Amanda Goodman waved goodbye to her friends and started on her one-mile walk home from school on Tuesday, May 16, 1989. Amanda, an eighth-grade student at Brownwood Junior High School in Brownwood, Texas, always walked the same route from school to the apartment she shared with her mother, stepfather, and two younger brothers. On this day, she never made it home.
When Amanda hadn’t arrived at the Southside Village Apartments by 4:15 pm, her mother, Barbara Nejtek, was slightly annoyed. She had told Amanda to come straight home after school that afternoon and initially assumed that Amanda had disobeyed her and had gone off with some friends. Barbara got into her car and started to drive around Brownwood, looking for her daughter.
Heavy rain started to fall while Barbara was searching for her daughter, and she didn’t see anyone walking along the route that Amanda would normally take to get home. After driving around for about an hour, Barbara gave up and returned to the apartment. She hoped that Amanda would be waiting for her inside, but there was no sign of her.
Someone knocked on the front door not long after Barbara got back to her apartment. Barb opened it and saw two Brownwood police officers inside. They had Amanda’s denim purse in one hand. Barbara knew right away that something was very wrong. She was sh*ocked when one of the police officers told her that Amanda had been ki*lled. Barbara would later say that when she heard her daughter had died, a little part of her died too.
Amanda’s body was discovered on the side of the road at 4:30 pm, 10 miles from Brownwood and near Indian Creek, Texas. She had been sh*ot in the head, and it looked like the person who ki*lled her carefully put her body on the ground next to her purse and. She was dressed completely, and there were no signs of a sexual assault. Her body wasn’t hidden; it’s likely that the person who k*illed her wanted her to be found.
Amanda could not have walked that far, so the police thought that she must have gotten into a car somewhere along her way home. No one knew if she did it on purpose or because she was forced to.
Her family and friends were sh*ocked when she was ki*lled. Amanda, who went by the name Sissy, was said to be very innocent. She had just turned 13 three days before she was ki*lled, but she wasn’t like most adolescents. She liked staying close to home and still played with Barbie dolls. Unlike many young teens, she wasn’t in a hurry to date. She liked science and art a lot and wanted to become a nurse one day. At her school, everyone liked her, and no one knew who was against her.
Friends told police that the last time they saw Amanda, she was walking by the Hickory Stick, a barbecue restaurant close to the junior high school. They had not seen anyone following her and had not seen her get into a car. She wouldn’t have got into a car with a stranger, according to everyone who knew her. She would only have agreed to ride with someone she knew well.
As Amanda usually walked home, police searched the path she usually took, looking for anything that could mean she had been taken. Along the way, they didn’t find any signs of a fight, which suggests that Amanda got into a car on her own. It was unclear what went on after that.
Sheriff Bill Donahoo of Brown County told reporters that he didn’t think Amanda had been ki*lled where her body was found because there were no shell casings or other possible clues nearby. He thought it was possible that she had been sh*ot in a car and then left on the side of the road, but he also said that heavy rain might have washed away evidence before her body was found.
In the beginning of the investigation, almost everyone in Brownwood was thought to be a possible suspect. Students were asked questions by their teachers to find out if Amanda had been in a fight before she was kil*led. Amanda’s mother told the police that Amanda had reported to school officials what she heard some students talking about a possible drug deal. However, this happened some time before she was kil*led, and there was no evidence that the two events were connected.
Investigators looked around the area near where Amanda’s body was found and learned that some people had seen a red pickup truck there on the day she was kil*led. The truck stood out because it wasn’t like the other trucks in the small town. It was said to have a black toolbox in the bed and a stripe down the side. Detectives asked the public several times to help them figure out what truck it was, but no one could help them. It was impossible to know if it had anything to do with Amanda’s de*ath without seeing any more proof.
During the time that police were trying to find Amanda’s kil*ler, her family and friends had to say goodbye to the popular teen. The pastor of a small evangelical church where Amanda went to church, Pastor James Hampsey, was asked to lead her funeral. Amanda was a young woman who people remembered as having strong faith in God and getting good grades.
As the weeks went by with little progress on the case, most people in Brownwood were sh*ocked. The 19,000 people who lived in the small town thought mur*der only happened in big cities. It was hard for them to understand why one of their schoolchildren had been kil*led on the way home from school. They were scared that Brownwood had a ki*ller on the loose.
Police asked all the adults who knew Amanda a lot of questions. After the mur*der, her stepfather George was at work, which gave him a good excuse. Barbara was first thought to be a suspect, but after passing a polygraph test, she was cleared. A number of adults who went to church with Amanda and her family were also looked into and found not to be a threat.
People in Brownwood set up a reward fund and soon said they would pay $10,000 for information that led to the arrest and conviction of Amanda’s ki*ller. Although detectives got a lot of tips, they weren’t able to find any solid leads.
It was clear that the investigation had stopped two months after Amanda was ki*lled. Residents kept raising money in the hopes of getting more tips. Soon, it was announced that the reward fund had reached $16,000. Forensics Officer Donahoo told reporters, “This is the strangest case I’ve ever worked on.”The truth is that we are still not close to solving the case.
While some people called detectives to say they knew who the ki*ller was, it turned out that none of them had any personal knowledge of the cri*me and were just spreading rumors that were going around the small town. They used polygraphs and hypnosis, and the sheriff said, “we have been able to rule out a lot of speculation and hearsay.”
There were more rumors going around Brownwood, but the case eventually went cold. Five years after Amanda’s mur*der, detectives said they were still no closer to solving the case than they were on the day she was k*illed. It was a case that made them mad. According to Sheriff Donahoo, “the next thing we know, a 13-year-old student who is a good kid is lying in a ditch in our county having been k*illed.”Lots of people are kil*led every day, but in Brown County, no school children are ki*lled.
The long-unsolved case was given to the Texas Rangers’ cold case squad in 2005. They sent back a lot of evidence for more advanced forensic testing that wasn’t possible in 1989, but they still couldn’t find anything that would help them figure out who the k*iller was.
Amanda’s family held a vigil in 2009, 20 years after she died, to remember her. For Barbara, her only daughter was “a tomboy who loved to play tennis and go barefoot.” She was sad that her k*iller had never been caught. More than anything else, Barbara wanted things to be over. “We’re going to do everything we can to solve this problem. It’s time.”
People in Brownwood have never forgotten Amanda, even though her family moved away a few years after the m*urder. It had been 25 years since she died, so in 2014, people held a birthday party to remember her. It had been six months since Barbara’s d*eath, and people were ready to carry on her fight for justice. The meeting took place in Brownwood’s Coggins Park, the same place where Amanda had her 13th birthday a few days before she was ki*lled.
According to people who knew Amanda and who lived in Brownwood at the time, one of the prime suspects in her m*urder has long been the pastor of the church she attended, James Hampsey. He left Texas for Illinois just months after Amanda was ki*lled, plagued by rumors and allegations of sexual assault. Detectives confirmed that James was given a lie detector test and he passed, though they have stressed that this is not an indication that he is innocent.
Investigators searched the church for evidence at least once in the weeks after Amanda’s mu*rder, but were unable to find anything connecting James — or anyone else — to the cr*ime. As of September 2022, the case remains open but has been cold for years.
Amanda Goodman was just 13 years old when she was k*illed in 1989. She was an extremely intelligent young woman who wanted to become a nurse so she could help others, but her bright future was snuffed out by a ki*ller who has never been brought to justice. Detectives believe that there are people out there who have the information they need to finally solve the case. Amanda’s loved ones have been waiting for justice for more than 30 years. If you have any information about Amanda’s mur*der, please contact the Brownwood Police Department at 325–646–2525.