Sean and Donny Goetcheus were outwardly happy, handsome, and fun-loving brothers whose young lives were brutally cut short when they were gunned down in their own home in what police called a chilling, "execution-style" double murder on January 9, 1997. That was 19 years ago, but cold case unit detectives in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, police department have never given up on the case.
This week, they say that have new leads in the case and could soon name a suspect in the horrifying Goetcheus murders, but they're not there yet and still need help from the public. They're offering a $21,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the haunting cold case.
The father of the young men, Donny Goetcheus, says that solving the case will bring justice but can never bring "closure" to the parents. He still carries guilt over a decision he made that left him feeling he'd failed as a father because it may have led to the deaths of his sons.
The video below, a local news report from the 10th anniversary of the Sean and Donny Goetcheus slayings, gives detailed background info on the case.
Donny Goethceus, 19 and the father of a little girl barely over a year old, moved in with his 25-year-old brother, Sean, about two months before that day in 1997 in the Brainerd area of Chattanooga. On January 9, someone entered their home and shot Sean in the head, in the kitchen. As Donny hid in a bathroom, the mysterious gunman broke down the door and shot him twice. Both brothers died from their wounds, a report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press recounted Friday.
For most of the first 19 years since the baffling murders took place, police believed that Sean Goetcheus was the killer's intended target, with Donny simply finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They thought the killings may have been linked in some way to a mysterious young woman seen in Sean's company in the days leading up to the slayings. The older Goetcheus brother was also studying to be an expert in gemstones and worked at a gold and diamond business in Brainerd.
Nonetheless, "these two boys weren't living a lifestyle indicative of them being at high risk of violence," said Chattanooga Cold Case Unit Supervisor Bill Mathis on Thursday, according to an account in the Chattanoogan newspaper.
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Sean owned a handgun, which went missing the night of the murders. Investigators believe that gun was used to shoot both brothers and that the killer found it in the house, indicating that whoever shot Donny and Sean had been in the home before and knew the place well enough to know where the gun was stored.
That gun and Sean's cell phone, which also disappeared, were presumably taken by the killer and never found.
Police were certain that at least one of the brothers knew the killer, and they still believe that to be true. But on Thursday this week, they said they now believe that it wasn't Sean who knew the person who would take his life that day 19 years ago, but Donny.
In October of 1996, Donny was living in an apartment leased by his father. But the happy-go-lucky skateboarder was way behind on the rent. After much agonizing, David Goetcheus made the painful but necessary decision to evict his own son from the apartment.
After that, Donny's personality changed. He appeared depressed and was seen frequently hanging around a known local drug spot known as the Pink Building. Police say there is no known connection between Sean Goetcheus and the Pink Building.
Police revealed on Thursday that extensive interviews with Donny's friends and acquaintances made it clear Donny was frightened of something in the weeks before the murders.
"I'm nervous because we're very close to identifying the suspects that killed Sean and Donny, and, but we need the public's help," Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston said at a press conference Thursday, two days before the 19th grim anniversary of the Goetcheus Brothers murders.
Police also still want to learn more about the woman seen with Sean Goetcheus, and whom he helped look for replacement tail light for a Honda CRX the day before he was killed. Anyone with any information to help solve the cold case Sean and Donny Goethceus murders should call 423-209-7470, the investigators said Thursday.
[Images via Hamilton County District Attorney]