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Very confident that the fractures we observed in his head were not accidental, were not from a fall from the crib. They had been inflicted by another individual, and this would meet the manner of death known as homicide.
Pathologist Dr. Stephen Dunnan is talking about an autopsy of a baby. It was conducted almost 20 years after his death. I'm Nancy Glass. This is Burden of Guilt. Episode three, Ashes to Ashes.
My daughter was almost two at the time, and I remember she was trying to pick up a gallon of milk and she couldn't even lift that thing up off the ground.
This was the moment that galvanized everything for Tracy Rakell. When her little daughter, Goldie, attempted to pick up a gallon of milk but couldn't lift it, Tracy Raquelle knew that she had not caused her baby brother Matthew's death. It simply wasn't possible that she, as a two-year-old, had picked 15-pound Matthew up and thrown him out of his crib and onto the floor. But of course, after years of being beaten down, she didn't trust her own instincts, so she went to consult experts in the medical field. Doctors reviewed Matthew's hospital file and concluded that his injuries didn't happen the way his mother, Kathy, said they did. With this knowledge finally in hand, through pure perseverance after years of trying, Tracey Raquelle finally attracted the attention of someone in law enforcement. Jim Mape, a forensic death investigator in DeKalb County, Georgia, agreed to help her.
He was, I'd say, my lifeline. He really got that rolling.
Former investigator Jim Mape.
I took her case to Dr. Joe Burton, who at that time was a chief medical examiner for DeKalb. I showed him what we had and said, Can we investigate this? He said, Absolutely.
Now, Dr. Joe Burton was a widely respected pathologist, so to get his interest was a big deal.
He assigned me to do a couple of things. One was to continue to interview Tracy and also find out where the accident occurred in the cab.
An investigation couldn't happen fast enough for Tracy Rakell. Jan Barry Sandlin's possible parole from his sentence for armed robbery was looming and she was scared. She started pressing her mother, Kathy, to talk more about Matthew's death.
I have probably asked Kathy everything under the sun in every possible way. That would be sweet and ask her. I would be forceful, accusations, anything you can imagine, anything that would get her to talk.
Tracy Raquelle says that years ago, during a phone call between her and her mother, Kathy, Kathy, made a shocking revelation.
She said, You just don't understand. When you're in love with someone that much, you'll do anything for somebody. We just wanted to start over. We wanted a new life.
Now, for a second you think, Am I hearing this right? What on Earth does this mean they wanted to start over? Were the kids expendable? Tracy Raquelle was now in regular contact with Jim Mae. He wanted to get anything he could on tape. That was the one thing that would help his investigation.
He's the one who said you need to go and get this recorder and it's perfectly legal in the state of Georgia. One person knows that you're being recorded and the other one doesn't. We need to do this and send me everything you have. And that's how it started.
Now, Kathy never repeated her statement about wanting to start over, but she made other admissions while the recorder was rolling. First, Tracy Rakell confronted Kathy about naming her as Matthew's killer.
In my heart, all I feel is that I don't understand how I can be offered up like that. It would seem to me like someone would say, I don't know what happened. I just found him this way. I don't know what happened.
Investigators listen to those recordings, and I wish we could play them for you, but they don't exist anymore. The transcripts, however, do. So we use voice actors to recreate the conversation. And here's what was discussed.
Well, I guess from what I told them, that's what they assumed happened. It's what I was led to believe.
Tracey Rakell also brought up an occasion that Kathy had accused Jan of killing Matthew.
Sheila says that she remembers hearing you have a fight with him sometime after Matt's death at Nana's house on eighth Street, where you said, I hate you. You killed my child.
That was years later. Maybe two years later, three years later. I don't know.
That's a really odd response to Tracy Raquelle's comment. What difference would it make if it was two or three years later? Tracy Raquelle pressed Kathy on why she hadn't tried harder to find out what happened to Matthew.
I mean, you never ever made an attempt to go to the police.
If they had found anything that they could do to prove it with, they would have arrested him. Nobody really knew. Would it be easier for you to accept your child being murdered or your child dying in an accident? Answer that question for me. Which would you have a harder time with? And when people are telling you that it was an accident.
