The Tale Of Terror
By LIZ GOFF
Once the shooting had stopped and the
gunmen believed everyone dead, one of the men said, "Cmon, lets get out
But the second responded, "I still
have a couple of bullets left, and two more shots followed, piercing the stillness of the
death trap as the two survivors sat, silently listening.
Police mug shot of suspects
John Taylor (left) and
Under heavy police guard,
Wendys massacre survivor Patrick Castro told the Tribune the carnage took
only about 15 minutes from the time a
man now identified as John Taylor walked up to the counter at the
Wendys Restaurant on Main Street and asked cashier Anita Smith if
he could see store manager
Smith recognized Taylor as a former
employee and gestured to the basement, where Auguste was closing up for the night. Taylor
brushed past Smith and headed down the stairs, Castro said.
A few minutes passed before another man
entered the restaurant and stood at the counter, appearing to be reading the menu. Police
believe that man was Craig Godineaux, Taylors accomplice in the murders. Castro was
working the grill, not paying much attention to the man.
Castro said he hadnt paid much
attention to Taylor either. He was locked in some idle conversation with Smith, who was
standing beside him at the grill.
Suddenly, Auguste was calling to the six
employees upstairs to come to the basement "for a meeting," Castro said.
Shocked residents of Flushing constructed a makeshift
in front of the Main Street restaurant where five died on May 24. Family members of one of
the survivors left messages of hope outside of the
Main Street Wendys.
"Please come downstairs.
Now," Auguste said.
The six people walked down the staircase
and stood around Auguste, as Taylor suddenly emerged from behind a wall, holding a gun,
"He told us to get down on the
floor." Castro said Anita Smith became anxious and repeated, "Whats
happening?" a few times, angering the gunman. He pushed the young woman to the floor.
Systematically, Auguste was forced by the
gunman to bind the hands of the employees behind their backs, cover their eyes and mouths
with duct tape, Castro said. As he lay on the floor, bound, gagged and blinded, Castro
said he could hear the tape as it was ripped from the roll. Then he heard a "snapping
sound," like plastic bags being ripped off a roll. One-by-one, the victims were
approached again this time each had a bag placed over their heads.
By that time, a second man was with Taylor
in the basement, Castro said. Taylor spoke again, ordering the victims including
Auguste, to get up and walk into a refrigerator room near the managers office.
Taylor led the seven people, single file, into the refrigerator room and ordered them to
the rear, where they were forced to lie down, side-by-side, Castro said.
Castro, 22, knew he was laying somewhere in
the middle of the others. His head was turned to the side, but the bag had not moved,
giving the impression that he was face-down like the others. He is gagged and his hands
bound, as he listens to one of the victims begin to struggle, the plastic bag
crinkling as the mans voice (Auguste) said, "I cant breathe." The
plea for help was met with a smack, then another.
"I could hear him getting slapped
around," Castro said.
A few moments of silence was ended with a
sharp "pop, pop," a pause, then "pop, pop," he said.
Castro said he then heard Taylor say,
"Im out of bullets." A few seconds passed as Castro wondered who would be
the bullet tore
through the bag over Castros head, piercing his cheek and passing through the other
side. Castro said he passed out.
"Im not sure for how long,"
When he came to, Castro could only hear
strange "muffled sounds," as he struggled to stand up. He realized he had been
wearing grilling gloves when his hands were bound, so to escape he slipped his hands out
of the gloves. He pulled the tape from his mouth, then his eyes, and gazed around him to
the carnage. Everyone seemed to be dead, he thought. Then he spotted a
"twitching" in the body of his friend JaQuione Johnson.
Castro leaned over the gravely wounded
Johnson and said, "Hold on, youll be okay."
Castro said he then walked very quietly up
the stairs to make sure the gunmen were gone. He picked up a phone to call police, but
realized the wire had been sliced. He turned and headed back downstairs to try and help
Johnson, Castro said. And when he got to the bottom of the stairs, he realized the FAX
machine on Augustes desk was still working. He used the FAX phone to dial
"911" and told police what had happened.
Castro then went to Johnson, tore the tape
from his eyes, mouth and hands and carried his friend up the stairs. When the pair reached
the top, police had arrived from the 109th Precinct.
"Were locked in," Castro
said. The police smashed a front window to get inside the restaurant, then called for help
and rushed to administer aid to the two victims.
"Downstairs," Castro told the cops who came to
his aid. "They need your help more than I do."
Of A Queens Massacre
By LIZ GOFF
Police officers arrived at
the Wendys Restaurant on Main Street. Seeing two wounded men in the dining section
of the restaurant, the officers smash a glass door to get inside. Patrick Castro and
JaQuione Johnson had been shot. Castro, unaware of the seriousness of his injuries, tells
the officers, "Downstairs
they need you more than I do."
