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Wanda Sue GOUGH





Classification: Homicide
Characteristics: Abuse - Self defense
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: October 27, 1980
Date of arrest: May 3, 2006 (26 years after)
Date of birth: 1952
Victim profile: John Kenton Gough, 27 (her husband)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber handgun)
Location: Kilgore, Greg County, Texas, USA
Status: Found not guilty by a jury on February 1, 2007

Abused woman confronts past

By Sarah Ovaska -

February 18, 2007

GARNER They married as high school sweethearts. They lived as abuser and abused.

But when he threatened to kill their three daughters, she killed him with several gunshots.

That was 26 years ago in Kilgore, Texas.

"The only thing I feel bad about is that I don't feel bad about it," she said.

A Texas grand jury agreed with Wanda Sue Gough that she had acted in self-defense and refused to indict her. She went free and eventually settled in Garner, where a Lone Star flag flies outside her ranch-style home.

Then last month, the 54-year-old grandmother found herself pulled back to Kilgore and into the memories she thought she had buried with her husband, John Gough.

The return started when Texas Ranger John Martin, a cold case investigator, was prompted by the dead man's brother to take a second look at the shooting. Martin sifted through the old evidence and came to Garner with a question. Gough had told the grand jury she fired in self-defense, but Martin doubted her story.

The ranger and the widow met at the Garner Police Department. He asked her what happened, and she told him what she had never been honest about before.

John Gough was asleep when she fired the .38-caliber handgun.

Armed with the new statement, Martin had Gough arrested in May and charged with first-degree murder. Her mug shot ran in Texas newspapers.

Last month, she went on trial.

Steady abuse

John and Wanda Gough (pronounced GOFF) met in the late 1960s at a burger joint that doubled as the only high school hangout in the East Texas town of Kilgore.

The abuse began a month after their 1971 wedding in Kilgore, Gough said, when her teenage husband struck her with an ashtray after she stayed at her mother's house too late one afternoon.

She was never late again.

He would fly into a rage over things as minor as not enough ice in his sweet tea. She said he whipped her with a fan belt. She still has scars from a beating with an arrow.

He was often unemployed and known as a drug dealer, said Gough and Martin, the ranger. Five times she fled from him after he left the house long enough for her to gather up her purse and her daughters and run.

She would come back when he would threaten to burn down her parents' house or put a gun to her mother's head. Sometimes she returned after he pleaded that he had changed.

She said her family and some people in town suspected her trouble, but she was isolated on a poor side of town without a car or phone and rarely saw her family. She thought she had nowhere to turn. Domestic abuse was hidden.

"It was a different era," Martin said. "It very well could have happened exactly how she described."

Her daughters lived behind closed doors, running to their rooms and keeping quiet whenever their father was home.

"We never knew what he was going to do," said Christy Furguson, the oldest daughter.

Wanda Gough said the nearly daily blows went on for nine years, until John Gough told his wife that he did not just want her dead, he wanted their three daughters -- ages 8, 3 and 1 -- gone, too.

Gough did not doubt his intentions after he fired a shot at their daughters' door.

He was sleeping the morning of Oct. 27, 1980, when she grabbed the handgun she had taken from her parents' house the night before.

"I knew this man was fixing to kill me," she said. "I just picked up the gun and shot him."

Afterward, she walked to a nearby store to call her parents. She thought she would be going to jail and would need someone to look after her daughters.

Her father told her then that there was no need to tell anyone that John Gough had been asleep when he died.

Self-defense, she said

When the police arrived, Gough handed them the gun she had used. She told them she had fired it after John Gough pulled a gun on her. She said her husband slept with a gun every night and police found a gun in the bed with his body. It was self-defense, she said, and a grand jury agreed.

Gough raised her three daughters in Kilgore, working as a substitute teacher and later in a regional education agency.

She said that after burying her husband, she tried not to speak ill of him for her daughters' sake.

She took her daughter Christy to counseling but never went herself. A woman who ran a domestic abuse support group in Texas asked her to talk to a group, but Gough declined. She said a woman who had shot and killed her husband was not much of an example.

"I don't want to put those thoughts in nobody's head," she said. The only time she talked to a counselor about the abuse was right before the trial last month, when she sat down with a psychiatrist her attorneys had hired.

Gough's explanation of the killing never satisfied her dead husband's family.

"She had a chance to go, and she went and got a gun and came back," said Romy Gough, one of John Gough's brothers.

In 2003, another of John Gough's brothers, Fred Gough, asked the Kilgore Police Department and the Texas Rangers to look into the shooting. They called up the court files and police reports, which hadn't been examined in more than 20 years.

In 2004, Gough moved to Garner with her partner, Robert Fox. The couple started a cabinet installation business and adjusted to their new life in North Carolina.

Arrested, retried

Gough's arrest in May ran on the front pages of East Texas newspapers. She was released after posting bond at a Texas jail and returned to Garner. In mid-January, she went back to Kilgore to prepare for the murder trial.

In Garner, few knew her and what she was accused of doing. In Kilgore, television and newspapers covered her trial extensively. Gough couldn't walk into many stores without being noticed.

John Gough's death factored little into her and Fox's life in Garner, until the Texas ranger showed up.

Gough told Fox about the shooting when they began dating 10 years ago, but Fox did not inquire further.

"Past is past," he said. But when the time came for the trial, he drove to Kilgore and sat in the courtroom for the entire three days.

The jury of nine women and three men listened to police investigators, as well as the tape of the conversation Gough had with Martin at the Garner Police Department. Gough's attorney called her daughter Christy to the stand to testify about the abuse she had witnessed. A retired Kilgore police detective also testified, saying he remembered John Gough had a temper local police knew well.

William Jennings, the district attorney who tried the case, expected the jury to convict Gough but possibly sentence her to probation. He also wondered whether the abuse was as bad as Gough said.

"As much as they wanted to heap on John, they had three children in this marriage," Jennings said afterward. Jennings agreed that Gough was subjected to abuse, but he didn't think it was bad enough to warrant killing a sleeping man.

"The truth always lies somewhere in the middle," he said in an interview.

The jury came back Feb. 1 after deliberating for three hours. Wanda Gough's family was in the room; so were her dead husband's kin.

"I didn't know I could hold my breath for so long," Gough said about waiting for the jury's decision.

The verdict: not guilty.

Fox and Gough returned to Garner last Sunday. The Lone Star flag was still fixed to a post on their front porch, and their four cats and three dogs were eager to be back.

The couple, now facing $40,000 in legal bills, went back to work within days. They stay close to home, occasionally going out for dinner or a movie. Gough enjoys the anonymity but also wants her story told to shed light on domestic violence.

"I can almost feel like nothing's gone on," she said. No one stops her when she shops at the Garner Wal-Mart or Food Lion.

But the trial stirred up memories she thought she had escaped.

She now wakes up every morning remembering jagged scenes of the abuse she had blocked out for years.

"The stressful part is having to go back and relive those memories," she said. "And there were no good ones."

(News researcher Lamara Williams-Hackett contributed to this story.)


Gough not guilty

By Adam J. Holland -

Friday, February 02, 2007

A former Kilgore woman was found not guilty Thursday of murdering her husband in 1980 as he slept in their bed.

Wanda Sue Gough admitted to investigators that she shot John Gough, but told them she was defending her life and the lives of her children after he told her the night before he was going to kill them.

She was arrested within a few days of the Oct. 27 shooting. A Gregg County grand jury declined to indict her because she claimed self defense.

The Kilgore Police Department reopened the case in 2003 to investigate what officials said were discrepancies. It was forwarded to the Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation team in 2005, which resulted in her indictment.

The prosecution's main concern centered on the fact that Gough shot her husband while he slept, which she admitted to a Texas Rangers cold case investigator in 2006.

She told police and grand jurors in 1980 that her husband was reaching for a gun when she shot him.

The nine-woman, three-man jury deliberated for three hours Thursday before rendering their verdict at about 3:40 p.m. When 124th District Judge Alvin Khoury announced the jury's decision, Gough placed her hands over her mouth and began to cry.

"I'm so glad this is over with," she said after court proceedings. "After 27 years I can put this behind me and enjoy my grandchildren more."

Gough could have been convicted of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter had jurors found that she acted under the influence of sudden passion when she shot her husband.

Their decision, however, essentially meant that she acted in self defense and reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary.

During two full days of testimony this week, the jury heard from 13 witnesses. More than half of them testified that she was abused at the hands of her husband.

At least two more witnesses, including a retired police detective, testified that John Gough had a reputation of being violent.

"It was known throughout the (Kilgore Police Department) that John Gough had a violent temper," Jerry Rosegrant, a former Kilgore police detective, said Wednesday during testimony.

But Fred Gough, John Gough's brother, has repeatedly disputed the majority of the abuse claims, including a brief outburst during defense attorney David Moore's summation of his case Thursday morning.

"The justice system worked," Fred Gough said after the trial. "This is how it came out. This is just man's law. There's still God's law to answer for."


Widow charged in 1980 shooting death

Ranger says Wanda Gough admitted lying about self-defense

By Lester Murray -

May 4, 2006

A shooting here 26 years ago left a man dead in his bed. Yesterday his widow turned herself into Greg County authorities and was charged with murder.

John Gough was 27 years old when he was shot and killed by his wife Wanda Gough on Oct. 27, 1980. The shooting was investigated by the Kilgore Police Department.

Fred Gough, the victim's brother, said the case was investigated in 1980 by thenPolice Chief John Bradley and Assistant Chief Marvin Avants.

According to a complaint filed last Tuesday, April 26, by Texas Ranger John Martin, Wanda Gough claimed self defense at the time of the shooting.

Martin goes on in his complaint to say that during a non-custodial interview he conducted on March 29, Wanda Gough admitted to shooting John Gough while he was asleep in bed. She admitted fabricating statements about killing her husband in self defense.

Capt. Ken Hartley, Gregg County Sheriff 's Department spokesman, said Wanda Sue Gough surrendered herself to the Gregg County Sheriff 's Department at 10:20 a.m. yesterday. "Gough, who is now 53 and residing in Raleigh, NC, was arraigned by Justice of the Peace B. H. Jameson and given a $20,000 bond," said Hartley.

Fred Gough said Bill Jennings, Gregg County District Attorney, told him there would be no probation in this case and that Wanda Gough had to answer for what she had done.

"Our family just wants to see justice done after all these years," said Fred. "know my brother was not considered saint, but the right thing needs to be done."

Fred Gough said during the original autopsy it was missed that John was initially shot in the back. "I believe it could have been over a life insurance policy that had just been taken out on John during that period," said Fred.

Fred Gough said he owes this arrest to Chief Ronnie Moore, Kilgore police chief, who listened to him and turned the case over the Texas Rangers approximately eight months ago.

Moore could not be reached for comment and Jennings said he had "no comment" on the case at this time.


Woman Arrested in Husband's 1980 Murder

By Charles Montaldo -

May 4, 2006

A 53-year-old North Carolina woman has turned herself in to Texas authorities to face charges of murder in connection to the shooting death of her husband while he was asleep 26 years ago.

Wanda Sue Gough, of Reliegh, turned herself in to Gregg County Texas authorities after the Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Team interviewed about the Oct. 27, 1980 shooting of John Gough, who was 27 years old at the time.

Texas Ranger John Martin said Gough claimed self-defense at the time of the murder, but in recent interviews admitted that she shot her husband while he was asleep in bed.

"I guess the timing was right when the Rangers finally interviewed her," Kilgore Police Chief Ronnie Moore told reporters. "She had had enough and was going to give up."

The case was reopened after the victim's brother, Fred Gough, convinced Chief Moore that the evidence did not support a claim of self-defense, including the fact that the original autopsy failed to show that his brother was first shot in the back.

"Our family just wants to see justice done after all these years," said Fred Gough. "... my brother was not considered saint, but the right thing needs to be done."

Wanda Gough was arrested and is being held on a $20,000 bond.



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