In other moments on the call, Tracy Raquelle tried to show her mother some grace.
I firmly believed in my heart that Jane had frightened you into saying that I was responsible for it. I firmly believe that you knew and he either threatened to hurt me or he threatened to hurt you, and he scared the hell out of you. And that's why you didn't press up.
No, through the years, he did many times convince me he didn't do it. There were times when he would cry when I question him about it, and he would cry and say he didn't do it. And then like a fool, a lot of times, I bought into it just like I bought into him being sorry he beat me up or whatever. How do you think that makes me feel now?
Tracy also raised the subject of Jan's first wife, Nancy Tegeder. Jan moved in with Kathy, Matthew, and Tracey Raquelle only weeks after Nancy died by suicide. But the circumstances around her death were very strange. Nancy had shot herself in the stomach, and she was pregnant at the time.
But you don't think he was responsible for killing her?
Yes, I do.
Do you mean you actually think he pulled the trigger?
I don't know if he actually pulled the trigger or if he talked her into pulling the trigger, but I think either way, he's responsible.
Jim May listen to the tape of the call. It was another brick in building a case for the district attorney to consider. May then said about acquiring the important paperwork from 1971.
Now, according to the Georgia Death Investigation Act, anytime a child dies under those circumstances, an autopsy has to be done.
When Jim Maeb got his hands on the death certificate, he was confused. It said the cause of death, blunt force trauma to the head and indicated the cause of that was a fall from bit.
I kept thinking to myself, Well, how did the coroner sign it out as an accidental death? How did he know how it occurred, what the circumstances were surrounding it?
After first being unable to locate an autopsy report, Jim Maber, and he discovered that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation did do an autopsy on Matthew the day after he died on December 28th, 1971. It was performed at the funeral home. Matthew's death certificate was signed by a coroner. Now, a coroner is just an elected official who establishes the cause of death when a person does not die of natural causes. And in 1971, it wasn't too hard to qualify for the position. Former district attorney, J. Tom Morgan.
The only way to be a coroner was to get more votes than the next person, and to have a high school education, and to have no felony convictions. It did not require a medical degree or any expertise in determining cause of death. Usually the coronaries, particularly here in the south, were employees or own funeral homes. In fact, a lot of autopsies were actually done in funeral homes in the south in the 1970s.
I found out that Mr. Harvey, who was the coroner back then, was still in the area. His decision to make it an accidental death went without any police investigation that we could find. We really didn't get an answer as to why he signed it out as an accidental death. He was determined by the family, not officially or not by an investigation, that Tracy caused that death.
As Jim Maeb worked the investigation, he knew he had to go visit the place where everything went down, Matthew's bedroom.
We didn't even know the apartment complex where it occurred even existed anymore.
Twenty-six years later, those apartments were still there and pretty much unchanged.
We wanted to look at the because we wanted to see what impact this fall from the crib would have had hard floor versus the carpeted floor. The resident manager was extremely helpful with us. He explained that back then, the floor was a wooden floor, but it was covered by pretty thick carpet.
Every apartment in Atlanta had shag carpet. All we needed was a lava lamp and the Allman Brothers on the eight track, and we would be ready to go.
Jim May also had questions about how Tracy Raquelle would even get access to Baby Matthew in his crib.
We talked to her mother about the crib, and like all cribs, just got one side that you can raise up or down. And even when it was down, Kathy said it was hard for her to reach over and get the child and get it out herself. We took that information back to Dr. Burton.
Dr. Joe Burton, the lead medical examiner reviewing the case, died in 2019. A close colleague worked on the investigation.
I'm Stephen Dunton. I'm a forensic pathologist. I currently work for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, and have so for 10 years. But prior to that, I spent more than 20 years as a medical examiner here in the metropolitan Atlanta area, including DeKalb County.
Dr. Burton asked Dr. Dunton to look at the medical records to see what he could gather from the report written the night Matthew was admitted to the hospital.
Everyone who was there when Matthew died in our family knows the surgeon came out and said the injury to his head was as if you took your fist and put it through a watermelon.