The first team of detectives
arrives at the scene. Det. James Ngai, out of the 109th Precinct Squad, "catches the
case," and is assigned as the case detective. He will coordinate evidence-gathering,
victim identification, family notification, etc. In short, the "lead" case
detective is responsible for all aspects of the case from the onset to disposition
which can take up to three years, under some circumstances.
Faced with the bloodbath
inside the basement refrigerator, police officials establish a unit of detectives to work
around-the-clock to positively identify and "take-down" the individuals
responsible. For the next 39 hours, detectives from virtually every command in Queens join
in the manhunt for the two suspects, identified by eyewitnesses as "two black males,
each in his early 30s, one about five-feet, five-inches tall and 250 pounds, wearing
jeans, a yellow jacket and a white-and-yellow baseball cap." One piece of evidence
has emerged one of the suspects was a former employee at the restaurant.
Police have established a
"full crime scene" at the restaurant, while Ngai is joined by detectives from
the 109th Squad, the Queens Robbery Squad and Queens Homicide. The detectives begin the
searching the bodies for identification, etc.
Detectives are joined by
police at the 109th Precinct, searching alleys and side streets, for evidence that may
lead to the suspects. City agencies join in the search, raking through trash bins, sewers
and patches of grass and weeds adjacent to a Long Island Rail Road station, looking for
the weapon used in the murders or other evidence.
Detectives are notifying
next-of-kin of the five murdered workers have secured several eyewitnesses a least
one individual who saw the two men exit the restaurant by a front door, and several others
who spotted them in the restaurant just prior to the crime. Forensics cops continue to
work at the restaurant, gathering blood samples and one fingerprint police believe
was left by one of the suspects on a carton in the walk-in refrigerator.
City morgue workers arrive
to remove the bodies of the five victims. Ngai and the team of detectives, begin the task
of locating John Taylor, the former Wendys manager. Detectives go door-to-door along
Main Street, trying to determine if anyone spotted Taylor at the restaurant at about
closing time on May 24.
Police comb the city
searching the homes of Taylors relatives and girlfriends, hoping to nab the
convicted felon. Police helicopters join in the search, flying over empty lots.
Detectives search Lefrak
City for Taylor, who lived at the complex until February of this year. Investigators knock
on the doors of tenants at Lefrak, seeking insight and information on Taylors
habits, hangouts, etc.
Detectives head to Suffolk
County, to the home of Taylors mother in Brentwood. He is not there.
Police have a positive ID on
the bloody fingerprint found at the scene, along with ballistics reports that positively
identify the murder weapon as a .380 handgun. Eyewitnesses are being interviewed by
police, including bus patrons who spotted Taylor and Craig Godineaux on a Q58 bus in the
early morning hours of May 25. The eyewitnesses place Taylor and an accomplice sitting on
the bus in the area of the crime scene, just after the shootings, eating Wendys food
from a Wendys bag.
Detectives show a mug shot
of Taylor to a man and woman who were on Main Street on Wednesday night. The pair tell
cops they saw two men running from Wendys. Detectives confirm eyewitness evidence
from a man who said he stopped by the Wendys at about closing time on May 24, but
was turned away by employees. The man spotted one of the suspects in the dining section,
Friday, May 26...
Sources tell investigators
that when Taylor visited the Brentwood house on Thursday he rode a commuter train to the
Police who earlier arrested
Taylors father on a drug charge give investigators Taylors cell phone number.
His father gave the number to police. Cops begin to trace calls dialed in and out
on the cell phone.
Detectives stakeout homes of
Taylors relatives, hoping he will show up or call. Taylor calls his employer
SC&R Clothing in Jamaica and asks for a week off because "his father
Investigators continue to
follow up on tips received from anonymous sources, claiming sightings of Taylor and/or
linking him to the crime. Detectives run several informants to determine if they are
associated with Taylor, and they confirm his involvement in the robbery of two
McDonalds Restaurants in the months preceding the slayings.
Detectives head out to the
Brentwood home again, working on tips that Taylor is there. They notify Suffolk County
police who join in the manhunt.
A 911 call goes out from the
Brentwood house. Taylors relatives have called for an ambulance to assist a
youngster who was involved in a bicycle accident. Police and paramedics respond and,
during the confusion to treat the boy, Taylor steps out on the front stoop of the house to
check out the action.
