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D.A. dismissed tennis umpire case without seeing defense report

December 7, 2012 | 10:34 am

Attorney Alison Triessl and Lois Goodman, a tennis umpire accused of fatally bludgeoning her 80 year old husbandin Woodland Hills, after all charges were dropped in a preliminary hearing at the Van Nuys Courthouse on Nov. 30. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

Prosecutors decided to drop a murder charge against professional tennis umpire Lois Goodman even before her attorneys submitted a defense team pathology report that disputed a coroner's finding that her husband was deliberately killed.

Sources familiar with the case said that the Los Angeles County district attorney's office dropped  the case last week before Goodman lawyers Alison Triessl and Robert Sheahen presented a report by former New York pathologist Michael Baden that attributed Alan Goodman's death to heart issues and not head injuries from an assault.

The D.A.'s office did not reveal why it sought to withdraw charges in the high-profile case last week after a month of claiming that Lois Goodman fatally bludgeoned her husband with a coffee cup in April. They said the case remains open.

Ed Winter, deputy chief of coroner's investigations, said Alan Goodman's April 17 death remains listed as a homicide.

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Thursday defended his department's handling of the investigation.

"It is an open case and detectives absolutely handled it by the book," Beck said. "I have done a review through [the] detective bureau of their actions. They consulted with the district attorney. They consulted with the court. They obtained search warrants and arrest warrants. They did what detectives do."

He said investigators were "largely guided" by information obtained through the coroner's office.

"And some other information came up that contradicted some of that. So this is in the D.A.'s hands right now," Beck said.

Goodman, 70, said she found her husband dead at their Woodland Hills home. She told authorities that she came home and found a bloody trail up the stairs to their bedroom. She believed he had fallen, then made his way to bed. Responding officers believed her and the home was cleaned up.

But three days later, a coroner's investigator visited the mortuary to sign the death certificate and reported he found "deep penetrating blunt force trauma" on Alan Goodman's head and ears. The observations launched a homicide investigation. In a search warrant, a detective described how investigators had found blood throughout the home.

Lois Goodman's lawyers later revealed that the tennis umpire's DNA wasn't even found on the alleged murder weapon. She also passed a defense-arranged polygraph test conducted by a former FBI examiner, according to her lawyers.

In an interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show,  Goodman said the experience has been "unbelievable."

"I can't understand how it even got that far. ... Thank God it's over," she said.

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-- Richard Winton

Follow Richard Winton (@LACrimes) on Twitter and Google+

Photo: Attorney Alison Triessl and Lois Goodman, a tennis umpire accused of fatally bludgeoning her 80 year old husbandin Woodland Hills, after all charges were dropped in a preliminary hearing at the Van Nuys Courthouse on Nov. 30. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

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