The skull fractures in this child were far too extensive, too serious, too complicated. But to have resulted from him simply dropping from no more than about four feet and probably less than that without having been propelled in some fashion. Two-year-old would not have been able to add any momentum to his flight through the air as a much larger person who could actually throw a child or take a child and slam a child down might be capable of doing.
While the medical examiner's team was evaluating records, Jim Mabe was pressing Kathy to write down everything she remembered about December 27th, 1971. And to Tracy Rakell's surprise, Kathy provided a lot more insight into what occurred in the apartment the night Matthew died.
Mrs. Allman told us when she first arrived, her and Tracy had gone shopping and also done some laundry. Jan was the only one there watching this child. She went in like any mother want to go and check on the child, and he wouldn't allow it. I said he wouldn't allow it. He talked her out of it, but did send Tracy inside. They got the groceries in and the laundry. When she got the laundry up, which was the last thing they had to get out of the car, she checked on the child. This is when she discovered he was unresponsible. Based on that, it just run above a lot of red flags. I didn't understand why he didn't want her to see the child or whatever. That doesn't make him a killer.
In a follow-up with Kathy, Jim got even more information out of her.
When I talked to Kathy maybe a week or so later, she believed that Jan had assaulted this child.
It was the first time Kathy had told law enforcement directly that she believed Jan killed Matthew. Jan, not Tracy Raquelle. What was happening? Why was she speaking up now?
We told her some of the things that we had discovered and what we believed, and we were going to get the death certificate changed from accidental to homicide. Now, she didn't say this, but she gave me the impression I'm going to cooperate with them because the next step is to police and I ain't going to jail for Jan Salman.
Now, Kathy was pointing the finger at Jan. If she really thought her ex-husband had killed her baby, why would she stay with him for years and have another child with him? But once Kathy started talking to Jim, Maeve, she kept talking. We mentioned Jan's first wife, Nancy Tegadier, earlier when we were talking about the recorded call between Tracy, Raquel, and Kathy. And as I mentioned earlier, Nancy tragically committed suicide. Then, just weeks later, Jan moved in with Kathy. Well, here's the rest of the story. When Nancy was 16, she had a baby boy with Jan, and they got married. Nancy and Jan's marriage was on the rocks on the night Nancy died. They had been separated, and Nancy was several months pregnant with another man's child. But she wanted to work it out with Jan and stay married. Jan wanted to end the marriage. As Jan pulled up to Nancy's apartment that night, she was on the phone with her best friend.
My name is Jackie Wilson. It was Jackie Jenkins back then. I met Nancy the first time at the swimming pool in Dorville. I was 12 or 13, and we were friends there on and off all the way through school and after.
High school. Like Kathy, Nancy fell head over heels for Jan. He was the bad boy, exciting and unpredictable.
I just knew Jan was crazy. Nancy was in love with a crazy man.
But once they were married, Jan's true nature surfaced.
There was times that he'd slap her, and I couldn't take that.
Nancy was expecting to meet Jan at her apartment the night she died, hoping for a reconciliation. She wanted to stay together for the sake of their little boy. The next morning, Nancy was found dead with gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Then and her body wrapped in a sheet. A suicide note lay close by. She was only 19.
I had a real difficult time accepting the fact that Nancy had taken her own life. She had appointments. She had things she was going to do. I had talked with her on the phone that night. I talked with her on the phone until she said, I think Jan's here. Jan Sandman, in my book, either killed her himself or caused it to happen. Because to my knowledge, he was the last person that actually saw her. Because when we were on the phone, she said, No, Jan's here. There's somebody in the car with him. I don't know who was in the car with him. But the next day, she was dead.
How exactly does a dead person wrap herself up in a sheet after she dies? But there was also a suicide note.
Nancy was a teenager, and when things didn't go right, she would write little notes that people might interpret as a suicide note because she was hurting so bad. She wrote a bunch of notes like that. That note, Jan, could have picked up from anywhere and put there. She wasn't suicidal. Jim Mabe.
Was also skeptical that Nancy died by shooting herself. Kathy told Jim that Jan wanted to, quote, get rid of her, end quote.
Think about it. You want to commit suicide? You want it over as fast as you can to shoot yourself in the abdomen for suicide? Don't even make sense. That really brought a red flag to me.
