September 8, 2009
Phoenix Police Crime Laboratory
Phoenix Police Department
620 W. Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85003
RE: NOTICE OF CLAIM PUSUANT TO
A.R.S. § 12-821.01
Decedent: Romelia Vargas
Date of Death: February 4, 2006
Dear Ms. Sedowski,
This firm represents the heirs of Romelia Vargas.
This letter shall serve as a Notice of Claim pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-821.01. The heirs of
Romelia Vargas intend to pursue litigation for Romelia’s wrongful death against the abovenamed
recipient of this claim letter if the following claim is not accepted.
This Notice of Claim letter contains a fair and accurate description of the recipient’s
intentional, reckless and grossly negligent conduct. The full and complete facts regarding this
claim are in possession of the Phoenix Police Department. This Notice of Claim will serve,
however, as a reasonable foundation for representatives of the Phoenix Police Department to
fully and completely investigate the circumstances of the claim and reach an informed decision
about whether to settle.
This Notice of Claim letter also contains a fair, reasonable, and firm demand for
compensation. Based on the particular facts of this matter and our research regarding wrongful
death settlements and awards, we believe the amount demanded for Romelia’s heirs is reasonable and will be accepted if offered by any recipient of this Notice of Claim letter.
The nature of the claim is a wrongful death action pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-611 et seq. As
Romelia's surviving spouse, Alvin Hogue will bring this action for and on behalf of himself, as
the surviving spouse, and Ms. Vargas’ surviving children, Kenia Valdovinos, age 21, Jesus
Valdovinos, age 19, Melissa Valdovinos, age 17, and Travis Silvano Hogue and Anthony
Emiliano Hogue, both age 3. A summary of each claimant follows.
Alvin, 51, married Romelia on April 26, 2003. Mr. Hogue was a Motor Transport
Operator in the United States Army from 1978 to 1985 and was then employed as a transport
operator for Arizona Materials in Phoenix Arizona. Mr. Hogue was recently placed on furlough
by his employer and at present is unemployed.
Twins Travis and Anthony were 5 months old at the time of their mother’s death.
Anthony is a special needs child; he was born with Down’s syndrome. At the present time,
Anthony is enrolled in ACCESS and receives care from Alvin, who provides for both of the
twins’ full time care. Anthony will have special needs for the remainder of his life.
Kenia was living with and being supported by Alvin and Romelia at the time of her
mother’s death. She is a high school graduate who left the family home after her mother’s
She is self supporting.
Jesus was also living with and being supported by Alvin and Romelia at the time of his
mother’s death. Jesus left the family home after his mother's untimely demise. He has his GED
and is self supporting.
Finally, Melissa lived with and was being supported by Alvin and Romelia at the time of
her mother’s death. She presently lives with Kenia and attends Greenway High School as a
junior, where she is engaged in the usual teenage pursuits.
At the time of her untimely demise, Romelia was 37 years old. As described above, she
had 6 children. All of those children except her son Eric, born April 20001, lived with her at the
time of her death.
Approximately 6 months before her demise, Romelia purchased a catering truck in order
to pursue a small business opportunity. She had worked in the catering business for some years
before purchasing her own truck. Romelia’s income figures show that she earned gross taxable
income of approximately $150/day, or $750/wk, and that her business was doing well. Both she
and Alvin anticipated that her business would continue to expand.
1 Eric is not a party to this claim.
At the time of her demise, Romelia provided financial and emotional support to all of her
children. Although she did not earn a significant wage, she gave to her children the resources
she could, and each of the children received what money was necessary for their care and
upkeep. She maintained a close emotional relationship with her children. Her children looked to
her for support and comfort in their daily lives, as all children do. Furthermore, Romelia
provided the usual routine services a mother does by providing a clean, safe, home environment
and serving as an example of hard work to her children.
Obviously, Romelia's children are devastated by the tragic loss of their mother.
Alvin maintained a close and loving relationship with Romelia throughout their marriage.
As normal spouses, they lived, worked, and enjoyed life together. They relied on each other for
emotional love and support. Alvin’s loss is as tragic and profound as the loss suffered by
Romelia was a good and honest person who was brutally murdered in the truck she hoped
to use to provide for her and her family. The loss to the dependents of love, comfort, and
companionship is immense. The economic loss suffered as a result of her absence, both as a
wage earner and manager of the family, is substantial.
On September 20, 2005, Mark Goudeau (“Goudeau”) approached two sisters who were
walking home from a city park. He held a gun to one sister’s pregnant stomach and forced the
two into the bushes, where he forced them to strip and continued to hold a gun to the pregnant
sister’s stomach while he sexually assaulted the other sister. Phoenix Police eventually obtained
two DNA samples. The swabs were taken from one of the sister’s left and right breasts, which
Goudeau licked and later rubbed with dirt in an attempt to get rid of his saliva.
