For prosecutors it has taken over five years to get to a murder trial in an investigation that stretches from Berkeley County to the South Carolina upstate.
Prosecutors believe Jerald Howard killed Nicole Goodlett then burned and dumped her remains. Howard’s defense is trying to show Goodlett’s “risky” lifestyle played a role in her disappearance and the prosecution’s case is based on nothing but assumptions.
Nicole Goodlett, who lived in Spartanburg was reported missing in March of 2014. Charred skeletal remains matching her DNA were found in Berkeley County in 2015.
Deputies later arrested, her boyfriend and the father of their twins, 37 year old Jerald Howard on March 26, 2018. Opening statements and testimony started on Tuesday in Berkeley County.
In April 2018, Nicole Goodlett’s father James came to Berkeley County to talk to the media and publically thank the sheriff’s office for making an arrest. James Goodlett was called to the stand Tuesday morning and said Howard first contacted him from Spartanburg and asked if had seen Nicole. Her father said on the stand that he found that very strange.
Nicole’s mother and her brother were also called to testify and were questioned by both the prosecution and the defense. Both said back in February and March of 2014 they were texting Nicole and the responses caused some suspicion that it may not be her on the other end.
Nicole’s mother who is originally from Poland speaks fluent German and said she became suspicious and started texting Nicole, who also speaks the language, in German. Her mother testified that her responses were hard to understand and lacked proper structure.
Not long after that the family went to Spartanburg and filed missing person’s report with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office. On March 20, 2014, a search warrant was executed at the home Goodlett and Howard shared in Spartanburg. Investigators said there were signs of a possible struggle that included a hole in the wall and visible amounts of blood on a vanity and on the floors.
Court papers state that on Feb. 22, 2014, Howard made an unexpected visit from Spartanburg in a rental car to his parent’s home in Berkeley County with the twins he shared with Goodlett. Howard dropped off the children, returned later and picked up the kids, and returned to the Upstate where Howard returned the rental car. Law Enforcement said the remains found in 2015 were not far from Howard’s parent’s home in Huger off of Cainhoy Road.
Investigators from Spartanburg said on Tuesday they executed warrants on banking statements and phone records and discovered a check written out from Nicole’s account to Howard in the amount of $200. Investigators also said they discovered a purchase of software for foreign language software form Rosetta Stone in March of 2014.
Howard’s defense questioned family members about how often they talked to Nicole and mentioned she had gone missing before. The defense also questioned her family about her lifestyle and if they knew she had posted on websites often used for prostitution. The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.