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Grief, anger among emotions at Goree funeral

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

HARTSELLE — Family and friends honored Ronnie Lee Goree in a memorial service Tuesday and talked about the women accused of killing him.

"It's kind of a relief, but then there's anger and hatred and betrayal," said Goree's cousin Pam Goodwin, 27, following the service. "You put your life in somebody's hands to take care of you, and they're the ones that take your life."

Goree suffered from acute seizures and a mental defect. His caregiver relative and a woman who lived with him killed him in March 2001 and left his remains to decompose in a cave near his Cain Road mobile home, said Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett. Goree was 29 at the time.

Last week, investigators arrested Goree's cousin, Geneva Lenox Denson, 43, and Martha Evelyn Routh, 44, on charges of murder.

A double headstone will mark two empty graves until Eva Goree is laid to rest beside her son's grave, Goodwin said.

At 49, Eva Goree suffers from cancer and diabetes.

"Eva has so many health problems. Geneva knew she could go at any time," said Goodwin. "She preyed on that. That way she wouldn't get caught. But that's the one thing Eva had to do before she could go — see her son's killers caught."

Childlike virtues

During the afternoon service at Peck Funeral Home, family members wept as the Rev. A. Ray Lee praised Ronnie Goree's childlike virtues.

Afterward, Eva Goree embraced investigators and thanked them for their diligence in making arrests in the six-year-old murder case.

"I'm just glad that it's over and it's time for her to know the truth," said her sister, Emma Little, 51. "She's been wanting to know all these years."

Goodwin thanked the funeral home for handling the arrangements. She said the service brought closure to some parts of the tragedy, but others are just beginning.

"It takes a sick person to do half of what they done. To bury someone and dig them back up and do what they did to him ... Neither deserve any mercy whatsoever," Goodwin said.

Bartlett said the women apparently strangled Goree after he became extremely ill. Denson continued receiving and cashing Goree's Social Security checks — about $20,000 total — for three years after his death, Bartlett said.

After burying Goree in the cave, the sheriff said, the suspects later returned, crushed the bones with a sledgehammer and dumped them into a creek. But a few bones remained buried in the cave, and investigators unearthed them in April 2005.

Tuesday's service took place over an empty casket.

The hand and foot bones matched to Goree through DNA remain at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., and are part of the evidence in the case, investigators said.

Denson and Routh remained in Morgan County Jail on Tuesday in lieu of $200,000 bond each.

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