blood splashing, dripping, soaking the bed and carpet; sweat, fear, the smell of the dying; gasping, gurgling for that last breath. Reading about murder is like seeing shadows, not the real thing. Words desensitize the reader. Lisa Hullinger and Gloria Gomez felt murder. Now they’re gone, evaporated from this earth like dust in a storm. [Photo shows Gloria Gomez and William Coday]

NOTE: If you don’t want to read the gruesome details of the murder of Gloria Gomez as described in court documents, skip the italicized text in the center of the story.

When he placed an ad for pen pals on the Internet, William Coday conveniently forgot to mention one thing: that he was a twice-convicted murderer sitting on Florida’s death row. “Hi, I’m Bill,” he wrote. “I’m a compassionate, 6’2” 200 lbs athletic guy who enjoys Mediterranean food, the poetry of Keats and Kavafy and baroque music.” Most people know that death row prisoners try to come across as sensitive, high-intelligent achievers. Their literary and artsy act attracts the ladies, the lawyers, and the money.

What Bill Coday left out is all in the court records.

“When [Gloria Gomez] told [Coday] that she did not love him in the manner that he had thought and that she had to get her things from his apartment, he flew into a rage and punched her. He then picked up a hammer and struck her, causing her to fall. While in the process of striking her again, he lost his balance and fell on top of her. She managed to grab the hammer out of his hand. However, he found another hammer and continued striking her. Coday then went to the kitchen, retrieved a knife, and began stabbing her. Finally, he drove the knife into her throat and held it there until she died. The cause of death was multiple blunt and sharp force trauma injuries.

“According to Dr. Eroston Price, the Associate Broward County Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy, there were 144 wounds inflicted on her, fifty-seven of which were blunt force trauma injuries consistent with being struck by the flat and claw side of a hammer. The remaining eighty-seven wounds were sharp force wounds consisting of forty-one stab wounds (i.e., the wounds were deeper than they were long) and forty-six incise wounds (i.e., the wounds were longer than they were deep). She had multiple defensive wounds on the palms of her hands…”

According to the Medical Examiner, Gloria was alive during the entire assault, until the final thrust of the knife into her throat.

Gloria Gomez had come to Ft. Lauderdale from Colombia. She met Coday, twice divorced, at the Broward County Library as she was researching her immigration status. He worked there as a foreign languages librarian and impressed her with his command of Spanish and his willingness to help her. According to a 200-page confession he later wrote, he was more interested in her body than her mind but he told her he loved her.

For nearly a year, Coday and Gloria had an on-again, off-again relationship. Finally, she’d had enough of his controlling behavior and left him. For a month, he stalked her, but was unable to get her alone. He later stated that he spent that month planning how to kill her. Since she was ignoring his requests to get together, Coday sent a message through a friend telling her that he was dying of cancer and wanted to see her one last time. Gloria made the mistake of believing that lie and went to his house to console him.

After attacking and murdering Gloria, Coday fled to Europe. Three months later, he was arrested. He confessed – in fact, he wrote a document that described his obsession with Gloria. On the last page, he claimed that he didn’t remember his fatal attack on her. He wrote: "I don't remember anything else, dear Gloria. Only returning to my senses, looking down, seeing me there on top of you, the knife plunged deep into your throat, and blood everywhere, you crying out, why Bill why, and uttering those final words."

The jury never heard that this was not the first murder he’d committed. Even so, Coday was sentenced to death. Years of appeals followed, and during that time he placed his pen pal ad on an anti-death penalty website.

In 1978, Lisa Hullinger was a smart, attractive 19-year-old exchange student visiting Germany. She’d met Coday, also an exchange student, and dated him for a few months. However, he was so possessive that he frightened her. She broke off the relationship. As in the case of Gloria Gomez, he lured Lisa to his apartment and bashed her head twelve times with a hammer, killing her. He was convicted of Germany’s equivalent of manslaughter and sentenced to eighteen months in prison.

After serving his time, Coday returned to America and married twice. He inflicted such verbal and physical abuse on both women that they divorced him. In fact, every relationship he ever had was marred by extreme possessive behavior, stalking, and violent outbursts.

Like Gloria Gomez, Lisa shouldn’t be forgotten. She played tennis, violin, and was involved in the Campus Christian Fellowship at Miami University. An A-student who was interested in foreign cultures and languages, she also had a down-home quality about her.

On April 28, 2008, Coday was found dead in his cell. Although a report hasn’t been released, prison guards who were at the scene indicate he bled to death from a self-inflicted wound.


Unknown said...

"I’ve always thought that many people who oppose the death penalty might feel different if they were to stand a few feet away and watch the murderer committing his or her crimes..."

Please explain to me, then, how Lisa Hullinger's parents never once asked for Coday to be killed. All they wanted was a life sentence, to know this psychotic murderer was off the streets forever.

If the parents of Lisa Hullinger could go to the trial, look into the eyes of the man who brutally killed their little girl and still show mercy, then who are you, an outsider, to sit here and point a finger?

The Hullingers said they felt the death penalty was not what Coday deserved. Charlotte Hullinger said, "life has to mean life." This was her view.