At that time, police were not aware that Goudeau was responsible for the September 8,
2005 murder of Georgia Thompson outside her Tempe apartment. Goudeau shot Thompson in
the head a single time. Police also did not realize that Goudeau previously committed sexual
assaults in Phoenix on August 6, 2005, August 14, 2005, and September 15, 2005.
After the sexual assault on September 20, 2005, Goudeau’s crime spree continued with a
September 28, 2005 robbery in Tempe and sexual assault and robbery in Phoenix, then a
November 3, 2005 robbery and sexual assault in Phoenix. Goudeau was also responsible for a
string of three separate robberies in Phoenix on November 7, 2005. On December 12, 2005,
Goudeau murdered pre-school teacher Tina Washington, who was on her way home from the
preschool where she worked. Goudeau shot Washington in the face. On December 13, 2005,
Goudeau committed yet another robbery in Phoenix.
Two months later, Goudeau brutally shot Romelia and her co-worker, Mirna Palma-
Roman, to death inside Romelia's catering truck in Phoenix on February 20, 2006. On March 15,
2006, he committed yet another double homicide in Phoenix, this time shooting two employees
of Yoshi’s Fast Food Restaurant in the head. Goudeau was also responsible for the March 29,
2006 murder of Kristin Nicole Gibbons. As he did with multiple other victims, Goudeau shot
Gibbons in the head.
On April 10, 2006, Sophia Nunez's eight-year-old son found his mother, Sophia Nunez
dead in her bathtub. Goudeau shot her as well. Next, Goudeau committed a May 1, 2006 sexual
assault at gunpoint outside the same restaurants he robbed on November 7, 2005, and finally, he murdered Carmen Miranda on June 29, 2006 in Phoenix. Goudeau abducted Miranda from a
self-serve carwash near the scene of his May 1, 2006 and November 7, 2005 crimes. He shot her in the head behind a nearby barbershop, and the murder was captured on closed circuit
television. That was Goudeau’s final murder.
Goudeau was ultimately responsible for no fewer than 9 murders, 15 sexual assaults and
11 kidnappings over the span of a little less than eleven months.
The DNA Evidence
Although Phoenix Police obtained DNA samples from one of the sisters Goudeau
sexually assaulted on September 20, 2005, they intentionally waited until June of 2006 to send it to the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) for Y-STR DNA testing. DPS immediately matched both DNA samples to Goudeau, including a sample the Phoenix Crime Lab previously tested without success.
Approximately one month after securing the DNA from the September 20, 2005 sexual
assault, the Phoenix crime lab performed a partial analysis of the evidence and determined that
saliva was present on both of the swabs. Members of the crime lab tested one of the swabs, the
one from the right breast, and decided not to test the left one, which had dirt on it. The test
results showed a partial DNA profile which was insufficient to identify a suspect given the DNA
technology used by the Phoenix crime lab at the time.
Despite the urgency of resolving the case, and rather than sending the swabs to the DPS
crime lab where the newer Y-STR testing was immediately available, an intentional decision was
made to forego testing and store the swabs in an evidence locker until such time as the Phoenix
crime lab was equipped with the ability to conduct Y-STR testing. The sole reason for this
intentional decision not to send the swabs to the DPS crime lab for immediate Y-STR testing was
so the Phoenix crime lab could be the lab to test the swabs and obtain the results of the Y-STR
DNA testing on the swabs.
At the time of the decision to store rather than test the swabs at the DPS crime lab, the
Phoenix crime lab was aware the DPS crime lab had the ability to conduct Y-STR DNA testing
and the Phoenix crime lab had routinely sent other items of evidence to the DPS crime lab for
testing in many unrelated cases. The Phoenix crime lab could have easily sent the two swabs to
the DPS lab for Y-STR DNA testing had they chose to send them.
While the Phoenix crime lab was unable to perform the Y-STR DNA test, the DPS crime
lab had been conducting Y-STR DNA testing since April 2005, months before Goudeau began
his crime spree. Although the Phoenix Police Department outsourced a significant amount of
scientific testing work to DPS, they decided not to ask DPS for help. Instead, a decision was
made to hold onto the swabs and delay testing until the Phoenix Crime Laboratory could conduct
Y-STR testing itself.
