Tragedy

03.30.14

The Teen Love Letters that Led to a Tragic Murder-Suicide in Florida

Florida teens Brandon Goode and Alex Hollinghurst were madly in love, and wanted to run away together. But then their wild dreams turned to tragedy.

Hope and reality have seldom diverged more violently than last week, when two runaway teen lovers in Florida took their own lives with a gun one of them had just used to murder a police officer.

Twelve days before she was found sprawled in some brush with a fatal gunshot wound, 17-year-old Alexandra Hollinghurst had detailed her hopes for the future on the back of a love letter to 18-year-old Brandon Goode.   

The happy life that this girl known as Alex envisioned was to commence when she herself turned 18 and became free of parental authority:

Things we’re gonna do on 10/29/14 and after: kiss a lot—cuddle—be close—get McDonald’s go on dates—get chinese—sleep in late together—be rich $$$—grow herbs—get married—have a baby—finish prison break—live somewhere nice far away from here—rub each other’s tummies when we don’t feel well—sleep together —shower together—cook for each other—get our real estate licenses—get fancy cars—have a chill room—love each other—woohoo—play with each other’s hair—get tatted—buy a hookah—tell each other how much we love one another—not fight—travel—laugh about right now—celebrate our missed anniversaries—have a lot of woohoo—live alone—be so so happy on each other’s company—laugh a lot—move states - preferably where herbs are legal—work out together—not be sad—cal each other cute names like prince & princess—go shopping together—be good people, have morals—plan the rest of our lives together—live in Europe—decorate our houses together—bake special foods together—fall in love over and over again. 

Alex also made a list of “why we’re together/soul mates/why you’re the one:”

Handsome—funny—smart—cuddler—great cook—loving/kind—great kisser—motivated—you rub my tummy—you can cheer me up no matter what—you listen to me talk for hours—you know me- you make me feel pretty—you have a perfect smile/ perfect everything.

A different view of Brandon had been documented by the Polk County Sheriff’s office in October of 2012, when he was arrested on assault charges. His mother, Connie Goode, reported that she had returned from work to find the windows of the house covered with blankets and her son with his face painted black. He had an axe slung over his shoulder.

“(Brandon) pinned her between a table and a wall located in the dining area and demanded she accept his father's offer in reference to a divorce settlement,” the arrest report states.

The demand was all the more surprising because the divorce had long since been settled and formalized. The house where the mother and Brandon lived had belonged to her widower father and she had moved there with her son after the marriage ended. Her father ran a lawn service, and Brandon would tag along with him as he mowed, clearly very attached to him until his death in 2012.

Brandon was charged with felony assault, but the outcome is unclear as the case was heard in juvenile court, where records are sealed. He and Alex had apparently been seeing each other for at least several months at the time of that arrest. A letter that seems to have been written by her to him when she was 15 is described by police as “sexual in nature.”

However bad an influence Brandon may or may not have been, Alex seemed to stay on track for a time. She graduated high school a year early, took online courses at a local community college, and held two jobs, one reportedly at Disney World, the other in a shoe store.

But then she seemed to derail. He relationship with her mother became increasingly tempestuous. She was accused of petty theft.

For a time, Alex lived with Brandon in his mother’s house. She was with him in his silver 2003 Isuzu Rodeo on February 24, when he was stopped for a broken taillight. The deputy allegedly spotted a glass pipe in the car and a search produced several more, along with some baggies of pot. The two teens were arrested for drug possession.

Alex’s parents confined her to her home at night, placing locks on the doors and windows, not to keep intruders out but to keep her in. Letters that the police subsequently recovered show that she clung all the more passionately to the hope that she and Brandon could still live happily ever after. One of Brandon’s letters show that he shared this hope and spoke of them sailing off together to live in a beachfront cottage. But in a farewell letter to his parents, he seems to have despaired at least for the moment, seeming to say that he would at least find happiness by dying with the woman he loved.

That dark missive, along with a reference that Alex made in a note to past talk of suicide, led police to classify them as “missing/endangered” when they ran off together. But their subsequent behavior suggests they were still imagining themselves starting a new life right out of their shared dreams. The hopes expressed in the letter then met reality as documented by police reports.