Suffolk cops who approach Taylor about the
accident ask for his name and he replies Benjamin Taylor. About two dozen city cops and
detectives staked-out outside, storm the house. Queens Homicide Detectives Lieutenant Bill
Nevins and Detectives Martin Feeney and Liz Curcio grab Taylor and within seconds he is on
his way back to Queens. A woman inside the house screams, "Leave him alone. Leave him
alone." It took Taylor only moments to cough-up a name for his accomplice.
From the rear of a patrol car, Taylor said, Yeah, I really
feel bad about it, but it was the other guy who shot them. Taylor implicated Craig
Godineaux, who was arrested a short while later at SC&R Clothing, the same Jamaica
store where Taylor worked. When Taylor was arrested, he was carrying a .380 caliber
handgun in his waistband, police said. Ballistics tests have since confirmed that the gun
was the murder weapon. Police also recovered the restaurant surveillance tape from the
night of the shootings, and cash stolen during a robbery that was pulled from the victims
as they lay in their own blood.
Day In Court
By LIZ GOFF
A crowd gathered outside the Wendys
on Main Street on Sunday, May 28, where a preacher, with arms raised, prayed for the seven
victims of last weeks carnage at the restaurant.
Craig Godineaux (left) and John Taylor appear before Judge
Michael Aloise in this sketch made as they were formally charged.
Pastel Sketch by Shirley and Andrea Shepard
Meanwhile, less than five
miles away, the two men who have confessed to murdering five restaurant workers and
leaving two others for dead stood in a packed courtroom to face formal charges in the
John Taylor and Craig Godineaux stared with
icy indifference at Queens Criminal Court Judge Michael Aloise and Queens prosecutors who
read the charges showing no signs of remorse.
Each of the men was charged with 10 counts
of First Degree Murder, 10 counts of Second Degree Murder, two counts of Second Degree
Attempted Murder, First Degree Robbery (an armed felony offense), and Criminal Possession
of a Weapon (an armed felony offense).
Security inside the tiny courtroom on
Queens Boulevard was intense. There was no standing room as Executive Assistant District
Attorney Greg Lasak related details of the final, terrifying moments in the victims
Once bound and gagged with duct tape, their
eyes taped shut, the victims were "led single-file into a big freezer box,"
Lezak said. In an emotion-filled voice, the prosecutor told how the victims had plastic
bags placed over their heads and were told to "get down on their knees" by
Taylor. Then, one-by-one, the seven victims were shot twice in the back of the head
once by each of the defendants.
"The evidence that we have to tie
these victims to these crimes is overwhelming," Lasak said.
Aloise listened to the prosecutors
request for denial of bail for the two men and ordered the ex-convicts remanded to
Rikers Island. Their next court date is scheduled for June 26.
The arraignment took only 10 minutes
more time than the pair claim to have spent shooting the victims, sources said.
As the arraignment concluded, a young woman
with hot-pink hair shouted "I love you, Craig." Godineaux glanced toward the
spectator benches as he was led through the courtroom doors.
A second voice shouted out, "Burn in
hell," as the woman, her face covered with a red sweater, ran from the courtroom. She
cried and wailed, "Oh, God," as she was followed by dozens of reporters into the
At a post-arraignment press conference,
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said he plans to present the case to the Grand Jury
this week and that he is confident that the panel will indict Taylor and Godineaux.
Both Taylor and Godineaux were later placed
on a suicide watch at Rikers Island to protect them from the other inmates.
Death Or Life In Prison
If District Attorney Richard Brown
chooses to seek the death penalty in the Wendys massacre case it would be only the
fourth time he has done so since New Yorks death penalty was reenacted in 1995.
While the quintuple murder meets the
states criteria for capital cases, Brown has 120 days to decide whether or not to
seek the death penalty, and he has told the press that he will take the full time before
coming to a decision.
In New York, capital prosecution can be
brought in first degree murder cases which involve torture, rape, or other felonies.
Capital punishment can also be sought for terrorists, serial killers, and for the murder
of police officers, prison guards, and judges.
In all three previous capital cases in
Queens, the juries decided against death by lethal injection, and opted for life sentence
without the possibility of parole.
The cases were as follows:
James Allen Gordon raped and
murdered three women in July of 1996. He was convicted of multiple counts of first degree
Later that year, while attempting to
rob an East Elmhurst check cashing business, George Bell murdered Charles Davis, an
off-duty police officer, and Ira Epstein, the owner of the store. Bell was found guilty on
two counts of first degree murder.
In 1998, Stephen Smelefsky pleaded
guilty to murdering his friend George Capobianco, of Middle Village, and his neighbor
Louis Thumudo of Ridgewood in two separate incidents. He was sentenced to life without
parole plus an additional 35 years.