The reason for the intentional delay in testing the DNA evidence was based entirely on a
selfish motive. The Phoenix Police Department wanted to solve the well-publicized “Baseline
Killer” case without outside help. Intentional decisions were made to withhold referring the
evidence to other police agencies, notably DPS, in order to make sure all credit and accolades
went to the Phoenix Police Department.
Sometime after the series of initial attacks, members of the investigative team began to
believe that one individual was responsible for the series of attacks. Investigators’ concerns
arose before the murder of Romelia Vargas. Only because of the public outcry and a change of
management was DPS finally asked to examine the DNA evidence. Claimants believe that this
Notice of Claim request was made sometime in late summer of 2006, well after the violent series
of murders that included Romelia's murder had ended.
DPS not only found Goudeau’s DNA on the untested left breast swab from the September
20, 2005 sexual assault, but also on the right breast swab from which the Phoenix crime lab only
obtained a partial match. After putting the DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System,
DPS matched it to Goudeau, who was immediately arrested in September of 2006. Had the two
swabs been tested earlier, the murders in question would not have occurred.
Claimants believe that the above facts are a fair and reasonable description of the events
giving rise to this Notice of Claim letter. The basic facts are in the possession of the Phoenix
Police Department, and the above information should serve as a reasonable basis for
representatives of the Police Department to investigate the allegations of this claim. See Deer
Valley Unified School District No. 97 v. Houser, 214 Ariz. 293, 152 P.3d 490 (2007).
The factual foundation for this claim is the intentional, reckless and grossly negligent
conduct by members of the Phoenix Police Department and the Phoenix Crime laboratory that
directly lead to Romelia's murder on February 20, 2006. The perpetrator of this crime is
Goudeau, deemed the “Baseline Killer” by the local press. Romelia is but one of Goudeau’s
many victims, and had the Phoenix Police Department and its crime lab outsourced DNA testing
to DPS in a timely and reasonable manner, not only would her murder not have happened, but
several other tragedies would have been avoided as well.
Throughout the fall of 2005 and for the next year thereafter, Goudeau committed a series
of violent crimes on random members of the public. Goudeau committed 9 murders and 15
sexual assaults in at least 16 different violent crimes.
The Phoenix Police Department gathered 2 separate DNA samples from a victim of a
sexual assault in September 2005. This evidence was from the perpetrator of the crime. Had this evidence been timely studied, the results would have ended Goudeau’s crime spree. Phoenix had reason to believe that the series of violent crimes was being committed by one person before
February of 2006. However, this evidence was not subjected to testing until summer of 2006,
approximately 1 year and 9 murders later.
Claimants believe the evidence will show that members of the Phoenix Police
Department, including those acting in a supervisory capacity as well as managers, purposefully
decided not to test the above described DNA samples for reasons having nothing to do with
reasonable police practices and procedures. They were motivated by public relations and interagency competition. Simply put, members of the Phoenix Police Department and Phoenix crime lab wanted credit for solving the crimes. This decision not to test was an intentional act and outrageous in nature.
In the alternative, the decision not to test the DNA sample was reckless or grossly
negligent, as the members of the Police Department and Phoenix crime lab knew and understood the alternative to not testing the DNA samples was that further violent crimes would lead to more injured victims and grieving families. As the number of sexual assaults and murders grew during the remainder of 2005 and continued growing well into 2006, the callousness of the decision not to test the DNA became obscene.
There is no question about the effect of testing the DNA sample. The DNA test DPS
conducted immediately led to the arrest of the perpetrator of the sexual assaults and murders,
including Romelia's murder. The arrest was a direct result of the testing without any discussion
or professional decision as to whether the owner of the DNA should or should not have been
It is clear and undisputed that as a direct and proximate result of the Phoenix Police
Department’s intentional, reckless and grossly negligent decision not to test the DNA, Romelia
was murdered. But for the intentional, reckless and gross conduct of managers and supervisors
at the Phoenix Police Department and the Phoenix Crime Laboratory, she would be alive today.
The culpable members of the Phoenix Police Department and recipients of this Notice of
Claim letter are the following.
Tracy Montgomery, Assistant Chief of Police, Phoenix Police Department: Chief
Montgomery was in a position of authority in the “Baseline Killer” case and exercised
management and control over the DNA evidence described above. Chief Montgomery
participated in the decision to delay testing.