Six years before, Alex’s family had emigrated to the United Sates from England, the land of Shakespeare, who wrote that there was never such a tale of woe as Juliet and her Romeo. The modern American tale of Alex and her Brandon went from tragedy to unredeeming horror when it culminated in the murder of a police officer who had his own hopes of marrying and starting a family.

As told by the police reports and the young lovers’ letters, this more wrenching tale of woe upon woe began on the morning of March 20, when Alex’s mother, Debra Hollinghurst, called the Polk County Sheriff’s office to say her daughter was missing.  A deputy responded at 10:30 a.m. The mother told him that she has last seen Alex at 11 p.m. the night before.

“Debra stated (that) some time during the night Alex ran away, leaving through her younger sister’s bedroom window,” the deputy’s report reads. “Debra stated she has been having obedience problems with Alex. Alex is an habitual runaway. Debra stated she cannot control Alex. She recently got in trouble for shoplifting.”

The mother said that Alex had left behind a letter that, among other things, contained a reference to past talk of suicide.

Mum,

I could write to you for days but I know nothing would actually make a difference to you. You are much too ignorant and self concerned to even attempt to listen or understand, everyone knows that.

Thank you, for trying to talk and understand me after me being honest, after trying to fix things. Thank you for turning a conversation about depression and suicide into something about you.

Please understand that when people compare us, I vomit on the inside.

And thank you for accusing me of being anorexic, FOR YEARS. I’m so fucking sorry for being skinny. If I were, your BITCHY comments that I’m assuming were your attempt to help, wouldn’t have.

If I had stayed another minute, I would have painted the walls and stained the carpets with my blood, so you could clean it up.

You are a waste of space, ignorant, and a rotten CUNT. I wish I were never born.

Debra’s interview with the deputy was interrupted when Alex returned home. She said she had slept in a nearby park.

“When asked about the letter she left, Alex stated she does not get along with her mother and she was just upset at the time she was writing the letter,” the deputy would report. “Alex stated she never advised her mother she wanted to commit suicide. She was just upset with her mother. Alex stated she is not suicidal nor does she want to hurt herself. Alex stated she has never been suicidal.”

Alex’s fury at her mother and her overnight disappearance were likely triggered by a letter that Brandon had written to her the previous day. 

Hey Alex, I hope everything is well with you and things over there are not as bad as I think they are. I am so sorry for all the things that I’ve caused and the relationships I’ve probably ruined between you and your family. I’ve gotten myself a job, it is full time and I get paid hourly plus commission so I will be making more than my mom lol! I start on the 31st so I’m getting really excited because it’s almost here. I plan to move out as soon as I can even if it means sleeping in the car for a few days. I hope I didn’t get you into too much trouble and you don’t have to do time, which you shouldn’t since you’re a minor. Before I go I have to tell you something you will not want to hear but I think it is the best thing to do, not only for us, but for our parents too. I know neither of our parents want us together and we should make them happy and fulfill their wish. Not being able to see you or hear you or kiss you is just too much, why drag it on? It would be healthier for us to talk to new people and try to be happy again than to sit around in misery. I’m sorry it had to come to this and I wish things could be different but we can’t change what happened and we can’t change the way things are now. I’m sorry, I really am, Goodbye Alex.

The two must have seen each other or at least spoken and decided they could not just walk away from each other. Alex had then written Brandon the letter on the back of which she had listed her hopes for their shared future.

When I think about being 18 and living with you again, I keep getting butterflies. I am SO happy to hear you’re getting a job, I hope it works out! I am so excited for us both.

We’ve had our obstacles and there’d probably many more to come, but it’s so worth it. I’m also very nervous for both of our court dates. I hope you get the chance for probation; I hope I get time. It’ll be a mini vacation from my parents and when I come back I might be more grateful. Ha or not, I just need a break from the bitch.

I wish I could spend time with you, I wish I could kiss you. I wish I could really touch you.

I’m looking forward to the months ahead. But I’m looking forward to getting them over with too. Living with you is going to be bliss.

MRS. GOODE

As far as the deputy knew, the immediate had passed. The Polk County Sherriff’s office then got a call form Brandon’s mother at 8:13 a.m. the next day, Match 21. She reported that her son and his car were missing.

“She stated she found a suicide note from him,” the sheriff’s office noted.

Two minutes later, at 8:15 a.m., deputies arrived at the Goode home.

