Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Brigitte HARRIS





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Castration - Brigitte and her sister, Carleen Goodridge, had claimed that their father had raped and sexually abused them since they were little girls
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 28, 2007
Date of birth: June 6, 1981
Victim profile: Eric Goodridge, 55 (her Liberian-born father)
Method of murder: Suffocation (she handcuffed her father, stuffed a towel in his mouth, and then severed his penis with a scalpel)
Location: Rockaway, Queens County, New York, USA
Status: Sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison on October 29, 2009. After serving 5 years, she was released on parole on August 13, 2012
photo gallery

Brigitte Harris is a Queens, New York woman who committed the suffocation and castration murder of her Liberian-born father Eric Goodridge in her Rockaway, Queens apartment. Both Brigitte and her sister, Carleen Goodridge, had claimed that their father had raped and sexually abused them since they were little girls.

Due to her abuse allegations, Brigitte received an outpouring of supporters, including US Senator Chuck Schumer, New York State Senators Diane Savino and Eric Adams. At Brigitte's highly publicized trial in fall 2009, she was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison.

Early life

Brigitte Harris was born on June 6, 1981. When she was 2 years old, she was abandoned by her mother in their Park Hill, New York apartment, and she went to live with her father on Long Island. Her father later moved back to his home country of Liberia, and Brigitte moved around with relatives. She was physically abused by her grandmother; "In that house we were slaves and if we disobeyed, grandma hit us with a stick" said Harris. Brigitte also claimed she was sexually abused by her cousin "My cousin forced me to perform oral sex on him."

During a family trip to Liberia, Brigitte confronted her mother and pastor about the abuse from her relatives but Eric Goodridge denied the allegations, claiming that she was crazy. By the age of 17 Brigitte became independent and got her own place. When she was 26, Brigitte had been living on her own for years and worked as an airport security guard.


After several years of not seeing their father, Carleen (Brigitte's sister) called Brigitte because Eric Goodridge (their father) wanted to talk to them. When Brigitte arrived, she saw one of her nieces sitting on Eric's lap. Brigitte and Carleen argued about her sister letting their father stay in her house, considering what he had done to them as children. Eric (Brigitte and Carleen's father) told Brigitte about his decision to take his granddaughters with him to Liberia.

On July 28, 2007, Brigitte Harris decided to see her father alone in her Rockaway apartment to reason with him and try to convince him not to take the girls. Brigitte asked her father to get help. After the conversation became heated, Brigitte handcuffed her father and gagged him with a towel to prevent him from screaming. Then, using a scalpel, she removed her father's penis. She called 9-1-1, and let them know he was still alive and needed help. She told the operator that she was on her way to the police station, but she never showed up. Instead, she called her sister and told her what she had done. Carleen (Brigitte's sister) advised her to come to her home instead of going to the police. When she arrived, her sister called an ambulance. After seeing her with the scalpel in hand and still in shock, they decided to check her into the Richmond University Medical Center psychiatric ward.

Brigitte's sister Carleen hired defense lawyer Arthur L. Aidala to represent Brigitte. After meeting the lawyer, Brigitte revealed her terrible secret. She told the lawyer details about how her father sexually abused her throughout her childhood. She claimed he told her how, in some African cultures, fathers have to take their daughter's virginity; "He said he was doing it because he loves me and that is how fathers show love to their daughters."Brigitte said. Carleen also decided to break the silence and finally admitted that she was sexually abused by their father as well, but was too afraid to speak up. She set up a website called to raise money for her sister's legal defense.


After being discharged from the psychiatric ward on August 16, 2007, Brigitte was charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter and was held at Rikers Island. Brigitte, who had referred to herself as "Lady Vengeance" and "The Original Dark Angel" on her MySpace page, had claimed that she had not intended to kill her father. "I felt that I had to stop him" "take away his weapon".


Two years after her arraignment for second-degree murder, Brigitte went to trial in September 2009. She testified in her own defense that she had researched the 1993 castration case of Lorena Bobbitt. Prosecutors maintained that Brigitte had intentionally handcuffed her father, stuffed a towel down his throat, then used a scalpel to remove his penis. She threw the severed penis under a Far Rockaway boardwalk. Brigitte argued that her motive for the killing was not revenge, but an act to prevent Goodridge from taking his granddaughters to Liberia and molesting them.

On September 30, 2009, Brigitte's jury found her guilty of the lesser included offense of second-degree manslaughter. One juror reported that "None of us felt that she deserved to get any murder charges or anything. So we decided on second-degree Manslaughter."


