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Charges Against Women Accused Of Killing ALS Patient Should Stay, Prosecutors Contend

Two women — one an elderly mother and the other a caregiver — should continue to faces charges for conspiring to murder an ALS patient who lived in Solvang, Santa Barbara County prosecutors asserted in a reply to defense motions. 

Marjorie Good, 89, and Wanda Nelson, 63, were indicted in the spring by a Santa Barbara County grand jury on murder charges in the March 2013 death of Heidi Good.

She had the neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known ALS and Lou Gerhig’s disease

Good is the mother of Heidi Good; Nelson was one of her caregivers. 

In their filings, defense attorneys said the prosecutors failed to provide grand jurors with information pointing to their clients’ innocence.

But in the response, Deputy District Attorney Aurelia Mattson contended the grand jury was provided all exculpatory information. Additionally, the defense motion did not include anything that would lead to a more favorable result, prosecutors said.

“Upon review of the 33 witnesses’ testimony and 127 exhibits, the grand jury issued the indictment against defendants Good and Nelson,” the motion said.

Noting multiple inconsistencies in the defendants’ interviews with deputies, the motion also cites recorded phone calls in which the women discuss hiding the fact Marjorie Good knew Nelson’s whereabouts. Nelson replied, “Keep it that way.”

Days after that conversation, Marjorie Good lied to her granddaughter, allegedly saying she had not talked to Nelson in months. Law enforcement officers recorded the call.

Additionally, the prosecution motion noted the defendants immediately blamed Heidi Good’s husband for her death during multiple conversations with sheriff’s deputies and other.

However, witnesses and navigation equipment on his work vehicle placed him in Santa Barbara at the time of her death, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys claim the prosecutors should have told grand jurors that Heidi Good’s husband reportedly was due to receive a $350,000 life insurance payout. 

They also contend the grand jurors should have been informed Heidi Good’s elderly mother had been interviewed for 10 hours straight.

In ruling the manner of death as homicide, experts determined Heidi Good had a high level of medication in her system before someone disconnected the ventilator for 30 minutes. 

On the day of Heidi Good’s death, Nelson left to run an errand, leaving Marjorie Good to watch over the patient. This differed from their typical habit of Marjorie Good handling errands so the caregiver could remain with the patient, authorities said.

Tests revealed the ventilator had been disconnected for 30 minutes, the alarm blaring and either ignored or unheard by Marjorie Good. 

When deputies later conducted a test of the ventilator with Marjorie Good standing outside, she asked, “And what do I hear. Now, would that be the alarm?”

After she acknowledged the alarm, she claimed the door was not open the day Heidi Good died. 

“Defendant Good then claimed the door was shut ‘because it was cold that night,’” according the prosecution motions, noting deputes confirmed it was 71.6 degrees at 2:30 p.m the day of the alleged murder.

“Detective Fenske later pointed out that defendant Nelson opened the door when she entered the house from picking up the prescription,” the motion noted. “Even though defendant Good heard the alarm going off during the simulation where the door was open, defendant Good claimed that ‘even with the door open I probably didn’t hear it.’”

The woman has hearing troubles, but said she wore the same hearing aids the day of her daughter’s death and the test by deputies.

Photos from the scene that day also show the bedroom window open, the motion noted.

Nelson also reportedly gave deputies conflicting tales about whether she heard the alarm when she returned from running the errand.

The caregiver initially claimed the ventilator was working properly.

“Defendant Nelson’s version is implausible, as she stated that she walked into Heidi’s room telling her she was back while the alarm was going off,” the prosecution motion said.

“If the alarm was going off, why would she be announcing her presence rather than running to Heidi’s aid as she stated she has done in the past? It further disregards the fact that the alarm can be heard from the front door, which defendant Nelson said was open.”

A later review of data revealed the ventilator was working properly, with the alarm volume set at the maximum of 85 decibels, the prosecution said.

Prosecutors contend Nelson had financial problems because she was a paid as an independent contractor while Marjorie Good was going to be kicked out the house due to repeated fights, some of which were physical, with Heidi’s husband and son.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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