MILTON, Fla -- The prosecutor in the murder trial of a woman accused of drowning her paralyzed son to collect insurance money said today he will link the death of the woman's common-law husband to the case.
In preliminary motions before the fourth day of testimony began, Russell Edgar said 'it would be very important to his case' to show that Judi Buenoano, 40, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., had collected thousands of dollars in insurance money from the death of Bobby Joe Morris in Trinidad, Colo.
Edgar said he would call Robert Hill, a family friend of Ms. Buenoano, to show she had come by a windfall in Colorado, had 'grown accustomed to a high lifestyle,' and wanted to maintain it.
Edgar's comments were in answer to an order by Judge George E. Lowrey that he be prepared to prove the charge that Ms. Buenoano first poisoned her son, Michael Goodyear, 19, before drowning him.
Colorado officials have said an autopsy revealed Morris' body showed signs of arsenic poisoning after his death. Ms. Buenoano lived in Colorado with Morris briefly until his death in 1978.
An expert testified that Michael's signature was forged on the life insurance policies his mother took out shortly before he died.
'I determined that Michael Buenoano (Goodyear) did not sign those policies,' handwriting expert Don Quinn told jurors Monday.
But Quinn said he could not determine who did sign the policies.
The prosecutor has charged Mrs. Buenoano forged Michael's signature to the life insurance policies, poisoned him to cause paralysis and then drowned him on a canoe trip to collect more than $100,000 in benefits.
But the defense and Mrs. Buenoano's youngest son, James Goodyear, 17, have told the court that Michael, who was wearing metal leg braces, drowned accidentally when the canoe capsized May 13, 1980.
In addition to Michael's murder, Ms. Buenoano is suspected -- but not charged -- in the deaths of a former husband and two boyfriends who died during the last 12 years.
Mrs. Buenoano, according to trial testimony, collected $108,800 from insurance policies after Michael died -- $20,000 from an armed services policy, $85,000 from Prudential Life Insurance Co., and about $3,800 from two smaller policies.
Michael joined the Army in June 1979, completed his basic training and went home on leave. After reporting back for duty, he began experiencing paralysis that eventually left him without the use of his legs and only limited use of his upper arms.
Prudential agent Donald J. Fournier testified Monday he visited Mrs. Buenoano in October 1979 and sold a $20,000 double indemnity policy for Michael. But Fournier said he did not see Michael sign the policy.
Prudential investigator Roy Black testified Mrs. Buenoanodid not mention her son's paralysis when he filed the policy.
'I recall talking to her about the medical history of her son and she said he had always been healthy,' Black said.
Black also testified Mrs. Buenoano told him after Michael drowned that she swam more than 1 mile carrying her other son, James. He said James confirmed 'she tried to save Michael, but she could not find him.'
Margaret Goeller told the court Monday that Mrs. Buenoano, her sister-in-law, did not tell the family for several months that Michael was ill or had died.
Mrs. Goeller said she called Mrs. Buenoano in November 1980 to arrange a family visit and was not told he had died.
Later, Mrs. Goeller said Mrs. Buenoano called her, informed her Michael had died 'and told me he was in the Army and he got involved in chemical warfare or something of that nature.'
Mrs. Goeller said she learned from a police detective in November 1983 that Michael had drowned.