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To the Last Breath by Carlton Stowers–true crime book review part I

27 February 2012

Published in 1998, To The Last Breath: Three Women Fight For the Truth Behind a Child’s Tragic Murder by Carlton Stowers tells the heartrending story of the unexpected and mysterious death of an otherwise healthy two-year-old girl. Renee Goode had gone to her father’s house in 1994 for a sleepover along with some other young female relatives. But by the next morning, little Renee lie dead on her sleeping bag.

Interesting in a sinister way, her father Michael Shane Goode never wanted Renee to be born in the first place, insisting to his then-estranged wife that she abort the unplanned pregnancy. Annette Goode, Renee’s mother, adamantly refused, and Renee was born about six weeks after her parents’ acrimonious divorce became final.

For most of Renee’s very short life, Shane – as he preferred to be called – never saw his daughter, nor was he even sure of her name. It wasn’t until court-ordered child support payments began, and subsequent DNA tests proved he was indeed Renee’s father, that Shane suddenly developed an ostensibly paternal interest in Renee.

Coincidentally, being the good father only Shane himself purported to be, he apparently also felt moved to take out a $50,000 life insurance policy on the youngster that he’d never even seen yet. Curiously, he initially denied the insurance policy’s existence to Renee’s mother.

It took a dedicated detective – then-Alvin Police Department Detective Sue Dietrich – and a formidable prosecutor – Assistant District  Attorney Jeri Yenne – to crack the case. This at the urging of one heartbroken yet determined maternal grandmother, Sharon  Couch, after Renee’s untimely death was initially ruled as indeterminate. (I believe Renee’s mother, Annette Goode, was just too distraught and grief-stricken to doggedly pursue the matter herself at that time.)

Author/journalist Carlton Stowers

Author/journalist Carlton Stowers deftly weaves his  expert tale backed up by extensive research. Additionally, he really brings the players to the forefront of the story. Readers are there with these three tremendously strong women through every legal battle and political confrontation to get to the truth of what happened to little Renee Goode the night she spent with her father, and the night she wound up dead by morning. Stowers obviously spent a great deal of time with the story’s three heroines who ultimately procure justice for little Renee.

On a personal note to this writer, this heinous crime occurred in Alvin, a small town located just outside of Houston, where I live. I have relatives in Alvin, and I remember this crime well. Flabbergasted–and deeply saddened–is all I can say.

You see, at that sleepover at her father’s house, the one in which Shane Goode claimed Renee just somehow spontaneously stopped breathing overnight, a child was actually murdered by her very own father. The seemingly innocent sleepover that millions of American girls love to participate in was, incongruously, the scene of a premeditated, dastardly murder plot…by a little girl’s own father.

Coming up next: The conclusion — What really happened to little Renee Goode?

Grade: **** 1/2

Status: Highly Recommended

More about Carlton Stowers 

Buy the book on Amazon

Appellate court records in Texas’ First Court of Appeals for Michael Shane Goode

The Texas Tribune inmate information on Michael Shane Goode 

Texas Department of Corrections inmate locator – Find local, state, or federal inmates in  this database of all 50 states

Justice for All – Criminal Justice Reform Organization

Houston Press story on then-problems plaguing the Harris County M.E.’s Office

Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP is a consumer law paralegal and freelance writer based in Houston, Texas. She is a NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal, and has earned six specialty certifications since 2007: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; Social Security Disability Law; and Entity & Individual Medical Liability. She is also WestlawNext certified. Sami has worked as a law firm Webmaster, law firm social media marketer, and a ghostwriter for personal injury law firms. She holds a degree in paralegal studies with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor of science degree in political science, graduating summa cum laude. Sami interned with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges, and completed the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute with a 4.0. You can find her on Facebook and e-mail her with questions, comments, or ideas at


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Copyright  2012  Sami K. Hartsfield – All Rights Reserved

  1. Great book review, Sami! Thanks for taking the time not only to read the book, but to share your thoughts with us. Keep up the great blogging…and book reviews!

  2. Thanks Jamie. Keep up YOUR great blogging as well. 🙂

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