Tracy Raquelle learned something new and shocking from Kathy's statements to investigators. She learned that she was also injured the day Matthew died.
She had to take me to the doctor because I had fallen down a concrete flight of stairs, supposedly. It was bleeding from both my ears.
I wonder if she actually fell down the steps or that's what they say and she was actually pushed.
Tracy Raquelle's medical records reveal that these injuries were not minor. She was treated for bruises and a bleeding ear.
I feel like they just wanted to get rid of both of us, just like she said in her comments. We just wanted to start over. We didn't want to do this. We wanted to have our own life together and start over.
But had some empathy for Kathy.
Because of Jan's history, suspicions of things that he had done, I believe in my heart she was afraid of Jan. Every time he looks around, he's involved in an injury or somebody or death of somebody. You got a choice: blame your daughter. Your daughter is not going to kill you, and Jan Sandlin will stay off your back. Go ahead and tell the truth and say, Jan Sandman did it, and you could be dead. With his background, that's not out of the realm, possibly. That doesn't justify what she did. I'm not saying it, but I'm not going to judge her either.
Kathy has always been steadfast that she believed what happened to Matthew was an accident. This is documented in court testimony and in her statement to investigators. We should say there's no evidence that Kathy actually believed that Jan killed Matthew and covered it up. According to the conversations Kathy had with Tracey Raquel that are part of the case file, Kathy has no memory of telling police her two-year-old was responsible. In fact, in the wake of Matthew's death, she has no real memory of anything. I don't.
Even remember making that statement. What that paper says is wrong about a lot of things. I don't know what is on that paper.
You mean it is wrong?
I cannot tell you anything I said or did that entire two weeks afterwards.
I mean, is that because of Matt's death? But did Jan scare you?
I have no idea. All I can tell you is that I was in shock. I don't know what was going on. What I can remember him telling me later, somehow that got in my head, and I wasn't allowed to talk to anybody else. So I guess it came from him.
What do you mean you weren't allowed to talk to anybody else?
I was in seclusion with him for two weeks. I don't know what the hell happened during those two weeks.
With Jan, you were in seclusion?
I don't know.
I don't understand. I mean, what do you mean?
I don't know.
You were locked up somewhere?
I assume I was at the apartment with him, but I don't know.
The medical examiner's team went to see district attorney, J. Tom Morgan.
It is very rare for a medical examiner on his or her own to come see us and say, You need to take a hard look at this case. Tracy's story was unbelievable. Dr. Burton basically said, There's no way in hell that this child died from these types of injuries from a shortfall from a crib onto a shack floor.
After reviewing the recordings with Kathy, the medical records, and the medical examiner's investigation, Morgan felt like he had enough to go to a grand jury.
The grand jury decided that there was probable cause, sufficient evidence to go forward with the prosecution of Jan Sandlin for the murder of Matthew Golden.
But for a trial, they would need more than probable cause. Dr. Stephen Dunton.
We spoke about the need and the proprietary of seeing these injuries with our own eyes and evaluating them ourselves rather than relying on other people's documentation.
After many discussions with Dr. Burton, Joe told me, Look, Jaytime, we can zoom the body, but there was nothing going to be there. But at the same time, if we don't do it, you're going to pay the price for it.
The sad truth is bodies decompose. We bury bodies so that over the years, they become part of the earth again. And Matthew's tiny body had been in the ground for more than a quarter of a century. It was likely they would find very little bones, perhaps.
The defense, rightfully so, would say to the jury, There was an easy way to prove this case. All they had to do was go exhume the body. And since they're not exhuming the body, they're trying to hide something. So he said, We should go ahead and try to do it.
But they needed Kathy because a parent is the person who must sign a document granting permission for the exhumation of a minor child's body. And she said yes.
You don't know what to expect. I've seen human bodies exhumed after a year that looked like they had been buried the day before. I've seen bodies that were buried six months earlier that were nearly skeletonized. Knowing how small this little human body was, and not really knowing how the embalming process might have taken place, I don't think either one of us would have been surprised if the casket was open and there was nothing identifiable, perhaps other than bones.
I was told, We're going to do this exhumation. It's checking the box, but there probably won't be anything there. But at least we can say we did it.