Brett Vermeer, Phoenix Police Crime Lab Commander: Mr. Vermeer was in a position of
authority regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as he managed and controlled the Phoenix Crime
Lab and had authority to process or outsource testing of the DNA evidence from the September
2005 sexual assault. His decision not to process the evidence was made for no good professional
Roger Schneider, DNA Supervisor, Phoenix Police Crime Lab: Mr. Schneider was in a
position of authority regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as he managed and controlled the
Phoenix Crime Lab and had authority to process the DNA evidence from the September 2005
sexual assault. His decision not to process the evidence was made for no good professional
Allison Sedowski, Assistant to Roger Schneider: Ms. Sedowski was in a position of
authority regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as she participated in the management and control the Phoenix Crime Lab and had authority to process the DNA evidence from the September 2005sexual assault. Her decision not to process the evidence was made for no good professional reason.
Benny Pina, lieutenant Phoenix Police Department: Lt. Pina was in a position of authority
regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as he managed and controlled the investigation of the
“Baseline Killer” case and had authority to order the testing of the DNA evidence from the
September 2005 sexual assault. His decision not to process the evidence was made for no good
Andy Anderson, Assistant Chief of Police, Phoenix Police Department: Chief Anderson
was in a position of authority regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as he managed and controlled
the investigation of the “Baseline Killer” case as well as the Phoenix Crime Lab. He had
authority to order the testing of the DNA evidence from the September 2005 sexual assault. His
decision not to process the evidence was made for no good professional reason.
Jack Harris, Chief of Police, Phoenix Police Department: Chief Harris was in a position
of authority regarding the “Baseline Killer” case, as he managed and controlled the investigation
of the “Baseline Killer” case, as well as the Phoenix Crime Lab. He had authority to order the
testing of the DNA evidence from the September 2005 sexual assault. His decision not to
process the evidence was made for no good professional reason.
The Claimants believe that all of the above participated in the decision not to test the
DNA evidence gathered from the September 2005 sexual assault long after it was common
knowledge within the department that one violent, serial criminal was committing rapes and
murders in Phoenix. Claimants believe that any of the above could have decided to refer the
DNA evidence to the DPS crime lab for proper testing prior to February 20, 2006, which would
have prevented Romelia's death.
The following is a description of the damages suffered by each Claimant:
Romelia earned approximately $750/wk as the owner of a catering truck. That computes
to approximately $39,000 per year. Romelia had a life expectancy of approximately 40
additional years, during which time she could be expected to work until she was 65 years old, or
for another 28 years. Over the course of her working life, Romelia could therefore be expected
to earn $1,090,000.00. That money would go to support the community existing between her
and Alvin, as well as her twin boys, one of whom, Anthony, has Down's syndrome. It can be
assumed that Anthony would require constant care up until the end of Romelia’s working life.
Furthermore, Romelia served as a caregiver for her family. She engaged in the usual
household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, and providing a safe environment for her family.
There is a cost to replacing this service. While there are no receipts for the replacement service,
nevertheless, Claimants can calculate that Romelia provided such services for approximately 4
hours each day during the week and 16 hours over the weekend. This computes to 36 hours per
week that need to be replaced. Assuming a cost of replacement of $10 per hour, Romelia’s death
has a value of approximately $360 per week or $18,720.00 per year. Over the total life of the
community, and necessarily over the span of Anthony's life, this would amount to $788,000.00.
There are no exact documents supporting the damage claims, as Alvin has not engaged
replacement service providers and no heirs have sought the services of a health care provider.
However, the loss of a mother or wife is profound and will be remembered throughout each
Damages in a wrongful death cases are subjective. Damages are for the loss of the
financial and emotional support of the decedent. Here, the financial support is notable in that the
mother made little money and had to share it with her husband and 5 children, one of whom is
special needs. However, it is important to note that Romelia did work hard, was very
industrious, and shared her income with her family.
Each Claimant has a separate burden of proof pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-611 et. Seq.
Therefore, each Claimant will present a separate Claim for damages.
Kenia is the oldest of Romelia’s children. She lived continuously with Romelia until
Romelia’s death. Throughout her life, Romelia provided for Kenia’s financial support. Even
after Kenia left the age of minority, Romelia still contributed when Kenia asked. Further,
Romelia contributed to Kenia’s health and welfare by providing services for her and offering the
love, comfort, guidance, and support one would expect from a loving mother. The loss has been
profound for Kenia, as it has been for all of Romelia’s grown children. They miss their mother’s
There is little in the way of supporting documentation for Kenia’s claim. There are no
medical bills, psychological counseling, or other such objective indication of Kenia’s loss.
Rather, she has suffered from the loss of her mother, the one consistent source of love and
comfort in her young life. A mother’s guidance is perhaps needed most during the time when a
young adult must make decisions that will affect them over the course of their entire life. Kenia
will miss that guidance.
