By Juanice Gray, Editor
She knew what was about to happen.
Instinct made Cody Goodrich throw her hands to her head moments before the gun went off. That may have been the single action that saved her life.
Goodrich doesn’t remember doing that. In fact, she doesn’t remember anything five months prior and over eight months after the incident in her Robeline home that changed her life forever.
On the night of Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, Goodrich intended to break up with her abusive boyfriend. That night ended with gunfire and death.
The 9mm bullet aimed at her head slowed just enough as it tore through the bone and knuckle of her finger lessening the impact and essentially saving her life.
Goodrich sat in the same position, in a semi-conscious state for 11 hours before she was found on the floor of her home.
“I was dating my boyfriend (Dennon Jay Brown, 23) who was physically abusive. I had basically had enough. Using my own gun, he first killed my dog (Bailey), shot me in the head and killed himself,” Goodrich said of that fateful day. “One of my best friends, Hannah Kennedy, called my mom and said Cody did not show up for work. Mom hung up on Hannah and called the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office. She said whatever you have to do, get in there.”
NPSO received that welfare call at 8:04 a.m. Jan. 25.
One of the first members of law enforcement on the scene was Patrol Sgt. Matt Robertson. “It was hard to tell among the chaos how severe her injuries were. It wasn’t until later that we found out,” he said.
Goodrich’s mom, Lorie Foltz, recalls getting the call that Cody had been shot. She said, “You hear screaming, you hear it, but there is no connection that you’re the one doing the screaming. I knew she was shot, but it was when I heard she was shot in the head I started screaming.”
Foltz said first responders told her that when they got on scene Goodrich was trying to talk to them. “But where I was shot was the part that controls speech and sight and they couldn’t understand. But I was talking!” she said.
It is by the grace of God she survived, but survive she did, in no small part due to the vigilance of her mother.
Doctors told Faltz that her daughter, who was 30 at the time and only eight weeks from graduating from NSU, would never walk or talk again.
Faltz and Goodrich had other ideas despite the fact that Goodrich is “…missing a part of my skull and missing a finger.” In the first weeks and months after the shooting her eyes were open and she could track movement, albeit slowly. “It was pretty slow in the beginning,” Goodrich said. “The comprehension was there it just needed to be brought out. I was in a minimally conscious state for 10 months,” she said. Memories from her time of semi-consciousness are starting to come back. “I remembered the American flag and the ABCs from childhood.”
When Goodrich finally gained full consciousness, her uphill battle to recovery began.
“I had no clue about anything. I was looking for Dennon and Mom had to tell me what happened, that he shot me and he was dead.”
“We were sitting on the back patio of the nursing home in Jena and she turned to me and the first thing she said upon waking up was, ‘What the (expletive) is this?’ as she held up her hand with the missing finger. All I could say was, you have one on the other hand.” Foltz said. “Then I started to freak out! She was awake!”
Goodrich said she was afraid of anything and everything and there were fundamental differences in her as a person.
“Over the last almost 3 years I’ve had to learn how to walk, talk, read and write. I did not know money or the days of the week. I was in physical, occupational and speech therapy and I was in a wheelchair for about five months. My mom didn’t let me get away with anything. She said ‘No’ this is not how this is going to work.’”
Goodrich had damage to the right side of her body that caused shaking of her leg and posturing of her right arm. It took extensive therapy to regain control of those muscles.
“I lived in Rapides Hospital for four months with Cody. They kept coming at me that she was going to die. Then one day I finally said I don’t care what you do or don’t believe. I’m informing you she is going to make it!” Foltz exclaimed.
Goodrich went through surgeries and had complications while on the road to recovery. “It wasn’t going to be the bullet that got her, it was infection we were scared of,” Foltz said. Goodrich had stomach surgery, her lung collapsed, she was on a feeding tube and had a patch over her right eye because it was “quite literally knocked out of line,” she said.
Goodrich began having nightmares. “I was going in and out of consciousness. During that time I had horrible nightmares.”
She is getting trauma therapy to help deal with the aftereffects.
“When I found out my boyfriend, Dennon was dead, I knew it was done, he was gone, but his brother has come at us so many times, threatening, that when I think about things that scare me, it’s him,” Cody said. The nightmares got so bad she had to be put on medication to prevent her from dreaming.
“She would just scream,” Foltz said. “I found out that was normal in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients.”
“The hardest things to overcome was a little bit of physical and a lot of emotional,” Goodrich said. “It was not because of him (Brown), but because I had to learn really quick that I had changed.”
Therapists used nursery rhymes like “I’m a little teapot” from her childhood to trigger her memory and speech skills. “One day I gave her a phone like the one she had and she could just use it,” Foltz said. “She got her message across, especially when she began using speech to text.”
Therapists used various methods and equipment to help her stand and to strengthen her muscles to prevent atrophy and promote mobility. “It was really painful,” Goodrich said. “They said to take pictures and video to document progress and we did.”
Today, Goodrich wears an “I am 3 percent” shirt with the name Bailey on the back. “Only 3 percent of people who are shot in the head survive,” Foltz said. Bailey was the dog that lost its life in the incident. “Neither her nor I deserved what we got. I keep her memory close.” Goodrich said.
“Cody at one time wanted to go back to Kansas where our family is from. I would go wherever she wants, but that is not what it’s about. I told her I think enough has been taken from you. Natchitoches is your town, NSU is your college and he doesn’t get to take one more inch of your life from you.” Foltz said.
Wyn McDowell, an investigator who responded to the scene surprised Goodrich and Foltz during the interview for this story. “She’s come a long way,” he said. “She is a testimony to what can happen to people. She has a lot of heart and I want her to know the Sheriff’s department is behind her 100 percent. We’ve been keeping up with her and we’re all really happy with where she is at now and how far she has come.”
Goodrich didn’t know how others and the community rallied behind her in those early days and months after the shooting. “It’s a whole other world that was going on that I wasn’t aware of…all these people that I didn’t know were pulling for me.”
“It is amazing how far she has come considering what happened to her. I’m so glad to see she is doing well and I wish her well and good luck with school and life,” Deputy Robertson said. “It’s not often you get a happy ending.”
Goodrich has worked so hard to regain her life and have a future. “I know I want to finish my degree. I will definitely finish but after that I don’t know what’s next.”
Based on her spirit, outlook on life and her perseverance, one can only imagine what God has in store for this remarkable young woman.