Lisa Hullinger felt murder, her parents felt the aftermath of a murder and they still did not want Coday to be killed.

"An eye for an eye makes the world blind."

Coday was clearly insane. He did not remember anything after three blows. Have you read "Behind the Mask" by Stella Sands? This author interviewed the parents of Hullinger, the detectives, the cell mate of Coday, the fiancee of Gomez and even the attorneys involved in the crime.

Before you go dictating who has the right to live and who does not (by the way, who died and made you God?), you should read the views of both sides.

As a journalist, I have looked into both sides of this case. Even those who suffered the most did not want Coday dead, so who are you to say his suicide was justice?

Coday never denied he killed Gomez. He never denied he killed Hullinger. The German trial declared this man insane...

When he saw the pictures of what he did, he was in shock and awe.

According to Reres, one of Coday's attorneys, when the man saw the pictures of what he had done, "He started to cry like a baby. He sobbed hysterically. He went to the floor. 'It can't be. It can't be. It can't be. I didn't do this. Who could have done this? Someone else must have done this.'..."

Coday continued, "I must be crazy...It must have been me...If I have no memory of it, if I created a completely different version of what was in my mind before I took off and left town, then maybe I am."

Coday was even studied by a team at a university. Professor Lenore Walker rarely testified for men who hurt or killed women. She discovered "battered women's syndrome", so it was a huge deal when she agreed to testify to Coday's insanity on his behalf.

Do you understand? The very people who were involved, the families of the murdered...they did not want the death penalty. So when you say, "I’ve always thought that many people who oppose the death penalty might feel different if they were to stand a few feet away and watch the murderer committing his or her crimes..." I believe you are wrong.

The people who were a few feet away, the people who saw the bloody photos of their once vibrant loved ones, the people who looked the murderer of their daughter in the eyes...they did not want Coday dead.

Unknown said...

I should have added I am just attempting to get you to see the other side of your tipped scales. I have no opinion, but I wanted the parents' opinion to be heard in this very biased post.

Robert A. Waters said...

I appreciate your comments and your opinion. The fact is that if Coday had been executed after he committed the first murder, he never would have committed the second. And who's to say he won't commit a third? Again, thanks for your interest and for taking the time to write. Robert

Robert A. Waters said...

Guess the old Alzheimer's is kicking in. Coday died a little over a year ago (as stated in my aricle) so he won't be committing anymore murders.

EricaS said...

I used to work with Bill in the Queens Library system back in the late 90s before he went to Florida. To this day, I still can't believe that this all happened because Bill was mild-mannered, never lost his temper, just a really nice guy. I am just sorry for everyone involved in this horrible event, and pray that the families will find closure now that Bill can't hurt anyone anymore.

Ang said...

If he killed more than one person, he was a serial killer in the making and most likely took pleasure in what he did. Whether he wad sick in the head or not he needed to pay with jail time or other. He declared a blackout because he probably tough he would get away with it for the second time. Please many are using that ploy and the crying, any mediocre actor can pull it off. And you said both families didn't want the death penalty I don't think you are correct Christine I'm pretty sure Gloria's family did.

Unknown said...

While I think you are entitled to your opinion on the death penalty, I find your thoughts on people who disagree with the death penalty to be close-minded. Your assumption is that we disagree with it because we have a soft spot for murderers, which, for many of us, could not be further from the truth. I am steadfastly opposed to the death penalty, and it has nothing to do with any ignorance of the horrible crimes that these men and women have committed. I am fully aware of how disgusting and gruesome most of their crimes are. I always make sure to read up on the victims of these cases so that I have a better idea of what they went through, and I keep them in my minds first and foremost.

But instead of letting my emotions get the best of me, I look at the death penalty objectively. I just believe that it is disturbing to allow the state to take any one person's life, especially with how arbitrarily the death penalty is meted out in this country, how about five states carry out half of all executions nowadays, how the most heinous murderers get a better chance at life sentences if they are rich, a woman, have a good lawyer, or play their cards right (while a poor minority defendant would almost certainly get death for the same or an even less heinous murder), how much race and socioeconomic status can play a part in it, how many politicians take advantage of the death penalty as a political tool to win votes from constituents when election season is coming up, how victims' families can wait for up to 40 years and die of old age before a killer is even given an execution date, and how some men have been executed while doubts still linger about whether or not they were actually guilty.

There are plenty of reasonable arguments to make against the death penalty. Instead of belittling people who disagree with it, I think it would benefit you to apply some nuance, try not to make assumptions, and learn from us about why we disagree with the death penalty.

Dena Elizabeth said...

I found your reply to be well reasoned and informative. Thank you for being a grown-up, and not allowing yourself to be pulled down to a childish, reactionary level.
Also, I agree with you (and your reasoning) on the death penalty... Refreshing.

Unknown said...

I dont believe in the death penalty, The Bible says, Thou Shall not Kill

Tom MIller said...

No, the Bible says "Thou shalt not murder." in the Hebrew. As for capital punishment, it says:

Genesis 9:6 - Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Leviticus 24:17-22 - And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

Matthew 26:52 - Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Romans 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.