SAN CLEMENTE — Police have arrested three Indiana residents on suspicion of killing four homosexual men in two states, authorities said Monday.
Two of the suspects were arrested Sunday morning by a San Clemente police SWAT team at a Greyhound bus station when the pair went to pick up a Western Union money order. Three hours later, the SWAT team and Laguna Beach police arrested the third suspect at a South Laguna home.
The three are suspected of killing three men near Fulton, Miss., on Jan. 7 and an Upstate New York man on Dec. 17, police said. Tennessee police are also investigating the possibility that the suspects are responsible for a slaying in that state in October.
Police said two of the victims had been pen pals to one of the suspects while he was serving a prison sentence in Indiana. Burglary was believed to be the motive in the slayings.
The suspects were identified as Jon Christopher Mead, 22; Tracy Lynn Holland, 21, and Keith Eugene Goodman, 30, all of Anderson, Ind., an auto-manufacturing town about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. They were being held without bail in the San Clemente Jail awaiting extradition by New York and Mississippi authorities, according to San Clemente Police Chief Albert C. Ehlow.
Goodman was released from prison in 1988 after serving 10 years for armed robbery, Anderson Police Detective Steve Napier said. During his time in prison, he developed pen-pal relationships with a number of men, according to police.
"Goodman was a con artist," said Itawamba County (Miss.) Sheriff's Deputy Terry Jones. "He operated through gay men. He would become their pen pal and he would try to get them to send him money and gifts. He was using them."
One of the pen pals, R.C. Vaughn, 49, and his roommate, Richard Ray Thomas, 29, were shot to death at their home in January. Tommy Lee Mayall, 28, who lived 10 miles from Vaughn and Thomas, was shot to death the same day.
"All of the three victims here were known to be gay," Jones said. "This is the worst thing that's ever happened in this county." Itawamba County, population 15,000, is located in a remote corner of Mississippi bordering Tennessee and Alabama.
"It wasn't a lovers' quarrel," Jones added. "The motive was strictly robbery and they destroyed the witnesses."
In the small Upstate New York hamlet of Windsor, 60-year-old Harold Williams was shot to death Dec. 17 and his home burglarized, said Trooper Michael O'Connell of the New York State Police.
Napier said New York police told him that Williams also had corresponded with Goodman in prison.
Ehlow said police in New York and Anderson, Ind., alerted his department on Saturday that the trio was headed their way.
During the arrest at the San Clemente bus station, police confiscated five semi-automatic pistols stolen from a Chevrolet station wagon registered to an Anderson driver. The pair were held on suspicion of carrying a loaded gun and possession of stolen property, Ehlow said.
Goodman was apprehended by a SWAT team as he came out of the shower in a South Laguna home in the 3000 block of Hayes Place. Several guns were found in the home, which the three suspects were visiting, Ehlow said.
The chief said he did not know how long any of them had been in Orange County or their connection to residents of the South Laguna home. Ehlow said the occupants of the home were not implicated in the crimes.
A team of five New York investigators arrived in Orange County on Monday. They plan to ask that Goodman and Mead be charged with second-degree murder and will request that Holland be charged with possession of stolen property.
Mississippi authorities, who planned to fly to Orange County today, said the suspects would face charges of three counts each of murder and robbery, and one count each of arson. They face a possible death sentence under Mississippi law for the murder charges.
Jones of Itawamba County said that Goodman had been on a "crime spree" since his release from prison.
After allegedly shooting and robbing Williams, Jones said, the three suspects fled to Anderson, then headed south through Kentucky to northern Mississippi. He said Anderson police discovered the suspects' plans to visit Orange County by wire-tapping telephone conversations.
Times staff writer Davan Maharaj contributed to this story.
MURDER SUSPECTS ARRESTED
Police are investigating whether the suspects are responsible for a slaying in Goodlettsville, Tenn.
Three murder suspects arrested Sunday in San Clemente and Laguna Beach
One man killed in Windsor, N.Y., on Dec.17
Three men killed in Fulton, Miss., on Jan. 7