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Crime News Dateline

Woman Chillingly Recalls Watching Her Mother Kill Her Stepfather as a Child

Judy Gough's daughter Kimberly was just 12 years old when her mother coldly asked her “How would you like it if Lloyd was gone?” 

By Jill Sederstrom
Wives Who Brutally Killed

For nearly three decades, Judy Gough's daughter Kimberly kept a terrifying family secret. 

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When she was just 12 years old, she watched as her mother killed her stepfather, Lloyd Ford, then enlisted her brother to help bury him in the backyard, Kimberly told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered

Ford’s own children – he had two daughters, Sandy and Pamela, and a son, Tommy – were told he'd run off with another woman, leading them to believe for decades that their father had simply abandoned them.

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“It was hard,” his daughter Sandy Burke recalled. “I mean, my dad, for Tom and I, especially, he was everything to us.” 

It wasn’t until the guilt and horror reached a boiling point and Kimberly made a chilling confession to a coworker that her mother was finally brought to justice and the terrifying truth was uncovered. 

Ford and Gough had seemed like a real-life version of the Brady Bunch. When they married in 1973 and settled in Boise, Idaho, each had three children of their own.

A mugshot of Judy Gough, featured on Dateline

While Ford’s two oldest daughters lived with his ex-wife in Nebraska, his young son Tommy lived with Gough and her three kids; the stitched-together family took fishing trips, went bowling, and settled into what looked like domestic bliss. 

Ford worked as a long-haul truck driver, while Judy—who already had two divorces under her belt—got a job as a hairdresser. 

Kimberly admitted she was happiest when her mother, who tended to become solely focused on her love interests, was single.

“I personally liked it best when it was just her, the boys and I, no husband, because her attention would focus,” she told Dateline.

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For a while, Judy’s focus shone brightly on Ford, but by 1980 Judy, who Kimberly described as deeply moody and manipulative, had grown tired of her husband. 

“To a newcomer or her friends and that—she’s very loving, giving person. But what they didn’t see was she would do whatever it took to get what she wanted,” Kimberly said, remembering the years she tried to be perfect just to stay in her mother’s good graces.

Kimberly recalled standing with her mother in the kitchen one 1980 afternoon when her mother asked “How would you like it if Lloyd was gone?” 

“It sounded all right,” Kimberly said of her mom’s promises that it would be just like it used to be when her mom was focused solely on her children. 

But Kimberly believed her mom was talking about leaving Ford or divorcing him. She never suspected her mom had something much more sinister in mind. 

As the days went by, Kimberly said her mother continued to talk about how much better life would be without Ford. 

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“And each day it was a little more revealing, until finally she just blurted it out, you know, ‘What would you think if he was dead?’” Kimberly said.

Kimberly thought maybe Ford was sick until her mother brought up the idea of killing him. Still, the 12-year-old didn’t believe her mom was serious until the day her mother sent her to the store for sleeping pills and she watched her mash them up and put them in Ford’s ice cream with butterscotch topping.

The next morning, she kept Kimberly home from school as a confused Ford struggled to try to move around the house. 

She’d later find her mother standing in the living room, smoking, before she made a chilling proclamation.

“I’m ready,” she said. 

They went into the bedroom, where Ford was laying on a sheet on the floor.

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Her mother pulled out a gun and asked her to help her pull the trigger, but Kimberly refused. 

“And I started screaming at her, ‘What do you want? What do you want from me? What do you want me to do?’ And she said, ‘Just cover my ears.’” 

Kimberly, always the dutiful daughter, obliged. 

“And she kept saying something. And it seemed like forever. And I just screamed. And I said, ‘If you’re going to do it, just do it,’” Kimberly recalled before hearing the loud gunshot. 

Terrified, Kimberly ran from the room and out of the house where she cowered in a backyard alley. When she returned some time later, she found her mom still in the house.

“I think she hugged me, told me she loved me,” Kimberly said.

Together, they lifted Ford’s body into an old trunk and dragged it next to the house.

Days earlier, Judy had asked the boys, including Ford’s own son Tommy, to dig a large hole in the backyard where she said they planned to plant a peach tree. 

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But later that day, when her son Shane came home from school, she asked him to bury the trunk instead. 

When Sandy, then 20-years-old, called to have her weekly phone chat with her dad a few days later, Judy told her that he was gone on business and eventually told  the family that he had run off with another woman and she wasn’t sure if he’d ever return.

The sudden abandonment of a father she had loved so dearly left life-long wounds for Sandra and her siblings. 

“I mean, the ground you stand on doesn’t seem stable anymore,” she said. “Because every single thing that we had built our trust and security in was gone. But on top of that, to be told that my father purposely left us without a word, did we do something? I mean, are we not loveable enough?”

For years, Kimberly kept her mother’s dark secret. Judy quickly moved on and married a new man, yet the secret continued to plague her daughter. 

By the time Kimberly was 40 and a single mom to her own sons in 2007, she was racked with guilt and ultimately confided in her boss Gary Ziegler during an outing for coffee. 

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“Everybody has a secret or two, but this? I deliberated for days before telling anybody,” Ziegler said. 

Although Judy’s family had remained quiet for more than a quarter of a century, Ziegler decided it was a secret he wasn’t going to keep and called the prosecutor’s office in Boise, who called in police to investigate.

“My first reaction was one of disbelief almost,” Detective Brian Lee said.

Investigators recruited Kimberly to call her mom and record a conversation about what happened that fateful day.

Kimberly—who pretended she was going to talk to a counselor and needed to get things straight in her head—asked her mother why she chose her for the grisly task.

“You know, I can’t say anything except that you don’t know the regrets that I’ve had, and that I still have,” her mother said, according to the recordings of the call. “I don’t know that I can answer your question. I don’t remember a whole lot of it. You know, we had talked, and I was trying to figure out how to get out of it, and I remember you just saying, ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it.” 

She added that at the time she felt like she was “in a hole that I was trying to dig myself out of.” 

“I was in hell, I guess. I don’t know,” Judy said. “And I’m so sorry that I took you there with me.”

As Kimberly hung up the phone, she felt an awful sense of betrayal but it was enough for police to make an arrest after recovering bone fragments still buried in the family’s former backyard. 

Judy claimed she killed Ford because he had been an abuser, an allegation his own family has staunchly denied, and was acting in self-defense. 

Before the case would ever go to trial, however, Judy Gough agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and received a 10-year prison sentence. Kimberly now said her mother is “dead” to her as she tries to put back together the shattered pieces of her life. 

For Ford’s family, who had been hoping to bring the case to trial, the sentence wasn’t justice for their father.

“This was my dad. This is the only thing that we could do for him. We felt like the truth would come out, it would give him back his reputation,” his daughter Sandy said of why they wanted a trial. “She had taken his life. Then she has to take his reputation, too?”