SALEM — A prosecutor has begun presenting evidence to a grand jury against a Salem mother charged with slashing her young children's throats.
Gloucester native Tanicia Goodwin, 25, is facing attempted murder and arson charges as a result of what happened on the night of March 18, when firefighters were called to the Salem Heights apartment complex on Pope Street for an alarm and found Goodwin's 8-year-old son, Jamaal, his throat slashed, sealed inside their apartment.
Goodwin is also charged with slashing the throat of her 3-year-old daughter, Erica.
Investigators believe Goodwin meant to kill her children by setting the apartment on fire.
Both children have been released from the hospital and are recovering.
Goodwin, who according to family members has a history of mental instability, was sent for an evaluation at Worcester State Hospital after her arraignment in March. She was returned to MCI Framingham, the state women's prison, about two weeks ago, prosecutor Melissa Woodard told a judge Thursday.
Woodard was seeking access to any reports that Worcester State Hospital may have generated during Goodwin's evaluation.
Goodwin was not brought to court Thursday for what had been scheduled as a probable cause hearing. The hearing is no longer necessary, since the case is going before a grand jury, which will decide whether to indict Goodwin.
Woodard and defense attorney Denise Regan, a public defender who specializes in defendants with mental health issues, both told the judge they expect that Goodwin will have been indicted and arraigned in Superior Court prior to the next hearing date in the case, June 11.
A step-cousin and an aunt have stepped forward in an interview to portray another side of Goodwin.
Isis Haraty, 22, said she has no doubt what prosecutors say is true and that Goodwin should never again be near her two children. But she also says Goodwin's encouragement is the main reason Haraty is now attending community college, despite having dropped out of middle school.
"A person isn't one-dimensional," Haraty said. "It's not 'psycho mom.' She's also my cousin. She's also my friend. She's also all these other things, too."
Goodwin, 25, never knew her father, and her mother died of natural causes when Goodwin was pregnant with Jamaal, said Makeda Haraty, Haraty's mother and Goodwin's aunt.
Isis Haraty knew Goodwin best shortly after Jamaal was born, when Goodwin was a teen mother and Haraty was a middle school dropout, so gripped by a fear of crowds she sometimes couldn't step on a train.
"She felt isolated, I felt isolated, and we found solace together," Haraty said. "We were both like statistics: ... 'Black kids who can't make it to school.' But we didn't want to stay like that."
Goodwin eventually got her high school equivalency diploma and encouraged Haraty to do the same.
"She was like, 'You are going to get your (butt) out this house. ... You can't stay in here; the world is out there,"' Haraty said.
"Without her, I would not be in college right now," added Haraty, who studies English at Bunker Hill Community College.
When Jamaal was about 3, Goodwin gave custody to her cousin, Wayne Cox, who then lived in the same building, so she could continue her schooling. Goodwin petitioned successfully in 2010 to get Jamaal back when Cox planned to move to Georgia, telling the court her life had stabilized.
In fact, things would soon fall apart. Goodwin had moved to Salem after she had Erica in 2008. But Goodwin didn't have a job, and family members say they heard increasingly less from her.
In May 2011, state social workers were notified after Jamaal told teachers Goodwin had hit him, including once so hard in the forehead that his nose bled, prosecutors said in court.
In August, Goodwin received an eviction notice after failing to pay two months' rent. The case was later settled.
Haraty said she would call Goodwin every few weeks, but Goodwin rarely picked up.
Her cousin Shannon Suttles, who'd had a falling out with Goodwin, reached out around Christmas by texting her a picture of her baby son. Goodwin never acknowledged it.
Suttles, 26, thinks her cousin needs treatment more than just incarceration. That doesn't mean things will be right between them. "I don't think I could ever forgive that," she said.
Haraty hopes to talk to Goodwin, to find out how she could do what she allegedly did.
Still, Haraty admits, "I'm afraid of the answer."
Material from Associated Press reporter Jay Lindsay was used in this report from courts reporter Julie Manganis, who may be reached at 978-338-2521 or at email@example.com.