Good kid gone bad

(Originally published on Nov. 25, 2009 in the Pioneer. This story was part of a series that won first place in the Michigan Press Association’s Enterprise Reporting contest in 2010.)

Jonathan Good was a typical child growing up in suburban Detroit. This is the story of how he became a murderer — and how he was released back into the public.

By Lindsey Wahowiak
Pioneer Associate Editor

On April 3, 2006, Jonathan Good stepped out of the Brooks Correctional Facility a free man. So many things had changed since he entered the prison system 18 years ago: His mother, his closest family member, had died of a heart attack. His father was in stage four of his lung cancer. It had been 18 years since he murdered Pierre Compeau in the man’s Riverview home.
Good had no education, other than the GED he picked up in prison. He had no work experience and no place to call home. He also had a lengthy criminal history, all racked up before he turned 18. But he was nothing if not driven. The kid who represented himself in a first-degree murder trial at just 19 years old, the young man who got that sentence overturned and pleaded to second-degree murder, offering him the possibility of parole: This was the guy who could find a way to make things work, inside the prison system and out.
When the Wayne County parole board saw him just a few days prior to his release, it didn’t see a stone-cold teenager killer. The board saw a man with a troubled childhood, with overall good conduct while incarcerated, who tried to better himself by learning about computers in the joint; a man who was devastated when his mother died.
The board saw all of that, and so it released the man who would go on to commit dozens of robberies across the state, leading a gang of teenagers to rob, assault and even try to kill a couple in Morley.

Jonathan Good grew up in Riverview, a quiet suburb just south of Detroit. There, he attended public schools through middle school. Court records show he was a troubled child, being placed in special classes for the emotionally impaired when he entered the sixth grade. He also had a juvenile criminal record, robbing a local business when he was just 11 years old.
In junior high, Riverview police and Seitz Middle School administrators remember he threw a desk at a teacher.
By the time he reached high school, he was attending school for special-needs students. He failed every class in eighth grade, despite being of average intelligence. When he wasn’t in school, Good was tinkering with motor bike engines and other small machines in his family’s home.
A moped crash in his early teens left him in a body cast for months. His family told lawyers it also left him with an addiction to painkillers, which opened the door for even more drug abuse.
As Good began to experiment with marijuana and LSD, he became more involved with an older man named Tim Lester — a friend and father figure to Good, who was seeking adult approval he didn’t get at home. His parents, who were separated and about to divorce, saw Lester as trouble; Good’s dealer and a negative influence on their son. Ultimately, the courts saw him as Good’s co-defendant in a pizza shop robbery.
But his short history of juvenile crime, the shady characters he associated with, his tendency toward violent and angry outbursts — none of it prepared his Downriver Detroit community for what he would do as a teenager.
“Jon never learned how to not do stupid things,” Riverview Police Det. Royal Williams said. “He could have made something of himself, too. But with Jon, it was always, ‘Somebody else did it.’”

Carrying a stolen rifle, Good walked into a Pizza King franchise in Dearborn on Feb. 18, 1988, and ordered three employees to lay on the ground. Then, he robbed the business and shot all three employees before fleeing the building.
Good blamed Lester for the shootings, but eventually pleaded guilty to the entire robbery. Lester was found guilty of lesser charges in the robbery; he did not take part in the shooting.
Good was 16 years old. He was in 10th grade.
He had just attempted to murder three people.
It was only the beginning of his two-day crime spree.

The next night, Feb. 19, 1988, Good walked into the home of Robert Wetherington, where he knew his ex-girlfriend’s step-father, Pierre Compeau, would be. Just a block from his own home, his plan, court documents indicate, was to steal Compeau’s truck. However, when he walked into the home at 17038 Mathews St. in Riverview, he was carrying a rifle.
He stepped into the kitchen and fired a shot into Compeau’s chest. Compeau leapt up and ran to the front porch, collapsing into a snow bank on the front lawn.
He was dead.
Good demanded the keys to Compeau’s truck from Wetherington. He jumped into the truck and drove away.
At 16, he was now a murderer — and he wasn’t done yet.

Just 40 minutes later, Good backed the stolen vehicle up to a door at a Radio Shack in the next town over. Court records show he walked into the store with his gun brandished, and ordered employees to the back of the store, where he handcuffed them to a pole.
An unsuspecting customer walked in, and Good ordered him to lay on the ground. Instead, the customer ran back toward the door. Good tried to shoot him, but missed. Undeterred, he began to load up his truck with speakers, radios, stereo equipment, anything he could get his hands on. Then he took off, driving away with the stolen merchandise, the employees still handcuffed in the store.
At that time, no one knew these three crimes were related. As investigators began to dig into evidence, however, all signs would point to Jonathan Good: A 16-year-old petty criminal who had graduated to felony murder.

Williams, a juvenile officer working at the Riverview Police Department, said Good had been named as a potential witness to the murder from the beginning, but he wasn’t a suspect. Investigators didn’t know what might cause someone to shoot Compeau as he drank beer at his friend’s kitchen table that night.
It wasn’t until a young boy, accompanied by his pastor, walked into the department that police began to suspect Good in the murder.
“We considered him a witness,” Williams said. “(The boy told us) he saw Jonathan Good with a rifle in his coat walking down the street. So we went looking for him.”
Officers called Good in for questioning. He was taken to a Michigan State Police post, where, accompanied by his mother, he was supposed to take a polygraph test. While there, police said he confessed to Compeau’s murder.
During the informal interview before his polygraph test, Good confessed to shooting Compeau. His mother was notified, and after being read his rights, Good dictated his full confession to Lt. Harold Raupp. Williams was notified of the confession and took Good’s fingerprints.
Police reports showed Good’s fingerprints were identified on the back door of Radio Shack. All shell casings submitted by the police departments involved in the case were fired by the same gun.
Good was arrested and charged with first-degree, pre-meditated murder in Wayne County Trial Court. He was lodged in Wayne County Jail. There, he began to plan how he would get himself out of this mess.

As Good was implicated in the Radio Shack and Pizza King robberies, he worked with a string of court-appointed attorneys, as he and his family could not afford to hire one on their own. He pleaded guilty to all of the charges. In court, he told judges, including Judge George Crockett III, who would eventually oversee his murder trial, that he was high on LSD during the robberies, which affected his behavior during the crimes.
For the biggest case, his first-degree murder charge, Good chose not to rely on court-appointed attorneys; at 16, he decided to represent himself in circuit court. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Augustus Hutting said that in more than 30 years practicing law, he has never seen such a young defendant attempt to represent himself.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had another (juvenile represent himself),” Hutting said. “We don’t see very many people represent themselves, period. But by the time we got to trial, he was an adult. Good didn’t have any mental issues; he was just Jonathan Good.”
It took nearly three years of hearings, legal wrangling and back-and-forth over evidence, particularly Good’s confession to police, but the murder trial finally got underway. Good, supported by stand-by counsel (much like he had in Mecosta County), represented himself at just 19 years old, with a 10th grade education.
Good defended himself and the murder during the trial, saying he was trying to protect his girlfriend, who he said was being molested by her step-father. Williams said Compeau was never accused of abusing his step-daughter. Twenty years later, she said she wasn’t Good’s girlfriend at the time of the murder and that she was never molested.
Throughout the trial, Good tried to educate himself about the court system. He questioned witnesses, police officers and even his own family. Each witness, including Wetherington, identified him as the robber and murderer.
After several weeks, all of Good’s efforts were in vain. He was found guilty of first-degree murder — a conviction with a maximum life sentence, with no possibility of parole. Still a teenager, Good was going to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Or so it seemed.

Not long after Good’s sentencing, he began sending letters to Judge Crockett. The letters weren’t much at first, just notes letting the judge know how he was progressing in prison. Good told the judge when he got his GED; for each certificate he earned, he sent the judge a copy. He wanted Crockett to know he was trying to turn his life around.
Then Crockett started writing back.
Crockett said he didn’t usually correspond with defendants he had sentenced, but he felt he ought to write back to Good.
“Essentially (my letters were) telling him I was proud of his attitudes and achievements,” Crockett said.
Then, in the late 1990s, Crockett decided to overturn Good’s sentence and grant his request for a new trial. Good believed his police confession should have been thrown out of the trial, though it was approved in a 1990 Walker Hearing. Apparently, Crockett agreed.
Today, Crockett said he has no recollection of overturning Good’s sentence — or if he even overturned his sentence at all.
“I must say, I don’t recall,” he said. “It’s not unusual because judges are human and can make mistakes, or erroneous rulings unsupported by the law, facts or both.”
Mecosta County Prosecutor Peter Jaklevic disagreed. He said the process to reverse a conviction, after a defendant already has been sentenced, is so rare, everyone involved should remember it.
“Jon manipulated the judge, and the judge was dumb enough to be manipulated,” Jaklevic said. “If he was still a judge, I would certainly be notifying the Michigan Supreme Court.”
Hutting said as the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office was preparing to try Good for Compeau’s murder, again, both parties reached a plea agreement: Good would plead guilty to second-degree murder, which has a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, with the possibility of parole.
That possibility became a reality in 2002, when the Michigan Department of Corrections Parole Board agreed that because of his exemplary behavior in prison, and because he said he was “not the same person (he) was,” Good deserved a second chance. He was released from prison after nearly 24 years of incarceration.
Not long afterward, Hutting received a phone call from Good, now a free man.
“I think the last time I heard from Good he called me,” Hutting said. “He told me we’d never see him again in the criminal justice system.”
That was the last time Hutting heard from Good — until he saw his face on television: He had escaped from Mecosta County Jail.

2 Responses to “Good kid gone bad”

  1. Mecosta County Michigan Public Records | Michigan | Public Records Search Says:

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  2. Pamela Says:

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