Despite jury letters, Queens Supreme Court Judge Arthur Cooperman sentenced Brigitte Harris to the maximum of 5 to 15 years in prison. After serving 5 years, she was released on parole on August 13, 2012.

Brigitte stated that "I don't think killing him was the answer...I can't believe I actually did it. The only thing I had in my mind was to stop him." She also stated that she wants to work for the advocacy group STEPS to End Family Violence when she gets out of prison.

Brigitte's case was profiled on the Oxygen Network series Snapped in November 2010. The program contains statements from Brigitte, her attorney Arthur L. Aidala and her supporters. Her case was later profiled on the Investigation Discovery program Deadly Women in the episode "Parents' Peril".


Childhood hell, then revenge -- as described by Brigitte Harris

By Peter N. Spencer -

November 8, 2009

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Brigitte Harris never had a childhood.

Abandoned by her mother in a Park Hill apartment at age 2, she was shuffled between homes and abusive relatives on Staten Island, Long Island, Rhode Island and Liberia. She was repeatedly molested, raped and beaten by a father who was supposed to protect her. She was betrayed by a family who likely knew what was happening, but neither said nor did anything to stop it.

It wasn't until Ms. Harris killed her father two and a half years ago that she finally started to get the help she needed -- and the chance for a better future.

Ms. Harris, who is now 29, lured her 55-year-old father, St. George resident Eric Goodridge, into her Far Rockaway apartment on June 28, 2007. After wrestling Goodridge to the ground, she handcuffed him, stuffed a towel in his mouth, and then severed his penis with a scalpel.

During her murder trial in September, Ms. Harris told a jury she did not mean to kill him -- just "take away his weapon" so he could not use it again. They found her guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree manslaughter, and acquitted her of more serious charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter.

They found her story so compelling that seven members of the panel wrote to the judge to ask that he sentence her to time served so she can get psychiatric help.

But Judge Arthur Cooperman sentenced her to the maximum five to 15 years in Queens Supreme Court Friday anyway.

In an interview with the Advance, Ms. Harris said she should have sought an alternative to the brutal act.

"I don't think killing him was the answer," Ms. Harris said. "I can't believe I actually did it. The only thing I had in my mind was to stop him."

"I probably should have talked to someone earlier. So many people say it's not your fault, but you don't believe them," she added.

Ms. Harris spoke about preparing for a life ahead she never thought she would have. During her time at the Rikers Island Correctional Facility in Queens, she has been learning culinary arts and taking college-level classes through the Prison Education Initiative (PEI). She gets regular psychiatric treatment -- Ms. Harris was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and a personality disorder -- and medication.

When she gets out, she said she would like to work with the advocacy group, STEPS to End Family Violence, and tell others about her experience. She also wants to finish college and open a restaurant.

"I was a totally different person then. I've been able to tell my story to so many people now," she added.

The first time Ms. Harris ever received professional help was when she checked herself into the psychiatric ward at Bayley Seton Hospital in Clifton on the night of the murder. Until then, she had always been suspicious of authority figures.

Ms. Harris tried to tell relatives about the unspeakable things her father was doing to her, including her sister Carleen Goodridge, who claims she was also being sexually abused by their father. No one wanted to hear it.

In the close-knit Liberian expatriate community in Park Hill, rumors spread about the Goodridge family's dark secret. Several members of the community, who spoke with an Advance reporter at the time of the killing, said they had suspicions.

"A lot of people spoke about it. It's hard to keep a secret around here," said one man who identified himself as a friend of Goodridge.

Ms. Harris had reason to believe the police could not help. Goodridge was charged on Staten Island with reckless endangerment in 1978 and menacing in 1982. Both charges resulted in no convictions. Police were also called to the family's home on Long Island several times on reports of domestic abuse, but no charges were brought against her father, according to documents released at the trial.

Ms. Harris she had to take matters into her own hands when she discovered her father intended to take her 7-year-old niece to his native Liberia two summers ago. That was where much of the abuse had taken place. Goodridge was staying with Carleen and her three children in her Daniel Low Terrace apartment at the time.

"I knew exactly what I had gone through and I couldn't see it happening to another generation. It just had to stop," Ms. Harris said.

During the three-week trial, Ms. Harris appeared calm when she described the hellish childhood that led to a frenzied plan to cut off her father's penis. She first tried with a pair of scissors, then with a scalpel she purchased on the Internet. She burned the severed penis on the stove, and tossed it under a Far Rockaway boardwalk, she said, so it could not be reattached.

The trial was "humiliating," Ms. Harris said, but also proved to be therapeutic. For the first time in her life, she felt people believed her. When the verdict came back, she nearly cracked a smile.

