There are moments when it's difficult to imagine that the acne-faced young man with the Dutch Boy haircut was convicted of killing children in two states.
"I'm not a violent person," says Arthur Frederick Goode III, found guilty of killing two preteen boys, one in Florida, the other near Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia. "I hated to kill those kids. What else could I do to get society's attention? I'm trying to get society to understand."
Dressed in peach-colored T-shirt, jeans and white rubber slippers, he was friendly and polite as he answered questions in a prison interview room here recently a few days before he was to have been electrocuted. A federal appeals court has delayed the execution.
His hands, in handcuffs, are in his lap under the table. He appears media-savvy, directing television crews where to place their lights and suggesting to reporters how to draw the best responses from him. "I really don't want to comment on that at this time," he says at one point.
Goode, 27, once said he wanted to be executed for his crimes. Today, he says, "I have remorse for the murders and I wish I hadn't done it." He said he no longer deserves to die.
Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan, who prosecuted Goode, disagrees. "I doubt very much that he's sorry for what he's done. He's expressed lack of remorse in too many ways," says Horan, citing letters Goode wrote to his victims' families describing his crimes in detail and telling them how much he enjoyed killing their children.
"I think he should be executed," adds Horan, who has prosecuted some of Fairfax's most brutal murder cases during the past 17 years. "If the death penalty is proper in any case, I could find fewer cases more fitting than his case."
The murders occurred after Goode walked out of Spring Grove State Hospital in Catonsville, Md., and went to Cape Coral, Fla., where he kidnaped 9-year-old Jason VerDow while the youngster was waiting for his morning school bus on March 5, 1976, and later killed him.
Back in Maryland 10 days later, Goode kidnaped a 10-year-old Towson boy who had been folding newspapers on a street corner. Together they traveled to Northern Virginia where they spent a week roaming the area and doing odd jobs. On March 23 Goode kidnaped 11-year-old Kenny Dawson from a Falls Church bus stop, took him to a wooded area behind the Tysons Corner shopping center and molested, mutilated and strangled the boy as the Towson child watched.
At his trial in Fairfax County, Goode told the presiding judge, "If I ever get my hands on another boy, especially a sexy little boy, he will never make it home." Goode, whose plea of innocent by reason of insanity was rejected, was sentenced to life in prison.
During his 1977 trial in Florida, Goode, who conducted his own defense, told the jury that he had raped and murdered the 9-year-old boy. "I want to prove I'm guilty of the crime and I want to die in the electric chair."
Goode now says those statements were rubbish, that he is sorry for the crimes. He contends he should be studied by psychiatrists.
He also says if he hadn't been caught after the murder of Kenny Dawson, he probably would have killed again. "I believe I would have killed another kid."
"It's easy with someone like him to think this behavior, which is weird certainly, to make the quantum jump to say he's insane," says Horan. But, he added, "He's too calculating."
Not so, says Goode's father, who has spent the last several years trying to prevent his son's execution. The younger Goode has had mental problems since age 3, according to his father. "In nursery school when the teacher would leave the room, he'd scream and carry on.
"He's been psycho all the way through," Arthur Goode Jr. continued. "When you're a psycho with no help it's like trying to push a square peg in a round hole.
"We want our son not to be executed.But At no time do we want our son out on the street again." Goode's father said his son should be studied by physicians.
"Let's face it, there will be future Kenny Dawsons and Jason VerDows killed in the future," Goode's father said. "It's always going to happen as long as society doesn't want to give a damn . . . . "
Goode had been convicted in Prince George's County of sexually assaulting two 11-year-old boys several months before the Dawson death. Residents of his old Hyattsville neighborhood, who were aware of Goode's activities, would warn new families about him.
Goode had received a variety of treatments in Maryland and walked through a virtual revolving door of mental hospitals for sex-related crimes. At Spring Grove, he was found "sane, responsible and competent to stand trial." In Virginia he was judged not mentally ill and able to determine right from wrong.
"He committed what I consider to be the outer limits of violent crime," said prosecutor Horan. "You hear about borderline killing, not an awful lot of violence in killings. But in Goode's activities there's no doubt they're bad . . . . He should get death."