By RODNEY HART
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The photograph of Stanley Goodside's face first caught her eye. How could 36 years fly by like that?
She lived with Goodside and was pregnant with their daughter when he was killed in 1976, presumably in Quincy. All those years ago, it was another time and another world. It was a case that shocked Quincy and received national media attention.
Several months ago, while in her Arizona home helping her grandson with a project, she stumbled upon an online Herald-Whig blog written on Nov. 9, 2009. It was about Bob Brewer, a Quincy man who lived in the house near 24th and Locust where authorities believed Goodside was killed. The blog related Brewer talking about his strange experiences in the house — hearing the sounds of a basketball dribbling and sniffling noises, seeing a Bible opened up to certain pages, and noticing items in the house moved to other spots for no apparent reason.
Sniffling noises? Goodside had breathing problems.
Things being moved for no reason? Goodside used to push things aside to draw.
And she saw Goodside's photo on the blog.
"It broke my heart," she says. "We want our loved ones to be at peace."
One day right after Christmas 1979, Brewer claims he took a Polaroid photo of his wife putting away ornaments. A strange face appeared in the photo. It was looking over his wife's shoulder. The face, as it turns out, looked a lot like Stanley Goodside.
This is a story about a big pot bust, a strange love triangle, a dismembered body found in two different parts of the state, a killing and a murder trial.
Now, 36 years later, the former Lani Aldridge is talking about that terrible time.
• • •
Lani and Rodger Aldridge met Stanley Goodside at a John Denver concert in Iowa in the early 1970s. Lani and Rodger moved to Quincy from Southern Illinois in 1974 when Rodger got a job at Colt Industries.
They bought property at 1631 N. 24th. They rented out the front of the house and lived in the smaller two-story house in the back, a converted chicken coop.
The back of their property connected with Calvary Cemetery. At the time, 24th and Locust was a quiet and remote area, not nearly as busy as it is today.
Goodside, a man with a long face and beard, came to live with the Aldridges in 1974, and he stayed, off and on, for several years. Lani says they met because she and her husband "had a wife-swapping thing one weekend" with Goodside and his wife.
Goodside was different, anti-establishment, but Lani says he was gentle and peace-loving, a drifter, a spiritual man who read his Bible, planted a big garden behind their house, and often traveled to Mexico and warmer parts of the United States.
Lani says she fell in love with Goodside and slept with him, even though she was still married to Rodger. It was a much freer time, though tensions grew between the two men.
"Stanley was the most wonderful person I ever met, and I just fell in love," Lani says. "Yes, we were married, absolutely, but he (Rodger) had his girlfriends, too."
Rodger often worked long hours and wasn't around a lot in those years. Donald Robertson, who has lived in a house next door for about 60 years, remembers them as being "nice people," but it was obvious Lani and Goodside were having an affair.
"I mean, it was going on. He (Rodger) wasn't around very much. I remember Lani and the other guy. They had a pup tent in back of the garden, and they used to be back there all the time," Robertson says.
Goodside had studied wildlife biology, Lani says, and he spent time in Florida and Mexico.
"Every winter he'd go down there because he could breathe better. He had nose polyps," Lani says. "He would barter with the people down there. He'd talk to a woman and could get a room by giving a Disneyland T-shirt to each one of her children."
When Lani first saw The Herald-Whig blog several weeks ago, she was filled with dread while remembering a terrible time in her life.
Now, she says, she's remembering the life she had with Goodside.
She can still smell the apple blossoms from the trees planted by the property on North 24th. They had a big garden in the back, where Goodside grew vegetables and cannabis plants. He fixed up the sun porch and used to make Lani laugh with his "Gus the Carpenter" routine. He'd bake a loaf of wheat honey bread every Friday.
They would sit outside and listen to their neighbor, Lori Robertson, play the piano. Goodside used to bring bread and applesauce to the Robertsons.
"It was like living in a sitcom. It was very pleasant and funny," Lani says. "We had so much fun together."
• • •
The Aldridges and Stanley Goodside were described as hippies, flower children, different. Lani worked at a restaurant in downtown Quincy, the H&H Coffee House. They didn't bother anybody and were pretty much left alone, living on what then was the outskirts of town.