Ms. Harris was smiling often during her interview with the Advance. She doesn't know if she'll ever be able to have an intimate relationship with anyone, or a family of her own, she said. She still has trouble sleeping, and will likely be haunted by her memories forever. But she is optimistic about her future.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to be OK," she said.


Crime Sexually abused killer Brigitte Harris gets 5-15 years for penis-severing death of dad

By Thomas Zambito -

November 6, 2009

A Queens judge Friday slapped Brigitte Harris with the toughest sentence possible for killing and dismembering her father to avenge years of sexual abuse.

Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman sentenced Harris to five to 15 years for the suffocation slaying of Eric Goodridge in her Rockaway apartment on July 28, 2007.

Harris admitted plotting to sever her father's penis with a scalpel by researching the case of Lorena and John Bobbitt. She wanted to prevent Goodridge, 55, from returning to his native Liberia with his granddaughters, she said.

"I never intended to kill him, and I'm sorry for his family's loss," she told Cooperman.

Cooperman acknowledged the findings of mental health professionals who agreed Goodridge repeatedly sexually abused his daughter from age 3, but he cautioned against victims taking the law into their own hands.

"Sometimes the crime itself warrants punishment," Cooperman said.

The judge also chided jurors for giving in to sympathies for Harris in reaching a second-degree manslaughter verdict that was inconsistent with the facts.

Four jurors attended Friday's sentencing and, in letters, urged Cooperman to set Harris free so she could seek psychiatric care. Harris attorney Arthur Aidala said were it not for the jury, Harris, 29, would probably be spending the rest of her life behind bars.

"They handcuffed the judge from committing an injustice," Aidala said.

"Brigitte has shown no remorse," countered Harris' aunt, Comfort Lawrence.


'Bobbitt' case: I cut off dad's penis and burned it, but I didn't want him to die, Queens woman says

By Thomas Zambito and Corky Siemaszko -

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Queens woman who mutilated her father and burned his penis on the stove has been taking a cooking class in jail.

Brigitte Harris, who faces up to 15 years in prison for killing her dad when she is sentenced on Friday, also has been biding her time on Rikers Island by reading vampire novels and mysteries.

In a jailhouse interview with the Daily News, the soft-spoken, crucifix-wearing woman said she never intended to murder her father, Eric Goodridge.

"Thinking back now, I definitely would have tried to put my resources into getting him put in jail," she said. "But I thought that people weren't going to believe me."

Harris, 29, who claims her father started raping her when she was 3 and had sex with other underage girls in Liberia, said she acted after learning that Goodridge was taking his granddaughters back to Africa.

"There was no way I could let it continue," she told The News. "I did it because I couldn't let my sister's children go through that."

Prosecutors say Harris lured Goodridge to her apartment two years ago, handcuffed him to a chair and stuck a towel in his mouth. He choked to death.

Harris told the court she cut off his penis with a scalpel and cooked the evidence after researching the John Bobbitt case and discovering organs can be reattached.

"I don't know why I didn't take the towel out of his mouth," she said of Goodridge. "I didn't want him to hurt anybody else."

Harris said that she has met lots of women in jail who have told her their tales of parental sexual abuse.

"I try to tell them that if they did it to you, they could do it to someone else," she said.

Harris said she told her sister, her aunts and other relatives about Goodridge's abuse, but they refused to believe her.

One aunt, she said, told her, "No matter what he did, he's still your father."

"The people who did know me should have known I wasn't lying," she said. "They knew me. They knew I wasn't that type."

Harris said she wishes now she had gone to someone other than family members for help.

"You can't run away from it," she said. "You have to tell somebody. I was anti-social."

Defense attorney Arthur Aidala, who represented Harris pro bono, said seven jurors have written Supreme Court Justice Arthur Cooperman, asking him to sentence her to time served so she can get psychiatric help.

"I've spoken to judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, and nobody has ever heard of jurors doing this," he said.

Harris said she's not sure what she will tell the judge, but she says she hopes her case will shed more light on sex abuse in the home.

"People need to start talking about it," she said. "People don't want to believe it happens. It's too gruesome."


Woman guilty of manslaughter in dad's castration death

By Thomas Zambito -

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Queens woman was convicted of manslaughter but acquitted of murder Wednesday in the death of her father - whom she admitted castrating to avenge years of sexual abuse.

Brigitte Harris, 29, faces five to 15 years in prison for the suffocation death of her father, Eric Goodridge, two years ago.

"We got a great verdict," said defense lawyer Arthur Aidala. "The horrors she lived through no one should ever have to go through."