Assuming that she benefitted from Romelia’s income or services to any degree, there is
some objective monetary value to be added to the claim. A review of wrongful death damages
suffered by adult daughters for the loss of their mothers shows damages ranging from
$100,000.00 to $3,000,000.00. Kenia believes that $2,000,000.00 is a reasonable and fair value to settle her claim.
Jesus is the next oldest of Romelia’s children. All that describes Kenia’s relationship
with her mother also describes Jesus’ relationship with his mother. Mother and son had a loving
and supportive relationship. The loss of his mother was also profound, and while Jesus also
benefitted from some of the financial support and services Romelia provided, he soon left the
family home to become a self supporting adult. Since then, he has attempted to deal with the
realities of living as an adult. Now more than ever, he misses his mother’s support and comfort,
as being alone in the adult world is very difficult.
As for damages, the same analysis for Kenia applies to Jesus. There is a large range of
values for an adult son’s loss of his mother. However, unique to Jesus's situation, the loss came
at an important time in his life. The damages range from $100,000.00 to $3,000,000.00, and
Jesus believes that $2,000,000.00 is a reasonable and fair value to settle his claim.
Melissa was 13 at the time of her mother’s death. She is presently a junior in high school
and lives with her sister, Kenia, who is trying to substitute as a mother for Melissa. Melissa
intends to go to college. While the same statement of damages for the other adult children
applies to Melissa, she would have remained with her mother for many more years had Romelia
Romelia would have supported Melissa financially and provided services for her until
well after college. This financial damage could easily be calculated to exceed $50,000.00.
Furthermore, the loss of the love, comfort and companionship of her mother has a value equal to, or even in excess of, the other adult children. A strong mother-daughter relationship is
particularly important for a maturing young woman, and Melissa was deprived of the guidance
of her mother during this important time of her life. Damages for an adolescent daughter can
range from $100,000.00 to $4,500,000.00. Because of the value of this special relationship,
Melissa believes that $3,000,000.00 is a reasonable and fair value to settle her claim.
Travis Hogue was 5 months old at the time of his mother’s death. He will never know his
mother. While his siblings had the privilege of knowing and learning from their mother, Travis
will never have that opportunity. Travis will wonder about his mother, ask his siblings questions
about her, and think about how his life might have been different if his mother had survived.
Obviously, Travis would have benefitted from the services provided by his mother for at
least 18 years, probably longer, as well as her financial support. Assuming that the value of the
income and services are split 3 ways between Travis, Anthony and Melissa, Travis's loss of
financial support and the value of the home services would be in excess of $265, 000.00.
A review of values of the loss to a newly born child of his mother ranges from
$100,000.00 to over $10,000,000.00. We believe that a reasonable settlement value of Travis
claim is $4,000,000.00.
Anthony is a special needs child. He has Downs Syndrome. He will need the financial
support and home services of his mother for either his life or the life of his mother, whichever is
longer. Assuming that Romelia’s income remains at the $750 per week for the remainder of her
life and that she allows a full 36 hours per week of home services, valued at $10.00 per hour, the
financial loss suffered by Anthony is $450,000.00.
Importantly, his mother provided a service that a skilled health care provider would have
to provide in her absence. A Down's syndrome child requires more services than what one would
ordinarily expect from someone providing home services. It is believed that the value of the
damages suffered by Anthony is actually double the amount discussed above, or $900,000.00.
The loss of a mother to a special needs newborn is huge and ranges from $1,000,000.00
to over $10,000,000.00. We believe a reasonable settlement value for Anthony’s claim is
Alvin Hogue was born in 1958. He only recently became the father of twin boys and lost
his wife. He has suffered the loss of her income and services to the family as well. These losses
have been described above. He now must raise twin boys, one of whom is a special needs child,
on his own. The loss of the income and support for Alvin is equal to Anthony’s loss, as the
relationship would have lasted as long as either spouse survived.
We believe that Mr. Hogue’s claim has a value ranging from $500,000.00 to over
$10,000,000.00. We believe a reasonable settlement value for Mr. Hogue’s claim is
In conclusion, pursuant to Deer Valley Unified School District No. 97 v. Houser, 214
Ariz. 293, 152 P.3d 490 (2007), we submit the following firm settlement offers:
Kenia Valdovinos $2,000,000.00
Jesus Valdovinos $2,000,000.00
Melissa Valdovinos $3,000,000.00
Travis Hogue $4,000,000.00
Anthony Hogue $6,000,000.00
Alvin Hogue $5,000,000.00
If you have any questions, we suggest you contact the legal department for the City of
Phoenix. We look forward to a quick and reasonable settlement of this matter.
Marc J. Victor
Cc: Matthew Brown, Esq.
Adrian Little, Esq.