Exterminating Angel

The twisted relationship of the goth girl, her preppy sister, and their murdered father

"What are you doing?" he demanded, retreating from the flashes. If he was going to have his photo taken, he said, he wanted to look presentable. He put his pinstriped jacket on and the photo shoot continued, with Aidala attempting a serious-but-friendly pose that was meant to look candid.

Aidala's attempts to sweet-talk the assistant district attorney—"I'm saying good things about you over here!" he called out to an A.D.A. as she left the courthouse later that day—may be hindered by the Goodridge family's increasingly vocal challenges to Carleen and Brigitte's story. In recent weeks, rumors, speculation, and old family hostilities have surfaced, complicating the streamlined story that Carleen has told.

"The uncle I know would never do those things," says Debra Clinton, the most insistent defender of the dead man. "Carleen was very, very close to her dad. It just doesn't make sense."

Brigitte Harris's MySpace page portrays a young woman with interests ranging from musical theater and sewing to heavy metal and the occult.
photo: Courtesy of Alicia Hill
Brigitte Harris's MySpace page portrays a young woman with interests ranging from musical theater and sewing to heavy metal and the occult.

When Eric returned to the U.S. just two months before his death , it was Carleen who opened her door to him. Despite the history of abuse she has since exposed, she allowed him to stay in her home with her, her daughter, and her two sons. It was Carleen who drove him to and from doctor appointments. Relatives have even suggested that she was the one to take Eric to Brigitte's apartment the day of his murder. (Carleen has declined to comment on any details of the actual day of his death.) So now, some are confounded that Carleen has demonized the father that she loved.

"Carleen is making all these things up—in my opinion, she's worse than Brigitte," Clinton says, acting as a spokesperson for the Goodridge relatives. "I truly believe Brigitte has mental problems and believes that she was molested." But with Carleen, "I don't think there's a mental problem there; there's a greed problem. There's a she-wants-to-be-in-the-news problem." Clinton has said, repeatedly, that Carleen is not the sweet person she appears to be in television interviews.

Carleen does know that her media image has been manufactured, in part. At 29, she has three children by three different men—kids she once considered abandoning at her lowest point, and whom she still fears she is screwing up. She has just earned her GED, but has made her way in jobs in real estate and administrative work by doing her best to erase a past as a runaway, dropout, and struggling mom who schlepped her family through shelters and welfare lines. "Sometimes I think I'm the best bullshit artist," she recently admitted to the Voice during a wide-ranging interview near her home in Staten Island.

Both she and Brigitte have violent tempers, which have flared mostly at one another. The two occasionally regarded one another as aliens—Brigitte could not understand how Carleen managed to maintain a seemingly normal relationship with their father; Carleen could not understand Brigitte's disinterest in men and desire to dwell on the dark side of life. The two maintained a tense relationship that occasionally erupted into outright battles. Twice Brigitte called police to make criminal complaints against her older sister. The first time, she accused Carleen of grand larceny during a dispute over payment for a computer. Later, when the two briefly lived together in 2004, she called police to report that Carleen had assaulted her. The argument erupted when Brigitte spanked Carleen's daughter. "She hit my baby, and I just kind of snapped and attacked her," Carleen says. "It was like, 'Don't hit my kid. This is what it feels like to get hit.' " Carleen ended up spending a night in jail and subsequently kicking her sister out of the house. "I was a little more physically expressive back then."

It wasn't the only time Brigitte picked on someone weaker. She also got in trouble as a teenager for hurting a child she baby-sat, though the details of that remain sketchy and disputed.

As for the murder, the Goodridge relatives have told the district attorney's office that they believe money was the motive. Debra has only said cryptically that Eric was "getting some money in from Africa"—money she believes Carleen was after. She could not provide any details about where the money was coming from, when he was supposed to have received it, or how much it was. She vaguely suggested it was money for health care.

"What money?" Carleen responded when told of this accusation by a reporter. (She has not seen Clinton since she was a girl and rarely speaks to her.) "It has to be made up." She said she believed her father was broke, and that the only health-care funds he was expecting were from Medicaid—that, in fact, he owed money. New York Department of State records show that Eric had four warrants for his arrest for $40,600 in unpaid child support.

Whatever the truth may be, Carleen's public accusations against her father have furthered an already-existing rift in the family. When the Goodridges planned Eric's funeral, they didn't tell Carleen when or where it was being held. She only found out afterward that the service had taken place on an early morning somewhere in Rhode Island, and hasn't spoken to those relatives since.

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