Prosecutors say Harris lured Goodridge, 55, to her Beach 69th St. apartment on July 28, 2007, handcuffed him to a chair and stuck a towel in his mouth.

She then removed his penis with a surgical scalpel. She admitted to cooking the evidence on a stove because she had learned from researching the John Bobbitt case that a penis can be reattached.

Aidala told jurors Harris never intended to kill Goodridge but wanted to protect her nieces from the abuse she suffered at his hands.

"Her actions warrant serious prison time, during which time she hopefully will receive the counseling she so obviously needs," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.


Accused killer Brigitte Harris tells jury she researched Lorena Bobbitt

By Thomas Zambito -

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Accused killer Brigitte Harris told Queens jurors Monday that she researched Lorena Bobbitt's 1993 castration of her husband before taking revenge on her abusive father.

Harris, 29, took the witness stand in her murder trial yesterday to rebut prosecution claims that she intended to kill her father, Eric Goodridge, 55, during a July 2007 assault in her Rockaway apartment.

Prosecutors say Harris handcuffed Goodridge to a chair and then surgically removed his penis with a scalpel she bought online. She then turned on the stove to destroy the evidence because she recalled how doctors reattached John Bobbitt's severed penis.

Under questioning by defense attorney Arthur Aidala, Harris said she only meant to dismember her father. "Just know I'm doing this because I know he's not gonna change," Harris said in a videotape recorded days before the attack.

Aidala said Harris acted after finding out that Goodridge intended to take her nieces back to her native Liberia, where she said she was abused since the age of 3.


Exterminating Angel

By Maria Loisa Tucker - The Village Voice

December 4, 2007

It was just after 1 p.m. on a hot July afternoon when Brigitte Harris walked out of her Rockaway home without locking the door. Cell phone in hand, she headed toward the nearest police station, but stopped a block short of the 100th Precinct. Back at her cozy, third-floor apartment, where she regularly hosted informal parties, her father, Eric Goodridge, was dying. Goodridge was a native of Liberia who spent much of his adult life moving back and forth from Monrovia to Staten Island. On this stint in the U.S., he was attending to a host of medical problems. At 55, he could barely walk, plagued by infected keloids on his legs, as well as kidney stones and a failing liver. But these were not the ailments that would ultimately kill him. Harris dialed 911 as she walked away and asked that an ambulance be sent to her address. Someone was bleeding to death on the third floor, she told the operator. EMTs arrived at a chilling scene. Eric lay with a towel wrapped around his head and stuffed into his mouth, strangled to death. A table had been broken in a scuffle. Nearby was a scalpel that the 26-year-old Harris had bought on eBay just a few weeks before—a tool that friends believe was originally meant for her own suicide. But it was her father's blood that was slowly, steadily pooling under him. He had been castrated, and the severed penis was missing.What did remain were notes that hinted at a history of sexual abuse. "He wrecked my life," read one. "At first, I blamed myself. Now I know it's not my fault," another reportedly said.

Half an hour later, Harris was still on the line with a 911 operator, wanting to know what was going on at her home and if her father was still alive. When the operator asked what happened, Harris was reticent. "Forget it," she replied. She said only that she was not thinking straight. That she needed to talk to her sister. Carleen Goodridge and Brigitte Harris, born three years apart, grew up in a sprawling and deeply divided family, traumatized by infidelity, abandonment, rape, war, and now murder. As the elder sibling, Carleen has been both an enemy and a champion for Brigitte. The two battled over whether or not to confront their father about his abuse of them. "My sister, she just always wanted to talk about it. She wanted help. She wanted people to know what he was doing," Carleen says, but "I wouldn't allow her to talk about it. That's what divided us."

In the aftermath of her father's murder, Carleen has been talking a lot. She launched a public-relations campaign to "Save Brigitte." Within 36 hours of the murder, she had hired star defense attorney Arthur Aidala and told the world that both she and Brigitte had been victims of a pedophile father who regularly and repeatedly raped them from a very young age. Within a week, Carleen had set up a website collecting donations for a defense fund and had held press conferences to round up support. The murder of their "monster" father was simply karma, she told Montel Williams and audiences at a candlelight vigil. If Brigitte snapped, she implied, it was their father who had pushed her. Thanks to Carleen's efforts, a small crowd of supporters have lined up behind Brigitte, including U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer and New York State Senators Eric Adams and Diane Savino. In addition to shining a spotlight on the case—which may help Brigitte win a lenient sentence—one has also directly assisted Carleen professionally. She was hired as Savino's executive assistant last month, which provided a much-needed income and direction for the struggling single mom.