That changed in September 1975.
Acting on a tip, Adams County Sheriff's Department deputies served a search warrant at the Aldridge home and reportedly found 930 pounds of cannabis plants. The photos in The Herald-Whig at the time show tall plants in the garden and more plants drying on the porch roof. Lani, Rodger and Goodside were arrested. Rodger moved out shortly after the bust.
A young Quincy attorney named Jack Inghram was appointed to represent them.
"What I remember about Stanley Goodside is that he was a very nice and laid-back person, and they didn't fit the mold of generic lowlifes," Inghram remembers. "They were genuine flower children and marched to the beat of a different drummer."
Lani also was a very nice person, Inghram says, but Rodger was a little more "standoffish" and not as easy to get to know.
Inghram recalls that the three clients "didn't fit in at all with our ultraconservative Midwestern values," and they would have gotten along much better in San Francisco, where they would have been left alone.
Lani admits they were growing the pot in the back of the house. They pulled out all the plants after a rain with the dirt still on them, she says.
"It ended up being 33 pounds, not 930 pounds," she says. "But yes, it was back there."
A few months later, after Rodger moved out, he signed a search warrant and another drug bust took place at the residence. Lani and Goodside were arrested again. Those charges were eventually dropped when Lani pleaded guilty to the September 1975 bust.
The charges against Goodside loomed.
Then in April 1976, Goodside's body was found. It was in six different pieces, in two different places half a state apart.
Lani says she and Goodside continued to live in the house behind 1631 N. 24th after Rodger moved out and ended up in Burlington, Iowa. About mid-March 1976, she agreed to a visit with her and Rodger's son, then about 8 years old, in her and Rodger's hometown of Sullivan, Ill., near Decatur.
Lani now says she believes she was lured away for that weekend visit. Rodger, who had custody of their son, picked her up and drove her to Sullivan to spend the weekend at Lani's family farm. He then picked her up and drove her back. It was during that time some family members speculate that Rodger or someone else dumped Goodside's torso near a Sullivan rest stop, about 10 miles from the family farm.
When Lani came home to Quincy, Goodside was gone. He was supposed to have gone to the local hospital for surgery on his nose while Lani was visiting her son, but the last time he was seen alive was three days before Lani had returned from Sullivan — on Friday night, March 21, 1976.
Lani says she thought "something terrible" had happened. There was blood inside the house, and the pink bathtub was chipped and stained with blood.
On April 4, a torso without a head, hands or feet was found near the rest stop in Sullivan.
Two days later, Lani says, she was walking with a friend in a wooded area in Calvary Cemetery behind her house. The area was used as a dumping ground by the cemetery, and Lani says she was looking for rocks for her friend's aquarium when she noticed a garbage bag.
She picked it up and the bottom split, and out tumbled a washcloth she recognized as hers.
In the washcloth was a human thumb.
"I'm sure I went into shock," Lani says. "I had friends with me. There was an old man named John who lived back there, so we went to his place to use his phone to call the sheriff."
A few hours later, another bag containing Stanley Goodside's head was found, along with his feet and hands.
"You can't believe anybody can do something so gruesome," Lani says. "I can understand why Stanley (his spirit) might still be in that area because when people die suddenly, often it's a very confusing thing for them. But it hurts my heart to think he's not at peace."
• • •
Rodger Aldridge was immediately labeled a suspect, but he'd taken off and couldn't be located for three months. Eventually he was persuaded to turn himself in, and on July 25, 1976, he was taken to the Adams County Jail. He claimed that he had been in Illinois, Missouri and Iowa during those three months, but authorities said he was actually in Mexico with his son.
Two months after finding Goodside's remains in the cemetery, Lani gave birth to her and Goodside's daughter.
Lani lived in the house for a few more months and never had any strange experiences — except for a time when a friend came over with a dog and the animal acted strangely when approaching the bathroom.
Rodger pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder. But first, he and Lani went on trial in November 1976 in Havana on a change of venue for the September 1975 pot bust at their house.
Lani, represented by Inghram, pleaded guilty to possession the day the trial was supposed to start. She was sentenced to four years of probation, and the sentence was reduced to 30 months. She was allowed to return to her new home in Arizona, where she had moved earlier that year.