“Connie advised she returned home from work this morning and found her son, Brandon Goode, missing from the residence,” a deputy would report. “She advised she discovered a handwritten note left by Brandon.”

The letter had been left on the dining room table.

To my loving parents,

I am sorry for all the pain and misery I have brought you both, not just now, from these past few years as well. I don’t want to go through life knowing because of my mistakes that I amounted to nothing and was therefore a disappointment. Don’t take that as me putting the blame on you because that's is the furthest thing from the truth. Both of you have been so amazing with your constant help and support through my life. I love you both so much and I wish it didn’t have to come to this but because of my choices in life this is how it has to be. Dad, you have been an excellent father and have done so much for me, it’s my turn to return the favor. I can’t have any of this come back to hurt you and risk everything you have achieved in your life.

Mom, I am sorry for everything I’ve ever said to you and done to you. All you were trying to do to do was be the good mother that you are. I don’t want to cause you any more pain or have you worried about me any more. I am truly sorry for this and everything else. I love you both so much. I love you with all my heart. Please don’t be sad, this is what I want now. I get to die peacefully with the woman I love, the woman of my dreams, my fiancé (Yes, we are engaged!) I miss you both so much already. I love you mom. I love you dad.

In the way of teen passion, Brandon had gone in less than two days from telling Alex they should separate for the sake of their families to telling his parents that he could not bear perpetually disappointing them and was seeking happiness by dying with Alex.

The deputy took the note “as evidence.”

“While on scene I requested to look in Brandon’s room for any other evidence that may help in discovering his whereabouts,” the deputy would report. “Connie Goode advised that her sister is a police captain in Chicago, Illinois and that she was told to respectfully decline a search of the residence.”

The mother said Brandon’s father, Ricke Goode, lived in Windermere, best known as the wealthy enclave where Tiger Woods resided before his own martial break-up. The deputies asked the police there to check the residence for any sign of the son or his car.

The mother also told the deputies that Brandon was “in a relationship” with Alex Hollinghurst and a radio car was dispatched to her house.

At 8:38 a.m., a deputy arrived at the Hollinghurst home.

“Debra checked Alex's bedroom and discovered Alex was not in the residence,” the deputy would report. “Debra stated that Alex was at the residence when she (Debra) went to bed on 03/21/2014 at approximately 0100 hours and she did not discover that Alex was missing until my arrival on 03/21/2014 at approximately 0838 hours.”

Debra gave the deputy what she described as a letter of apology that Alex had written the night before.

Dad,

I’m so sorry I continue to disappoint you. I’m so sorry I’ve changed. I wish we could rewind. I love you to death, but I just couldn’t do it anymore. Every day became harder and harder. I now you can’t understand and I don’t except you to. And I don’t know what to tell you other than I really am sorry, but I know you won’t believe me. I’m sorry.

On the same sheet of lined notebook paper, Alex had also written a note to her younger sister, Hannah.

Dear Hannah,

I need you to know that you’ve always been my favorite, my number one. You’re so much younger but you’re a better person than me, you always have been I hope you never take a wrong turn like I did. I hope you continue to grow. I hope you overcome the insecurity and I hope you realize that you are ever so beautiful.

Alex had written lists, apparently of things to bring when she set off for her new life with Brandon:

Food—cereal—bread—water—clothes—laundry soap—warm clothes—razors—towels—hair brush—soap—shampoo

And:

Gold bracelet? —Mtn dew—Ziplock bags—Tape

The deputy would further report, “Debra said that she believes that Alex was with Brandon Goode due to the fact that she (Alex) hand Brandon have been ‘dating’ for the past several years and the two of them have talked about getting married. Debra said that in the past Alex and Brandon had talked about going to the Clearwater area to live together, but she is not certain that is where Alex and Brandon would have went.”

The report continues, “Debra stated that Alex does not have a cell phone because she (Debra) took it way from her when Alex was recently arrested for drug-related charges. Debra advised that Alex does have a Bank of America account, but to her knowledge the account had a negative balance. Debra further advised that the only way she could think that Alex would be able to get money is to sell some of her possessions. However, Debra checked Alex’s bedroom while I was on the scene and did not find any of Alex’s property (laptop computer, clothes, make-up, or any other electronics) missing.”