Meanwhile, as the case heads toward trial—the plea agreement that the defense had hoped for has yet to materialize—Brigitte's family has become increasingly polarized. Carleen and her maternal relatives have portrayed Brigitte as a victim who finally snapped, while Eric's side of the family denies any sexual abuse and say the sisters planned their father's murder for ulterior motives. The family split was apparent during a court date last month. Seven members of Eric's family traveled from Rhode Island and Colorado to attend a brief hearing at Queens Criminal Court, where they exchanged information and hugs with the prosecutor. Carleen was notably absent; in her place was an advocate from a domestic-violence nonprofit that helps those in trouble for retaliating against their abusers. Lawyers have asked for more time to review evidence before returning to court on January 4.


A Daughter’s Revenge

Brigitte Harris cut off her father's penis, accidentally killing him in the process, because, she says, he sexually abused her for years. In 2009, she was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, and sentenced to five to fifteen years. This week she'll have her first parole hearing. Should she be released? Read her story, and take our poll.

By Robert Kolker -

April 1, 2012

On an early-summer afternoon in 2007, Brigitte Harris took a two-hour subway-and-ferry ride from her apartment in Queens to her sister Carleen’s apartment in Staten Island. When she arrived, she walked past the living room and into the kitchen, where her sister tried to calm her down. Talk to him, Carleen told her. Maybe he’ll apologize.

Harris gathered herself together, then walked out of the kitchen and, for the first time in five years, took a look at her father. Eric Goodridge was 55 now—older and frailer, though still robust at more than 200 pounds. He was in pain, suffering from a kidney stone. The man standing in front of her was different from the one she’d envisioned for so long. This man was talking to her like she was 26, not 6. This man was handing her a business card with his phone number. This man was saying, “We need to talk.”

Then he asked her to go out and get him something to drink. She walked to a nearby store, bought a V8 Splash, and came back to the house. And when she returned, she saw something that stopped her cold: her 8-year-old niece, Edina, Carleen’s daughter, laughing and playing in Eric Goodridge’s lap.

Harris grabbed her bookbag and went back to the ferry. She knew she needed to see her father again, but alone. A few days later, he called. And as the two of them set up another meeting, he let her know that he intended to take Edina and another niece of Harris’s, 8-year-old Monique, back with him to Africa.

This was too much. Harris came to Carleen in anguish. The two women argued. Carleen of all people, Harris thought, should understand the danger of sending two little girls away with Eric Goodridge.

“How do you do it?” Harris asked her sister. “How do you go on?”

“You just do it,” Carleen said. “You move on.”

On Wednesday, July 25—three days before she would see her father again—Harris flicked on a camcorder, aimed it at herself, and started talking.

Okay, so, testing right now. My name is Brigitte Harris, and this is the story of my life. Well, not the whole thing, obviously. It’ll take way to long. Just the summary reasons—why I’m doing what I’m about to do, why I feel I have to do it, why it must be done, why I’ve waited this long to do it. And so, you can judge me. But before you do, get the whole story. That’s all I ask.

Three years have passed. It’s a few days before Thanksgiving, and Brigitte Harris is sitting at a conference table at the maximum-security Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for women in Westchester. Two guards are sitting within five feet of her. One of them, while waiting for her to be brought in, told me privately that she’d like to shake her hand.

There’s a calm about Harris as she talks. She is remembering that day in Staten Island when she saw Edina on her father’s lap. “It took me right back to myself,” she says. “Playing and laughing and giggling. It seems innocent, but I know what he’s thinking.”

Brigitte Harris was born on June 6, 1981, in the back seat of a cab outside a Staten Island hospital—an emergency delivery to a mother, Lucy-Anna Harris, who would leave for Liberia two years later, abandoning Brigitte and three other children to the foster-care system. By 1984, their father had taken them in. In one of her earliest childhood memories, her father orders her to undress and lie naked on a bed in a guest room. She remembers him getting on top of her and trying to have sex with her. She remembers the phone ringing and pleading with her father to go answer the phone—and him telling her “Don’t worry about it.” She remembers him getting off her in time. She remembers holding her doll. She remembers being in pain. She was 3 years old.