Rodger was found guilty of the pot charges and sentenced to between one and five years in prison by Judge Richard Scholz.
Jon Barnard, now the Adams County state's attorney, was then an assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the pot case. He remembers the entire courtroom well being filled with bags full of seized pot plants, and he remembers Rodger being an extremely cold person.
Rodger went on trial in Quincy in May 1977 for the murder of Stanley Goodside. The late Bob Bier was the state's attorney and prosecuted the case before Judge David Slocum. It lasted a week.
There was testimony about Rodger being mad at Goodside and threatening to "cut his head off," and testimony about the strange living arrangement at the house. However, there was no such thing as DNA evidence, no eyewitnesses to the killing. Rodger didn't testify.
Pathologists were unable to determine the time or place of Goodside's death. An investigator testified that he talked to Rodger at his Iowa residence the day after Goodside disappeared and that Rodger denied knowing anything about Goodside being missing. Rodger's home and vehicle also were searched, and no incriminating evidence was found.
Defense attorney Drew Schnack implored the jury to reach a not-guilty verdict, saying motive was the only thing proved, that there was no evidence of where the death took place or what kind of weapon was used.
Jurors deliberated for 10 hours before reaching a not guilty verdict.
Rodger visibly trembled when the verdict was read, news reports said, then ran over to the jurors and shook several hands as they left.
Schnack still practices law in Quincy. He remembers sending Rodger to Chicago to take a lie-detector test, which he "spectacularly" failed.
"Most people thought he did it, but there simply wasn't enough evidence to convict him," Schnack said in a recent interview. "Bob Bier did a very good job with what little he had. He kept those jurors out for 10 hours. There just wasn't enough to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."
Schnack remembers seeing Lani in the courtroom with her daughter, then about 11 months old. The child, Schnack says, looked just like Stanley Goodside.
• • •
After the trial, Lani and Rodger vanished, going their separate ways. Lani got her probation transferred to Arizona, where she still lives in the desert not far from Tucson. Lani believes Rodger now lives in the Phoenix area. Attempts to reach him for this story were unsuccessful.
The converted chicken coop is no longer standing behind 1631 N. 24th. James Wingerter has rented the front house for about 12 years, and he says the owner tore the house in back down about 10 to 12 years ago.
Wingerter said that a few years ago, his ex-wife found out about what happened in the house and "was uneasy" when she went back there, so she planted a peace garden.
"That seemed to calm things down back there. Haven't seen or heard anything since," Wingerter says. "She did a lot of work back there to make everything calm here for the spirits."
Lani says she is thinking about coming back to the Midwest and visiting the site. Wingerter says she is welcome.
"Sure," he says. "It doesn't look anything like it used to, but I don't mind."
Lani, who was granted a divorce from Rodger the month before the murder trial, says she had no choice but to move to Arizona after Goodside's death.
"It was so unfriendly in Quincy," she says. "Even my own friends didn't want to be around me. Elizabeth Taylor once said, ‘You find out who your true friends are when you are involved in a scandal,' and it's true."
Now 64 and widowed from her second husband, she lives in the desert and is happy sitting in the sun, knitting compulsively and playing with her four grandchildren. Soon she'll have a great-grandchild.
Lani's tone turns dark when talking about her former husband. She won't even say Rodger's name, calling him "the father of my son."
She still believes her ex-husband killed Stanley Goodside.
"For years I didn't want to think that," she says, "because he's the father of my son. But at the same time, objectively? There is no doubt in my mind."
Lani says she's seen Rodger from time to time, but won't acknowledge him.
"I'm supposed to forgive because it's only trapping me, but I can't forgive him," she says.
A few years ago, Lani went to a class reunion in Sullivan with her sister. Rodger was there, she says, but every time he entered the room and saw her, he turned around and went the other way.
All these years later, Lani is unafraid of the man she thinks killed Goodside.
"He is much more afraid of me than I am of him," she says.
Lani says she kept sketches done by Goodside. One is of a house a lot like the one near 24th and Locust in Quincy. It's leaning to one side, and the road stretches into the distance.
Perhaps Stanley Goodside still haunts the yard behind 1631 N. 24th, searching for peace after meeting a terrible end.