The report ends by noting, “Debra was not able to provide me with any other possible destinations or locations where Alex might be.”

Brandon did have a cell phone and his mother had provided the deputies with the number. The sheriff’s office contacted the service provider at 8:55 a.m., asking for the phone’s present location.

 “A ‘ping’ request was submitted to AT&T,” the deputy’s report notes.

At 9:36 a.m., AT&T notified the sheriff’s office that the phone was in St. Cloud. A second “ping” then put the phone in the vicinity of a shopping center in Kissimmee. Det. Jason Platt of the Polk County Sheriff’s office asked the Kissimmee Police to check the location.

“Platt also advised that they were unsure if Hollinghurst was with Goode but that they could not locate her,” Cpl. E. Martinez of the Kissimmee police would write. “Platt added that they did not know if Goode had any weapons.”

Martinez drove through a Walgreen’s parking lot while he was still on the phone with Platt. He spotted the car.

“I could see that the vehicle was occupied by two persons in the front seat,” he would later write. “Due to the glare of the sun I was unable to tell if the persons were male or female.”

He got off the phone.

“I approached from the driver side with my service weapon drawn at low ready since I did not know if any of the occupants were armed. When I reached the driver side window I could see that the vehicle was occupied by a white male … and a white female.”

Martinez asked the male his name.

“He responded Brandon. … He stated they were in town to sell jewelry for needed cash.”

Martinez asked for identification and Brandon produced a Florida driver’s license. The female said she had none.

Martinez motioned to his partner to step around to the passenger so he could get the female out. Martinez instructed Goode to step from the car. The episode seemed to be moments from concluding with nobody hurt, if not necessarily happy ever after.

“Goode reached for the ignition, started the vehicle,” the report says. “I was just to the rear of the driver side door and began to reach for Goode before he could place the vehicle in drive but realized that I had my department issued firearm in my hand and jumped back as the vehicle lurched forward nearly striking me.

“Goode drove erratically through the parking lot with a wanton disregard for pedestrians or other vehicular traffic, nearly striking a family walking through the parking lot with a child in a stroller.”

Goode cut off several cars and “weaved through though lanes of west bound traffic and jumped the raised median before heading east.”

After the car made a successful getaway, Polk County emailed Martinez a photo of Alex. He confirmed that she was the other occupant.

At 10:55 a.m., Platt received a call from an Officer Gonzalez at the Windermere police. Gonzalez reported that he had gone by Ricke Goode’s but nobody had answered the front door.

“I quested that units go back to the father's residence at a later time and if the vehicle is there, several units make contact with Brandon due to the suicidal statements made in the note he left with Mrs. Goode,” Platt would write. “Officer Gonzalez was advised that it is unknown if either Brandon or Alex have a weapon, but to assume they do. He was provided with Brandon and Alex's information. He advised he would provide it to the other units at his department.”

In the meantime, AT & T had been unable to provide any further “pings” indicating the phone’s location. “Which would indicate the phone is turned off,” Platt would report.

Platt tried calling the number several times, but there was no answer and he was unable to leave a voice message. He proceeded to the home of Brandon’s mother, arriving at 3:04 p.m.

“I knocked on the front door several times, but received no answer,” Platt would report. “I then rang the doorbell several times, but received no answer. I then called Mrs. Goode several times, but received voicemail. Due to not receiving an answer at the front of the residence, I walked to the rear of the residence and after knocking on several windows and to the sliding glass doors located within the screened in porch of the residence, Mrs. Goode came to one of the sliding glass doors. “

The mother told Platt that she had not seen spoken to her son and did not know where he might have gone. “Mrs. Goode advised her son would not go to his father's residence due to his father being in Mexico for work,” Platt would write. “She advised that Brandon‘s father had changed the locks at his residence and Brandon does not have access.”

She reported that she had spoken to Brandon’s father, who had also not spoken with their son.

“Mrs. Goode advised she does not believe her son is suicidal due to all his clothes having been taken from the residence,” Platt further reports. “She also advised that in the past, while Alex was living in her residence Mrs. Goode located a large box in her son’s bedroom. The box contained several types of non-perishable food items and she believed that Brandon and Alex were stealing food she purchased and placing it in the box. Mrs. Goode believes her son and Alex were doing this because they planned on living on their own. She advised that the box is not in her son’s bedroom and she believes Brandon and Alex took the food. She advised that her son does have a bank account that he opened when he was eight-years-old, but Brandon has spent all the money from the account.”