Her siblings have all since confirmed everything Harris says her father did to her, and yet her father also was the closest thing to a constant in her childhood. Eric Goodridge had once been a familiar face in the Staten Island African-expat community. He had left Liberia and started several businesses—records, imports and exports, a taxi service. Harris’s mother remembers him as a philanderer with a prevailing interest in young girls. Brigitte was about 4 when her father first forced her to perform oral sex on him. “He sat on the bed and he took his pants off, pulled his penis out, and told me to ‘suck on it,’ ” she remembered later, “and I guess I was doing it wrong, so he said, ‘Suck on it like a bottle.’ And I guess I still wasn’t doing it the right way because he laughed and said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll teach you.’ ”

At 12, Harris was sent to Liberia to live with her mother, and what she hoped would be a tearful reunion turned violent. Lucy-Anna beat her with a rattan so hard that it left permanent marks. Life with her mother became so unbearable that she actually went to live with her father again. “When [Lucy-Anna] told him I couldn’t stay with him because of [the abuse] I denied it ever happened,” Harris recalled later in a journal. “I convinced myself it never happened.” Good­ridge soon left her with a girlfriend who would beat a naked Harris with a rattan, then pour a solution of ground hot peppers into the wounds. In 1996, during a flare-up in the country’s ongoing civil war, Harris took advantage of a free airlift out of Liberia to flee her father’s girlfriend. Her father took her in again in New York. She was 15, fully into puberty, and Goodridge took full notice. He forced her to be still as he performed oral sex on her, then to watch porn with him. “In Africa, fathers sleep with their daughters to show that they love them,” he told her.

How Harris tried to build a new life

A half-sister and aunt promised to help, but in 1997, Goodridge took Harris back with him to Liberia, where he was living with two women—Harris later described them as distant cousins—with whom he often had sex. On New Year’s Eve 1997, her sister Lovette was asleep when her father attempted a sexual attack on Harris for the last time. She fell asleep, only to awake in the middle of the night as he was performing oral sex on her. “But before I fully woke up,” she later recalled, “I had experienced some sort of pleasure. I didn’t know what was going on. And then I realized it was him.” For the first time, she physically fought him off. She was crying, and eventually he gave up.

She was 17 when she finally was able to get out and stay with her mother, also in Liberia. Goodridge let her leave, tossing her passport at her dejectedly and letting her know he disapproved of her abandoning her friends, including Lovette. She stayed with her mother until her 18th birthday, when she could qualify for a repatriation loan. She told Lovette she would be back for her, then headed back to America. “I told her I was going to get her out of there,” Harris says. A decade later, the fact that she wasn’t able to keep that promise still weighs on her.

Harris tried to build a new life for herself in fits and starts. She stayed with family between stints at women’s shelters. She finished high school and went to college for a year, then got work as a $17-an-hour security guard in a freight section of Kennedy Airport. She made some friends on MySpace and started dressing goth, with spiked collars and multicolored hair extensions. Her father made a brief appearance in 2002; he came toward the door as Harris was looking after her niece and nephew in Staten Island. Harris called Carleen in a panic and later locked herself in a bedroom. They wouldn’t see each other again for five years.

Slowly, the front she’d created started coming apart. She moved to an apartment in Rockaway Park in 2006—2 blocks from the beach!!! she wrote on MySpace. sweet beach parties, makin smores, bonfires, gettin drunk and watchin the sun rise. it dont get no better than that. But she found she couldn’t have a relationship, and she never was able to go out with friends without getting drunk. She tried to talk about the abuse with her family. “The Goodridge family is a different culture,” she says. “In Africa, everything’s ‘Skeletons have to stay in the closet, don’t put your business out there.’ They know what he did. They just for some reason decided to protect him.”

In April 2007, she swallowed some pills at work. When an ambulance arrived, she went home, refusing to talk about why she did it. A few weeks later, she learned from a family friend that her father was coming back to America and staying in her sister’s house—with her sister’s daughter.

Harris went to Staten Island that day half-hoping Carleen had thrown him out. Like Brigitte, Carleen had been raped and abused by their father, but she had been spared the trips to Liberia as a teenager. While Brigitte led an abstinent shell of a life, Carleen had had three children with three different men. “She deals with her past one way, and I deal with it another,” Harris says. She couldn’t understand how Carleen could take him in.

Now, watching her father with Edina, she had to do something. She searched the web for solutions. “The first thing I did was find out if I can go to the police. The statute of limitations says they couldn’t do much about it. He hadn’t touched me since I was 17, 18 in Africa, which wasn’t here. I couldn’t go to him and say I think he’s going to molest my niece. There’s no record. My family’s not backing me up. So I’m thinking, Stop him any way you can.

The first thing she learned was that it could be done. “Everyone always focuses on Lorena Bobbitt because it’s the most popular. But each and every case I researched, no one died.” She read about cases in China and in Europe. “And I start seeing how to do it without actually killing him.” On June 26, she bought a package of 50 scalpels on eBay for $6.83, including shipping.

