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Connie Reyes spent her life as a social worker helping abused children. Sadly, one of those kids she helped would one day be responsible for her murder.
Born Concepcion Reyes in 1952, Connie grew up in the Philippines outside Manila. She was one of three siblings in a close-knit family.
“She came to the United States to go to a teacher college and then stayed here and began her career,” niece Eliza Gillespie told “Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.
Reyes began teaching in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Then, in the late 1960s, she got her graduate’s degree and became a social worker, helping children trapped in abusive homes.
“Connie was the kind of person that would do everything she could to try to reunify the family but she also would do everything she could to pursue the termination of parental rights at the same time,” former Kenosha County District Attorney Robert Jamois told “Snapped.”
Then, on the morning of April 14, 1990, tragedy struck. Jamois and his wife were preparing to spend the Easter holiday with family. Instead, he was called to the scene of a murder in the traditionally low-crime city of under 100,000.
“I went inside to inspect the scene and there was Connie Reyes on the floor,” he told producers. “I was genuinely shocked and horrified to see that she had been murdered.”
Police spoke to friend JoAnn Slater, who had found the body. Reyes hadn’t felt well earlier in the week and had left work. Slater called Reyes that weekend to see how she was feeling but there was no answer. She had a key to Reyes’ house, so she went to check on her. Slater entered the home and found Reyes’ dead body face down on the floor.
She had been strangled and judging by her clothes, sexually assaulted.
“She was wearing a little blouse and a sweater up with the sweater over her head, the blouse up, the bra up,” former Kenosha Police Detective Kristine Fonk told “Snapped.”
The amount of newspapers at her front door placed the time of the murder around the afternoon of April 12. There were no signs of forced entry, nor were any valuables missing. Unfortunately, DNA evidence was in its infancy at the time of the murder and there was little physical evidence.
Reyes had never been married and her family had no knowledge of any prior romantic relationships. Investigators began looking at her case work, searching for a potential suspect that might bear a grudge.
“She would occasionally have to remove the kids from a home for their benefit,” former Kenosha Police Captain Michael McNamara explained to producers.
Given the sexual assault, investigators assumed the killer was male. All the suspects they interviewed, however, had valid alibis. Years would pass with no leads, frustrating investigators as well as Reyes’ family and friends.
In June 1995, Kristine Fonk took over the case. Though several new leads were generated, including several bogus confessions, none led to an arrest.
13 years would pass until February 2003, when a woman named Linda Gulan contacted the Kenosha police with information about the case.
“I called the Kenosha Police Department and I asked if they had ever solved Connie Reyes’ case. They said, ‘No, we have not,’ and I says, ‘Well, I might be able to help you,'" Linda Gulan told producers.
Linda said that she and her husband, Chester Gulan, had recently moved to Mississippi from Kenosha to stay with a friend named Sandra. The couple was out of work and down on their luck.
When Chester stole Sandra's silverware and pawned it, she had him arrested for theft. While in custody, he began talking about a murder he was involved in back in Kenosha.
“He started stating things like, ‘The police in Kenosha are after me. They want to know about that murder of that social worker. I can’t go back there,'” Fonk told producers.
In March 2003, Fonk traveled to Aberdeen, Mississippi. She spoke with Sandra, who said Chester Gulen had implicated two acquaintances from Kenosha; Linda Dancer and her husband, Gaylord Gomaz.
“He said, ‘I know for a fact that Gaylord had killed two people.’ I said, ‘How do you know that?’" Sandra told Fonk in her taped interview, which was obtained by “Snapped.” “He said because he was with them when they killed the social worker.”
Fonk also spoke with Linda Gulan. “Linda Gulan told me things that only someone at the homicide would have known. For instance, that she was sexually assaulted. We never put that in the paper,” Fonk explained.
Fonk then traveled to Tupelo, Mississippi, where she spoke to 62-year-old Chester Gulan. Though he was initially reluctant to give details, she broke him down after hours of questioning.
“I got him to tell me what happened that night and how it happened. He kept this inside for 13 years and I believe he wanted to tell somebody,” Fonk said.
Chester explained that Reyes was the social worker responsible for Linda Dancer’s three daughters being removed from her home. Dancer was later allowed supervised visits with her children — however, issues between her and Gomaz led Reyes to limit the visitations.
Dancer and Gomaz were scheduled for a supervised visit with her children on Thursday, April 12, 1990. However, Reyes canceled the visit after she became ill that morning.
“Later on in the evening now, they hook up with Chester. They pick him up at work. Linda is so angry about this no visitation that she’s telling them that, ‘We’re gonna go get Connie. She’s gonna get what she deserves,’ for not letting them see her children,” Fonk said.
Chester was recruited to knock on Reyes’ door. Once she opened it, Gomaz forced his way in, knocked Reyes to the floor, and strangled her to death, according to court documents. Dancer then encouraged the men to sexually assault Reyes after her death.
"Chester Gulan implicated himself in the homicide but he denied that he actually murdered Connie and he also denied that he sexually assaulted her,” Jamois explained.
Investigators looked into Dancer’s background and learned that her history with Reyes went back to her own troubled childhood. Dancer herself had grown up in the foster care system and Reyes was her social worker.
“She already disliked Miss Reyes. When she was removed from her mother’s home it was by Ms. Reyes, so there was an animosity there,” McNamara said.
By the time she was 25, Dancer had three children by different men. In 1985, she married Gomaz but the couple fought often, creating an unsafe environment for her children and resulting in their ultimate removal from the home.
Detectives in Wisconsin brought Gomaz in for questioning. Now 48, he and Dancer were now divorced. Gomaz made a full confession, but he claimed it was Chester Gulan who strangled Reyes to death and that they both participated in the sexual assault.
Dancer, now 43, was next brought in for questioning and told a completely different story than her two accomplices. Dancer said that Gomaz strangled Reyes, but claimed that she tried to stop it.
“Linda Dancer, of course, does not accept any responsibility. That was not consistent with Chester Gulan’s testimony and Gaylord Gomaz’ testimony, that Linda Dancer was the motivating force behind this home invasion and homicide and sexual assault,” Jamois told producers.
Gaylord Gomaz and Chester Gulan were arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide, according to the Associated Press. Linda Dancer was subsequently arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide as a party to the crime, according to court documents.
On the first day of his murder trial, Gaylord Gomaz pleaded guilty to the murder of Connie Reyes.. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.
Chester Gulan was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide and sentenced to life in prison, according to court documents. He died in prison in 2007.
Linda Dancer was convicted of first-degree intentional homicide as a party to the crime and sentenced to life in prison, according to court documents. She died in prison in 2020.
Now 61, Gaylord Gomaz will be eligible for parole in 2034.
For more on this case and others like it, watch "Snapped," airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen, or stream episodes here.
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