Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Breaking up is hard to do...

The name William Coday might not mean a lot to many people, but I spent about an hour yesterday trying to remember that name.  In 2009, I read a book about him and, for the life of me, could not remember the title.  The other day, when Bill and I were coming home from Austria, we passed the exit for Augsburg and I was suddenly reminded of a story I'd read about an American man who'd killed an American exchange student in Germany.  I remembered that the woman had studied in Augsburg at one time.

Suddenly, I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the story, but had to do some creative Googling to find it.  I'm happy to report that I eventually did find the title of the book, though my review of it is lost in cyberspace.  Today's post is based on news items on the Internet and my own wine clouded memories of having read about it in 2009 in the book, Behind the Mask, by Stella Sands.  Here's a link to the first chapter.

In 2002, William "Bill" Coday was convicted of savagely murdering his girlfriend, 30 year old Gloria Gomez.  In 1997, Coday beat Gomez with a hammer until it broke, then used a second hammer to beat her.  He also stabbed Gomez until, all told, she was left with 144 wounds.  Experts think Gomez was alive for 143 of the 144 blows.  Coday described his attack on Gloria Gomez as a "demonic rage".  It wasn't the first time Coday had killed anyone, either.

In 1978, Coday was an exchange student in Germany.  During his time in Germany, Coday dated 19 year old Lisa Hullinger, a vivacious young American woman who was likewise in the same study abroad program in Augsburg, Bavaria.  She was trying to become fluent in German.  Both Coday and Hullinger were accepted to a work study program in Hamburg.  After dating for a year and a half, Hullinger determined that the relationship would never work.  She tried to break up with Coday, who did not take it well.  Six months after their break up, Coday begged Hullinger to come back to him.  She refused.  When it came time for Coday and Hullinger to part ways, Coday reacted violently.  He lured Hullinger to his home and struck her five times with a sledgehammer.  She died thirteen days later in a Hamburg hospital

A German court sentenced Coday to three years in prison for manslaughter.  He ended up serving sixteen months, then went back to the United States with no criminal record.  

Jurors were not allowed to consider Coday's prior conviction in Germany when he was tried for murdering Gloria Gomez.  Nevertheless, Coday was sentenced to death after having been tried and convicted of first degree murder.  In 2006, the death sentence was thrown out by the Florida Supreme Court, but Broward Circuit Judge Alfred Horowitz sentenced him to death again the following year.   On April 29, 2008, Coday cheated the executioner when he was found dead in his cell.  He had committed suicide.

By many accounts, Bill Coday was not the "type" of guy anyone would think was capable of murder.  Most people thought he was a nice person.  He was well-known for being mild mannered and helpful.  He had a prestigious job as a librarian at the Broward County Main Library.  Fluent in several languages and possessing a master's degree in library science and a law degree, Coday was the supervisor of the International Languages Collection at the Broward County Main Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  He was in charge of the library's international language collection, which offered him the chance to travel abroad for work purposes.  Coday was fluent in French, Spanish, German and English and proficient in Italian, Hindi, and Farsi.

Coday was twice divorced.  He married and divorced an Iranian woman, as well as an Indian woman.  He was abusive to both women.  However, most people knew nothing about Coday's proclivities toward violence.  They thought he was introverted and intellectual and unfailingly nice.

Before he murdered Gloria Gomez, a co-worker spotted Coday crossing a street while deeply immersed in a book.  When Coday didn't show up for work on July 12, 1997, she feared that he might have been struck by a car.  It never occurred to the co-worker or anyone else that Coday could have been involved in a violent crime.  Indeed, he was thought of as "laid-back" and witty and most of his colleagues liked him very much.

I find true crime fascinating, but what made this case even more interesting to me was that Coday had killed someone in Germany.  When I read Behind the Mask, I was living in Germany the first time.  I remember being flabbergasted that he'd only spent a little over a year in a German prison.  Granted, here in Europe, people don't tend to stay in prison for as long as they do in the United States.  There is no death penalty here, which I actually think is a good thing.  But sixteen months seems an astonishingly light sentence, especially in a place where laws are so important.

As I read about Bill Coday, I couldn't help but think about Lisa Hullinger, his first victim.  How must her parents have felt about seeing this man being tried for murdering another woman?  How did Bill Coday go on to make such a "normal" life for himself after killing their daughter, only to kill again 19 years later?  It boggles the mind.

One of the conditions the Germans put on Coday's release was that the was to "get help" for his rages.  I think I read that he had made a perfunctory stab at being counseled, but didn't stick with it.  I'm not so sure counseling would have done anything for him, anyway, even if he had continued to receive it. The man was clearly very troubled.  It's hard to tell where that rage toward women came from.

Robert and Charlotte Hullinger, Lisa's parents, attended Coday's trial in Florida, even though their daughter's murder was not allowed as evidence.  Gloria Gomez's family was too poor to attend the trial.  The Hullingers also went on to form a support group called Parents of Murdered Children (POMC).   There are now POMC chapters across the United States.  I guess it's small comfort to the Hullingers that their daughter's murder led to their forming a group that helps other parents whose children were murdered.  I see it as one way Lisa Hullinger's death was not in vain.


Bill Coday's attorney speaks in court.


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