On July 25, Harris had her final argument with Carleen. On her home video, titled “My Reasons,” she mentions Carleen’s children explicitly. “We both know what he wants to do with them.” She talks about what she’s about to do. “Somebody’s got to do something,” she says on the video. “Just know I’m doing this because I know he’s not going to change … I’m really sorry, guys. This is something that just has to be done.”

Her confrontation with Goodridge

She and her father agreed to meet on the morning of July 28. He would come to her place, where they could talk.

He seemed even weaker than he did a month earlier. She didn’t know it, but he’d spent much of July in and out of the hospital, passing the kidney stone. They traveled back to her apartment together, and on the train, she saw him eyeing some young girls, each no older than 10. She held her tongue.

Home in Queens, she gave him a tour and offered him some water. She waited for him to say what was on his mind. But he said nothing.

“Well,” she said. “Do you know why we are here?”

“No,” he said. “Why?’”

“We’re not going to start that. You said you wanted to talk.”

He waved her on. “So?” he said. “Talk.”

She was nervous. She started from the beginning, talking about the first time he forced himself on her—the phone ringing, him trying to rape her, her crying and telling him to stop.

“How do you even remember that?” he said. “Weren’t you 3 years old?”

This was his response—not shock, not denial, just a casual dismissal. She went on. She talked about what she remembered from when she was 4—the oral sex. He denied it. She talked about what happened later, with the porn. He dissembled, using some of the same excuses he’d used in the past. “I was only teaching you to clean yourself—teaching you how to become a woman.” Finally, he parsed the matter to its finest point. “I never penetrated you, so it wasn’t wrong.”

He wasn’t denying it anymore. She felt right. She felt emboldened. She started talking about their last time together, when he tried to rape her and she wouldn’t let him. That’s when he interrupted her. “Well,” he said, “the reason why I wanted to talk to you is because of something that happened in Africa with Lovette.”

Harris fell silent as her father said what he must have been planning to say all along. He told her that her half-sister, back in Liberia and now about 18 years old, had been gang-raped as a child—during the years that Brigitte lived there with her. He was saying it was Brigitte’s fault that no one had been told about it earlier.

Her first thought was that this was a lie—one that played on her guilt and served as an alibi if Lovette ever claimed to be abused by him (she guessed Lovette already had been). The story managed to make Harris a victim all over again. It tapped into all the emotions that she had been harboring for weeks—self-loathing, guilt, rage.

Things moved quickly now. She was yelling, calling him a liar—“You knew what you did was wrong!” He stood up and took a step toward her. She reached for the pepper spray she kept clipped to her belt. She sprayed him. They fought and fell to the floor. The coffee table broke. She overpowered him—her security-guard training coming to some use.

He passed out. She looked for a way to restrain him. She found some handcuffs—a novelty she’d bought, she says, after her friends teased her about her job as a rent-a-cop. She put them on him, then noticed he was having trouble breathing.

She was in a full panic now—scrambling for a way to revive him. She splashed him with water and started calling his name. He awoke and started screaming. She decided she had to gag him. She tried a towel. She stuffed it in his mouth and wrapped duct tape around his head to secure it, leaving large holes so he could breathe.

She pulled down his pants. She used scissors first. When they didn’t work well, she went looking for the scalpels. To keep him still, she pressed her knee onto his windpipe as she crouched over him. One cut was enough. There wasn’t a lot of blood.

She thought, I am going to take it off and he’s not going to hurt anyone else.

She brought her father’s penis to the stove and turned on the flame. Only the smell of flesh made what she’d done seem real to her. Her stomach lurched. She shut it off, put the burnt organ in a paper towel, and bolted from the house. Later she would throw it under the boardwalk.

She talked to 911 several times, to report what happened and see if he was alive. But by the time the police arrived, there was nothing to be done. The cause of death was asphyxiation. Good­ridge had choked on the towel before he’d had a chance to bleed to death from his wounds.

Harris case goes to trial

On September 14, 2009, Brigitte Harris sat next to her lawyer in Queens State Supreme Court in Kew Gardens, her rainbow-colored hair extensions gone, her goth gear replaced by a demure black sweater and purple shawl. In the two years it had taken for her case to make it to trial, she had ballooned to more than 300 pounds—a combined effect of the junk food at Rikers Island and the antidepressants she’d been prescribed.

