David Goodwin has been in prison in Florida for 40 years for his role in the 1977 quadruple homicide known as the "Sandy Creek murders." For 32 of those years, his fiancée has been patiently waiting for his release. The day is finally about to arrive. Goodwin, 70—who was on death row until his sentence was changed to life upon appeal in 1981—was granted parole Wednesday and will leave Everglades Correctional Institute in Miami on May 2, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Especially ecstatic is Wanda Pate, 82. Pate, whose daughter is married to Goodwin's younger brother, began exchanging letters with Goodwin several years after his incarceration. She later visited him in prison, where the two fell in love, though she hasn't seen him in six years.
On Jan. 23, 1977, Goodwin was among a group smuggling marijuana onto a Bay County beach; it was part of an FBI sting designed to nab a high-profile drug smuggler, and the agency used an informant to staff the operation. Goodwin was one of those recruits and was there when four witnesses came upon the group. One was immediately shot dead, while the three others, including two teen girls, were tied up and executed more than a hundred miles away, per the Panama City News Herald. Though he didn't pull the trigger, and wasn't near the scene of the later deaths, per WJHG, Goodwin handed over the rope used to bind the victims. (The prosecution alleged he also tied them up.) Goodwin was convicted of first-degree murder for aiding in the killings. Says Pate: "I know he didn't do [the murders] and that's the thing that kept me going with him." (A chance rest-stop meeting led to a family's brutal murder.)