Thirty-seven years after Kim Goodman’s murder, her mother and brother are working to convince the N.C. Parole Commission that her killer should remain in prison
BY MIKE FUHRMAN
It’s easy to imagine how Kim Goodman’s life might have turned out, how she would have touched the lives of so many young people in a positive way and made her community a better place.
That’s because, at age 20, Kim had a plan. After graduating from South Iredell High School and earning her associate degree at Mitchell Community College, she was preparing to study dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She would work hard and complete her bachelor’s degree in two years and then return home to Mooresville to work as a full-time dance teacher. She was engaged and was looking forward to getting married.
Brett Abrams, a troubled 14-year-old boy who lived nearby, destroyed all of those plans and dreams on July 11, 1983, when he stabbed Kim to death while she was sunbathing behind her home in the Brookview community near Highway 150 in Mooresville.
Prosecuted as an adult, Abrams pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on May 22, 1984, and was sentenced to life in prison.
Today, he is a 51-year-old inmate at Orange Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison in Hillsborough. His prison record includes 11 infractions, ranging from profane language to substance possession and property theft. But the last documented infraction occurred in 2005, and Abrams has since been granted work-release.
Later this month the N.C. Parole Commission will consider his latest attempt to be paroled.
Kim Goodman’s mother and brother are doing everything in their power to ensure that does not happen — just as they have every time Abrams has been up for parole consideration during the past 27 years.They are convinced that, if he is given the opportunity, Abrams will kill again.
“We don’t want another family to go through what we did,” Kim’s mother, Peggy Goodman-Riley, said. “It destroys lives. You do the best you can, but life is never the same” after someone you love is murdered.
“She had just a gentle heart”
Kim loved spending time at the lake. She was athletic, enjoyed waterskiing and could really hit a softball. When she was asked to be in the Miss South Iredell Pageant, she signed up – and won first runner-up.
But she was quiet and grounded. Even though they were six years apart, she loved spending time with her brother Greg.
“She was very close to her brother. She thought he was such a funny person and he could turn on the charm and make her laugh,” Peggy said.
Kim’s family, her fiancé and dancing were the most important things in her life. She was a good student, she had self-discipline and she knew what she wanted out of life, her mother said.
After beginning dance lessons at age 7, Kim performed regularly with a dance troupe, and she started teaching ballet to beginning students when she was 15. Her parents and brother supported her by attending her recitals and competitions.
As an instructor, she loved working with younger dancers, and she shared stories with her mom about how difficult it was to keep her class of 3-year-olds focused.
“She was very kind,” Peggy said. “She had just a gentle heart.”
“She saw the good in everyone — even Brett,” Greg added.
The Crime: ‘Something bad happened at your house’
Peggy was working at Lowrance Hospital in Mooresville when her daughter was killed after she caught Abrams peeping on her in the backyard. The teen had been in trouble for looking through a bathroom window at Kim before — and on that fateful day she confronted him and threatened to tell her father.
Afraid of what would happen to him, Abrams stabbed her 17 times, killing her. He told a potential witness for the prosecution “that he just lost it.”
Afterward Abrams called Kim’s mother on the phone.
“He called the hospital and said I needed to come home — ‘that something bad happened at your house,’ ” Peggy recalled.
Greg, who was 14 at the time, had left to get fishing bait from a friend’s house. When he returned home, he was met by a 14-year-old friend.
“What happened?” Greg asked the other boy.
“He killed her,” the friend replied.
Greg immediately knew who “he” was. Abrams had never threatened Kim or even been rude to her as far as her younger brother knew. In fact, Kim had babysat Abrams when he was younger and later on tried to console Abrams following the death of his younger brother in a camper fire in his backyard.
But all of the neighborhood kids knew Abrams was headed for trouble from a young age and had distanced themselves from the teen over time, Greg said.
After Abrams got caught looking at Kim through a bathroom window, Kim’s dad went to a magistrate to press charges. The magistrate convinced him that a better approach would be to talk to Abrams’ parents and insist they get their son psychiatric help. So that’s what he did.
Not long afterward, Kim Goodman was dead and Brett Abrams was convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. At the time, North Carolina judges could not sentence offenders to life without the possibility of parole. Under state sentencing laws in 1983, life was defined as 40 years.
Opposing Parole: ‘We’re going to do everything we can’
According to the N.C. Department of Public Service, the Parole Commission considers “the nature and circumstances of the crime, the previous criminal record, prison conduct, prison program participation, input from court officials, victims, and other interested parties” when deciding whether to grant parole.
There are four parole commissioners, a majority of whom must vote in favor of parole before an inmate can be released on parole.
In 1993, in an effort to block Abrams’ first bid for parole, Kim’s family collected signatures from 40,000 people who signed a petition opposing his release. In 2004, they garnered 65,000 more signatures.
They have been to Raleigh many, many times over the past 27 years — every time Abrams has been up for parole — to voice their objections to his release. And every time, the Parole Commission has decided to keep Abrams locked up.
Before Kim’s father, Alex Goodman, died in 2002, Peggy promised him they would continue fighting to keep Abrams from being released from prison.
“We’re going to do everything we can to see that does not happen,” Greg said. “We know the consequences if he is.”
They have been notified every time Abrams is transferred to another prison and get advance notice before his case is reviewed for parole. The commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, are replaced when their terms are up so there is usually one or more new members each time Abrams’ case is reviewed.
Peggy and Greg want to make sure that Kim does not become a faceless victim. They want the commissioners to know that she was loved by many people and that her murder was a crime against her family and her fiancé, as well as her friends and the 12-year-old boy who found her body — and even the little 3-year-old dancers she taught and adored.
Nearly 37 years after Kim’s death, Greg and his wife regularly encounter people who knew Kim and were impacted in some way by her death. Other people have sent Greg copies of their letters to the Parole Commission over the years.
“I was blown away by how it affected them,” he said. “It affects everybody differently, but it affects everybody.”
So, on Tuesday, May 12, Peggy, Greg and three other family members will have about 30 minutes to convince a parole commissioner why Abrams should remain in prison for the duration of his sentence.
That commissioner will share the family’s concerns with the entire board. Because of COVID-19 concerns, they will not get to meet in person with the commissioner; they will have to make their case via conference call.
They will share stories about Kim’s kind and loving nature, the plans and dreams she had for her life, and the deep and lasting pain that her murder caused her family, friends, high school and college classmates, and her little dance students.
“We live with her loss every day,” Peggy said.
And they will insist that Abrams will pose a grave danger to others if he is released.
“We know what he was capable of doing at age 14,” Peggy said. “We feel very strongly if he’s paroled he will do it again. He could come after someone in our family.”
There is no organized petition drive this time around, but Peggy and Greg urge anyone who opposes Abrams’ release to send their concerns to N.C. Post-Release Supervision and Parole Commission, 4222 Mail Service Center Raleigh NC 27699-4222 or Parole.Commission@ncdps.gov.
Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell is among those urging the Parole Commission to deny Abrams’ latest bid for freedom.
After reviewing the case file, Campbell wrote a letter to the commissioners arguing that justice would not be served if Abrams is freed — this year or any year.
“This individual needs to be kept behind bars to complete his sentence. It was a vicious and heinous crime,” Campbell said. “He needs to be incarcerated for the rest of his life to pay his debt to the family and society for what he’s done.”