Harris had been declared mentally fit to stand trial—she was depressed and disassociated emotionally, therapists said, but never delusional. The facts of the case weren’t in dispute. The physical evidence showed how she did it; the confession video explained why. As for what may have driven her to do it, the prosecutor argued in her opening statement that whatever horrors Harris had endured at the hands of her father should have little bearing on the crime itself. “I’m not going to stand up here and say that the abuse did or didn’t happen,” Karen Ross said. “But what I will tell you is that at no time did she ever report it to the police, to child services, or even to members of her own family. Instead, this defendant chose to take the law into her own hands. She made a deliberate choice to make a plan, to execute that plan, to put that plan into action.”

Harris’s lawyer, Arthur Aidala, who tried the case alongside co-counsel Michael Cibella, offered the jury the same set of facts with a completely different interpretation. He wasn’t saying a crime hadn’t occurred; he wasn’t even saying Harris wasn’t in some way responsible. Instead he was saying that the jury should consider not just what Harris did to her father but everything her father had done to her. “If she [Ross] wants to talk about vengeance, you have to keep in mind, revenge only exists because there was an original sin,” he said. “Something that happened in the past.” Then, over the next hour, Aidala went through every known detail of the abuse, sparing no details. “The legal system wasn’t getting it right, so she had to stop him—because he just wouldn’t be stopped,” he said. “And the only way to stop him was to take off his weapon of mass destruction.”

The judge had given the jury the option of two different manslaughter charges, first- and second-degree, along with the second-degree murder charge. A conviction of second-degree murder also might have been downgraded to first-degree manslaughter on the grounds of “extreme emotional disturbance,” a mitigating defense that argues that the perpetrator had been somehow driven to act by what he or she perceived as a legitimate threat. Harris’s case, then, depended not just on whether the jury believed Harris was guilty but whether she had been, in some general way, provoked into an act of self-defense. She took the stand early on, and Aidala spent most of his time with her putting her father’s actions front and center. Later on, Carleen also took the stand. She couldn’t be asked directly about the abuse, but she managed to display sympathy toward her sister in full view of the jury.

Deliberations took just a day. On September 30, 2009, the jury acquitted Harris of both second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Instead, it found her guilty of second-degree manslaughter, the most lenient possible charge, for what was clearly a premeditated act. Even Harris was shocked. She had never thought that her story would inspire so much sympathy. “They knew I should have been charged with something, even though I didn’t intend to kill him,” she says now. “They were just trying to find a way to work around it.”

In order to settle on manslaughter 2, the jury had to be convinced that Harris’s actions, while clearly demonstrating a reckless disregard for human life, weren’t meant to kill. Some of the jurors seized on the fact that it wasn’t the cutting off of Goodridge’s penis that killed him, but the gagging. “I felt she didn’t seem reckless by putting the towel in her father’s mouth,” says juror George Tsourakis. “You see that all the time in the movies. I wouldn’t have thought he’d die from that, either. But her actions did contribute to his death, so the manslaughter-2 charge fit. We gave her what she deserved.”

Seven of the jurors were so supportive of Harris that in the days leading up to her sentencing, they wrote the judge, asking him to give her no more jail time at all. “Brigitte was sentenced on the day her father molested her,” wrote Blanche O’Donnell. “She deserves a life full of love and support, not prison.” One juror sent Harris a book as a gift. Still another sent her a Whitney Houston CD. Several social workers from Rikers pledged to find her a job and give her free counseling if the judge would set her free.

What Harris has found during her time in prison

Judge Arthur Cooperman was unmoved. “The jury demonstrated leniency that the court may otherwise have exercised,” he said. He gave her the maximum prison term—five-to-fifteen years.

At Bedford Hills, Harris says she’s found therapy and support she never had before. “It would be wonderful to be one of the shiny, happy people, not just pretending to be happy and not having to have memories or flashbacks,” she says. “I don’t think it’s going to happen, though. All the psychologists have said, ‘You can never get over it. You have to learn to deal.’ So that’s my big issue right now, learning how to deal.”

But she misses Edina, the niece she thought she was saving by attacking her father—and longs for word of Lovette, her half-sister, who she believes is still in Liberia, in the reach of her father’s family. At night, she’s been dreaming of being in Africa and not being able to help protect her. “Even when he came to the house, I didn’t think I could do it,” she says. “And then he had to mention Lovette.”

She’s had just one dream about Eric Goodridge. “We were in Africa. The weird part is, he was protecting me from somebody else who had abused me. He ran the guy over with his Jeep.”

I suggest that the dream could be about the life that she wanted—a life where she has a father who helps her.

She laughs softly. “Yeah,” she says. “Which he never did.”

Her first parole hearing is this week.



home last updates contact