The mother said that when she arrived home that morning she noticed that a lawn mower and a golf cart as well as some tools were missing from the garage.

“Mrs. Goode stated she believed Brandon took items from her residence to sell,” Platt reports.

Platt asked to search Brandon’s room.

“Mrs. Goode advised her son’s bedroom is empty except for a pair of shoes,” Platt writes.

At 5:05 p.m. Platt arrived at the Hollinghurst home. Debra as well as Alex’s father, Tom Hollinghurst, were present. They said they had no idea where their daughter might be, but provided Platt with a letter that Brandon had written to Alex in which he spoke of stealing a boat in Clearwater and going to Panama.

My plan is pretty simple. Police do not consider ya a missing person/runaway till after you’ve been gone 48 hours, which would give us plenty of time to get to Clearwater. Then we steal a boat and sail down to Panama, which is a 4-6 day sail. We could live on the beach just me and you forever in a small little cozy house. The more I think about it now the more I see how unfair it is to you. I love you so much and you know I will do anything for you. If it comes down to it and I have to take jail time I will go and suffer through it as long as you visit and are there to get me when I get out. I just want to be with you.

I LOVE YOU ALEX GOODE.

He went on:

My dad said that he knows this is hard and that I might think I found the one but there will be a couple more times that I have to go through this. My response word for word, ‘I know Alex is the one, I will not feel the same about anyone else. Alex is all I think about, all I see, all I want. I have a ring picked out for her and nothing is going to change my mind, especially not someone who is on their third wife. Not all men are the same and there is a big difference between me and you, so there is no way you know or understand what I’m going through or how it is for me.’ That’s when he started crying.

At 3:30 a.m. on March 22, Windermere Police Officer Robert German spotted a teenage boy and girl walking along a road. The 31-year-old German was on his first full duty tour since being out with a shoulder injury. He may have been aware of the alert for two teens of this description. Or he may simply have sensed something that required caution. He radioed that he was making a “subject stop” and asked for back-up.

When back-up officers arrived five minutes later, they found German lying in the street with a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The officers then heard two gunshots and took cover.

Officers placed German in a radio car and met up with paramedics out of harm’s way. Other officers advanced in the direction of the shots.

In some brush, they found two teens, each dead from a single gunshot wound.

“On 03/22/204 I received information that a Brandon Goode and Alex had been located in Windermere, Florida and were deceased,” Platt reports.

At 1:52 pm, Platt received a phone call informing him that a handgun had been used in the killing of German.

“I made telephone contact with Mrs. Good to verify if Brandon was known to carry any type of weapons or had access to weapons,” Platt would write. “She said no, but then advised he has access to an axe.”

Platt pressed her.

“I asked her if there were any other type of weapons he had access to and she advised ‘No.’ I asked if there were any weapons or firearms in the residence and she advised, ‘No,’ but then advised the only weapon is a gun that was her father’s when he was in the war; she was given the gun when he passed away several years ago. She then advised that Brandon does not have access to the gun and does not have keys to the weapon’s security container.”

Pratt kept pressing. 

“I asked her if she would go check to verify if the gun is in the residence and she again advised her son does not have access to the gun. I then asked her again to please check for the weapon.”

The mother finally relented.

“She then checked and advised it was not in the residence, but advised she believed her sister had taken the gun several years ago,” Platt writes. “I asked her to contact her sister to verify this information. At approximately 1438 hours, I received a phone call from Mrs. Goode who advised her sister did not answer the phone call, but she believed her sister had taken the gun.”

The Polk County Sheriff’s office soon after received a teletype from Orange County asking that the Goode and Hollinghurst families be notified of the deaths. Deputies first went to the Hollinghurst house and spoke to the parents.

“Both were provided with the information of the incident involving Brandon and Alex,” Platt would note. “Both advised they did not require the services of a chaplain.”

Platt then went to the Goode residence with a sergeant named Burcham.

