CEDAR CITY – The air was thick Tuesday in the Iron County 5th District courtroom as family and friends of both the victim and the assailant silently found their seats to await the final sentencing of an 83-year-old Parowan man who was arrested for a fatal shooting that happened July 10.
Parowan resident Nathan C. Zimmerman was convicted Tuesday for the murder of his 57-year-old stepdaughter, Parowan resident Janet Colleen Goode.
Before handing down a 15-to-life sentence and $10,000 restitution fee to Zimmerman, Judge Keith C. Barnes allowed the mother, sister, daughter and nephew of the victim to share a few words in open court.
Making her way to the podium, Goode’s mother, Georgia Zimmerman, who is in the process of divorcing Nathan Zimmerman, trembled as she unfolded the slightly crumpled paper on which she had written her statement. Attempting to maintain her composure, she began recounting some of the most pivotal moments she could recall in her daughter’s life.
“Born May 6, 1957, in Cody, Wyoming, my beautiful daughter came into this world kicking and screaming,” Georgia Zimmerman said, looking Nathan Zimmerman directly in the eyes. “She graduated as a junior and married the love of her life, who was killed in 1986. She had one daughter, Amanda, and two grandbabies – you have taken her from all of them.”
She said her husband’s actions had exponential repercussions that have rippled through the entire family. Goode’s sister, an emergency room nurse, had to take a leave of absence following the killing, Georgia Zimmerman said. The house that Georgia Zimmerman shared with her husband will be sold as soon as a buyer can be found, she said, because the image of her daughter’s lifeless body lying in the driveway has been seared into her mind and remains a constant reminder of the horrific event.
“Every time we step out of the door we see the spot between the houses where you shot her – where you killed her,” she said. “People still drive by the house looking, and they point, saying, ‘That’s the house where that murder happened.’”
Georgia Zimmerman filed for divorce on July 10, immediately following the shooting, but she said the divorce has not been processed yet.
A steady stream of tears flowed down the grieving mother’s face as she openly wept in court and asked her husband of seven-and-a-half years why she should have to bury her baby. She then shakily made her way back to her seat.
Taking her mother’s place at the podium, Goode’s sister, Becky Helquist, said in her many years as an ER nurse, she has listened to the cries of mothers who have lost their children and that she truly knows no worse sound. Now, that sound has permeated her own family, she said.
Helquist said she has been listening to the cry of her mother for four months now and it breaks her heart beyond words. She said her sister’s murder has torn a gaping hole in their family, leaving behind only remnants of who each of them used to be.
Helquist said she found papers in her sister’s car after she died that defined how to request a restraining order for stalking and what the stalking laws were in the state of Utah.
Goode was diagnosed with COPD and was not healthy enough to work, Helquist said. She said their stepfather would call and go to places where her sister had applied for jobs and harass them, asking questions about Goode and her potential employment there. He also went to the office of Goode’s doctor and demanded to know if her diagnosis was legitimate or if she was faking it, Helquist said.
Helquist said the only motive she could think of was that Nathan Zimmerman was worried Goode would wind up living in his home and he would be stuck supporting her. She said she didn’t think he had any reason to believe that, but that her sister was driving his car for some time.
According to a probable cause statement filed in connection with Nathan Zimmerman’s arrest, Nathan Zimmerman said he had no remorse for his actions. According to the statement, he told officers he had planned to kill Goode, so when she began walking up his driveway on July 10, he “picked up the shotgun, which he had preloaded, took it off safety, pointed the shotgun directly at Janet, and when Janet was in range shot her one time in the chest.”
Goode’s mother and sister said the only reason she was even at the house that day was because Nathan Zimmerman had called her and asked her to come help him. She had arrived expecting to find him incapacitated because he had a bad back.
“Even after he treated her like crap all of those times, her last action in life was to run to his aid and try to help him,” Goode’s daughter, Mandy Langnese, said.
Helquist’s husband, Doug Helquist, said instead of finding Nathan Zimmerman incapacitated, Goode was lured to her own death by him like a cowardly hunter who preyed on her good nature and kindness.
“What it boils down to is that man committed cold-blooded murder against a defenseless woman,” Doug Helquist said. “He’s a coward.”
When it was her turn to address the court, Langnese said she was raised as an only child with no father because her father died when she was only 4. She said when she lost her mother, she lost the only person who was always in her corner no matter how stupid she had been – the one person who believed in her always.
Choking back tears and apologizing to the court, Langnese asked the judge if it would be OK to address the defendant directly. Turning to Nathan Zimmerman, Langnese sobbed and asked the defendant if he was happy with what he had done, if it made him feel any better – to which Nathan Zimmerman nodded yes.
Completely losing her composure, Langnese once again apologized repeatedly to the court and tried time and again to speak. Unable to talk clearly through her sobs, she said she thought she was better prepared to address the court but that standing in that room, surrounded by the judge, bailiffs, lawyers and the family members who filled it, she was overcome with the reality of what was taking place.
“For the first time since this has happened, this is real to me,” she said, her whole body shaking. “I have been trying to pretend that this hasn’t happened – it did, and it’s impossible to pretend anymore.”
Langnese said her children lost their only grandparent when Nathan Zimmerman chose to end Goode’s life, and now she has to explain to them why they won’t see their grandmother again.
“I want him to suffer as bad as we have,” she said. “That will never happen, I understand that – no matter what the sentence is, it will never compare to what he has done to our family.”
Pleading for justice for his aunt, Dayne Slade was the last to address the court. Speaking directly to Barnes, Slade asked him to please consider how Nathan Zimmerman’s actions have torn his family apart when he imposes the final sentence.
“Janet brought joy to the heart and soul,” he said. “She was the nicest person you could have ever met.”
Defense Attorney Jeffery E. Slack said that before his client was sentenced he wanted to point out there were friends and family in the court who were there to support Nathan Zimmerman, “… people who say they don’t understand how this could have happened,” he said.
Slack said his client did not deny his actions and that he fully understood the consequences of his decisions.
When asked if he had anything to say to the court, Nathan Zimmerman said, “Negative – I have nothing to say.”
Members of Goode’s immediate family said they were not surprised to find they felt no closure after all of this, and the only comfort they carried with them was knowing that Nathan Zimmerman would be held in a maximum security prison in Draper, Utah, where he would suffer out the rest of his days.
“He’s 83,” Becky Helquist said. “That’s basically a death sentence for him, so I guess I can be OK with that.”
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