By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Trevor Bach
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Gail Berry says Carpenter had given little indication of the series of events he had already set in motion. "On Sunday he told me to rake the needles from the Australian pine tree off the deck in the back yard," Berry says. "He said, `I'm not always going to be here to clean off those needles.' And he went out and bought a month's worth of wet food for the cat. We always had this running battle about whether the cat should have wet or dry food, and he didn't think the cat should have to suffer without wet food." Unbeknownst to Berry, Carpenter also went out and bought a .38-caliber revolver.
He made other preparations, too, and left other instructions. "I tried to make it simple," Carpenter noted in the four-page letter found in his briefcase, addressed simply to "Authorities." The word "simple" had been crossed out and "organized" written in its place. "The apt. is secured," the note read, "i.e., balcony shutters down, humidistat on. There is no need to rush up here." The letter also included an apology to fire-station personnel: "I am sorry for using this facility for this purpose."
"Bill was the most neat, meticulous, organized person," says Pam Roenfeldt. "He was the kind of person that never had one hair out of place. He made me crazy." In fact, Roenfeldt adds, it was Carpenter's penchant for fastidiousness that botched an earlier attempt at suicide, in 1985. "He laid out notes with instructions and then he called me," Roenfeldt recalls. "He specifically arranged for police to go over quickly so that he could donate his organs. I kept him on the phone for an hour and a half and asked someone else in the office to call the police. When they got to Bill's place, they knocked on the door and Bill opened it. That's how they stopped him."
Once again, much of Carpenter's planning had been devoted to ensuring that police and medical personnel were aware that he was a registered organ donor. Choosing the Coral Gables fire station where Guy Gooch, a friend for ten years, works as a firefighter, was an integral part of the plan. "I guess he picked the station because I worked here and he knew he would get immediate attention," says Gooch. "The paramedics knew he was an organ donor. When they arrived at the hospital, they were yelling down the hall at the doctors that he is an organ donor." The afternoon Bill Carpenter decided to shoot himself, however, Guy Gooch had the day off.
In Carpenter's wallet, which accompanied him to Jackson, was an organ-donor card and his driver license, which had a red organ-donor stamp embossed on the lower right-hand corner. "He always talked to everyone he knew about donating their organs," Berry says. "He always said if more people donated their organs, scientists wouldn't have to use animals for experimentation. And even if the organs couldn't be used for transplants, they could be used for research purposes." So that there would be no mistaking his intentions, Carpenter left additional explicit instructions for the authorities. "I am to be cremated after my organs have been removed for transplant purposes," he wrote, suggesting that his status as a donor be verified "on license and in state computer." Almost as an afterthought, aware that his skin, too, could be donated, Carpenter added, "My tattoo is not to be transplanted."
On Tuesday night, Roenfeldt and Berry met Detective Andres when he came to Berry's home to question the women. For the next three hours, as friends and family members gathered at the town house, Andres sat in the living room, interrogating the women. "He was acting like he was king shit," Berry says. "It was a perfect waste of time. He accomplished nothing. I wouldn't have allowed him in the house because I was so furious at the way things had been handled up until then. But Pam said that maybe by talking with him that night, we could avoid having to go to the police station the next
Because Andres did not bring along the briefcase with the four pages of instructions, Roenfeldt and Berry had no way of knowing Carpenter's wishes. "I knew his preference was to be cremated, but I didn't know he had a major problem with the funeral, about a viewing, about a newspaper notice," says Roenfeldt, who paid $3000 for the funeral services. Contrary to Carpenter's instructions, a newspaper notice announcing the death ran in the Miami Herald for two consecutive days. Roenfeldt and Berry had taken it upon themselves to notify Carpenter's daughter, as well as other family members and friends. The family also had Carpenter's car voluntarily repossessed by General Motors Acceptance Corp., which had financed the Oldsmobile. From Monday until Thursday of that week, however, the car sat in the lot of the towing company, baking the bloodstains irreparably into the upholstery. Roenfeldt says Andres insisted that Carpenter's daughter, who was the only relative legally entitled to take possession of Carpenter's belongings, hire a lawyer because of the complicated transactions necessary to turn over a dead person's property. "All it took was filling out one little form," Roenfeldt says. "All she had to do was show ID and sign for it. Bill loved that car. He washed that car every other day. If nothing else, that's the least we could do for him. We tried and tried but couldn't save it."