“Upon our arrival I knocked on the front door several times and rang the doorbell with no answer,” Platt would report. “I then called Mrs. Goode, but did not receive an answer. Sgt. Burcham and I walked to the rear of the residence and I knocked on the sliding glass door several time and announced ‘Sheriff’s Office.’ After knocking, I heard Mrs. Goode say, ‘Holy Fucking Christ.’ Due to the blinds on the sliding glass door being slightly open, I then observed Mrs. Goode get up from a couch, walk toward a room and I heard a door shut.

After approximately 30 seconds, Sgt. Burcham knocked on the sliding glass door leading to the room and announced who he was and advised Mrs. Goode we needed to speak with her. Mrs. Goode advised us ‘No’ and told us to leave and come back at a later time. Sgt. Burcham then advised Mrs. Goode again that we needed to speak with her and can do it outside the residence. We also asked Mrs. Goode if we could go inside the residence to provide her with our information and she advised ‘No.’ Mrs. Goode was advised of the incident involving Brandon and that he was deceased. “

In the aftermath, Connie and Ricke Goode issued a statement in which they began by saying, “We are heartbroken and overwhelmed with grief.”

“We cannot comprehend the senseless loss of Officer German's life, the death of Alexandria Hollinghurst and for our family, the loss of our 18 year old son, Brandon,” the statement continued. “Words do not exist to express the measure of our sorrow and sadness. Our deepest sympathy and our heartfelt prayers go out to the friends and family of Officer German. We are so, so sorry to them for what happened and they will be forever in our prayers. We know a community grieves and like everyone else in our community, we ourselves are struggling to understand this most horrific tragedy. We have no answers, only questions.”

The investigators had hoped to get some answers regarding the shooting itself from German's body camera, but he had not activated it. Brandon’s car was found abandoned in Kissimmee some 30 miles away and had this “missing/endangered” pair been suicidal, it would seem they would have done so there. They had instead made the journey to Windermere by means that the investigators could not immediately determine.

They had then met reality in the person of Officer German. He surely would have taken the two into custody and they were almost certainly carrying a gun. That meant a weapons charge.

Had they been looking to commit suicide by cop, the teens could have just drawn the weapon and forced German to fire. They instead must have just panicked and one of them killed German as if he personified the reality opposing all their delusional hopes.

As all of German’s own hopes bled out onto the pavement, the two hid in the bushes and heard other officers arrive, an inescapable actuality that offered them no life together at all. The medical examiner says the tale of Alex and Brandon ended with him taking his life and she taking hers, though the order was not immediately clear. Whoever went first, the other surely would have been too grief-struck not to follow.

The police have so far declined to provide the particulars of the gun. Investigators were observed at the scene photographing a long barreled revolver such as Brandon’s grandfather conceivably could have carried while a sergeant in the army during the army Korean War. The Daily Beast could left a phone message for Brandon’s aunt, the Illinois state police captain, but did not hear back and therefore was unable to get a comment as to whether she had indeed taken the gun that had been in the house.

The town of Windermere’s grief over the loss of Officer German was expressed by blue ribbons that went up everywhere. He was remembered as a cop who would give stickers to kids who happened to be in a car he stopped for a moving violation so they would not be frightened by the police.

Thousands attended German’s funeral on Thursday, including the widow of a Orange County Deputy Jonathan Scott Pine, who was shot to death in February while investigating a car break-in just two miles away this latest cop murder. Among the eulogists were German’s father. He recalled that his son had worked “part time jobs he did not particularly like” while on his quest to become a police officer.

“He didn't give up,” the father said. “He had a dream.”

That had now ended with a flag covered coffin, a reality too wrenching to accept immediately.

“I'm still not sure I can believe this, that it’s true,” the father said. “Our son has been taken from us, from all of us, in an instant of tragic desperation, at a time in his life when he was so very happy.”

German’s roommate, fellow Windermere Police Officer Justin Latimer also spoke. He told the mourners of German’s hope to meet the right woman and get married and have a family. “He was very focused on the future,” Latimer said.

After the interment, the department radio dispatcher announced over the air that German was gone, but never to be forgotten. The dispatcher then used the code for when a cop is unavailable.

“German is 10-7.”

With both suspects dead, the case will never go to trial and we may never know exactly how the tale of Alex and Brandon came to end in such violence less than three days after she listed her hopes for their future on the back of a love letter she signed MRS. GOODE.

“Another day done!” she had then written. “I love you, I miss you, I need you. Goodnight my love.”