Tracy Rakell's family was stretched from Georgia to Alabama. Kathy buried Matthew near her grandparents in a serene, picturesque cemetery about an hour north of Birmingham.
Duck River Baptist Church. This quiet country setting that seemed like such a perfect place for a cemetery.
The church was on a hill, as was the little church graveyard. When we got there, it was a clear day, a little cool. When I got to the gravesite, the dirt had already been moved. Coincidentally, the grave digger who put Matthew in the ground was the same grave digger that dug him back up.
I remember feeling a bit more somber. It seemed to me that we were disturbing a sleeping baby, and that really bothered me. Knowing the stakes that were involved in a case like this, one that had not been initially judged to be homicide and one that we have now decided probably is, I knew that we had to do everything right.
The pressure was on and emotions were high. Assistant district attorney LeAnne Mangone was assigned to the case. She attended the exhumation as well. She tried to support Kathy as she watched everything unfold. I remember her being quite emotional, crying. I remember her standing back. I don't think she was right up at the gravesite. I took my cues from her. She wanted to stand back, and we let that happen.
I don't remember anybody laughing, smiling. It really affected all of us, and I know it affected me. It was a somber mood from beginning to end. And of.
Course, the investigators didn't expect the exhumation to offer much information.
We had all expected that ashes to ashes, dust to dust, that if there was anything in there, it would just have been a few remains.
The conditions that we discovered the gravesite being on an elevated area with a clear method by which water could channel away was encouraging. And then when the grave was opened and we found that the vault lid was still tightly sealed, that was also encouraging. But we still didn't know. A burial.
Vault encases a coffin and helps to protect it from natural elements.
The casket was very small. We didn't need a hearse because we're talking about very small bots. Dr. Burton picked the casket up and put it in the back of an SUV. We followed the SUV down to Birmingham.
Once we got to the Birmingham Morg, where the medical examiner for Jefferson County had so graciously allowed us to perform our examination, casket was open, and we were amazed at what we saw.
It was a moment of complete silence and shock.
The thing I will never forget. When they opened the coffin, there was a perfectly preserved infant child clutching the teddy bear that his mom had put in his arms before he was buried. I just.
Couldn't believe it.
It was a transformative experience. It was an unforgettable, horrible, unimaginable moment. I had to step away. What they found did much more than check a box for a court battle. What they found would change everything.
It just amazes me. Dr. Byrd, who had done probably over 10,000 autopsies, said himself he had never seen a body that well preserved being that long underground. God knew the truth. God preserved that child until we got there. He was waiting for us to do it, and we did. On the.
Next burden of guilt.
This was a very old case, and while we had prosecuted some cold cases, this was the coldest, this was rigid. And we knew there was.
To be a hefty fight in front of us at trial.
Stay tuned for Burden of Guilt, the documentary coming in 2024 and airing only on Paramount+. If you would like to reach out to the Burden of Guilt team, email us at burdenofguiltpod@gmail. Com. That's burdenofguilt, P-O-D@gmail. Com. If you or someone you know is worried about maltreatment or suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Help National Child Abuse Hotline. You can call or text 1-800 for a child. That's 1-800 4-2-2 4-4-5-3. One way to show support is by subscribing to our show on Apple Podcasts. Don't forget to rate and review Burden of Guilt. Five-star reviews go a long way. A big thank you for listening. Also, be sure to check us out and follow us on Instagram at Glass Podcasts. Burden of Guilt is a production of Glass Podcast, a division of Glass Entertainment Group in partnership with iHeart Podcast. The show is hosted and executive produced by me, Nancy Glass, written and produced by Carrie Hartman and Andrea Gunning. Also produced by Ben Fetterman, Lauren Murphy, and Associate Producer, Kristen Malkiori. Our iHeart team is Ali Perry and Jessica Krajnicek. Special thanks to Tracy Raquelle Burns and her husband, Bart.
Voice acting in this episode was performed by Carla Burgess and Nally Moby. Audio editing and mixing by Matt Delvecco. Burden of Guilt's theme composed by Oliver Baines. Music Library provided by Mib Music. And for more podcasts from iHeart, visit the iHeart Radio app, Apple Podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts.