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The Family Secret

For 27 years, a woman shut out the memory of her mother committing murder. But when she could no longer keep it inside, the family that was once bound together by a secret becomes torn apart.
/ Source: Dateline NBC

KEITH MORRISON reporting: (Voiceover) It was the little girl who learned it first, the 12-year-old, she who was there at the beginning, when the family secret was born.

(House exterior; yard; photo of Kimberly; trunk)

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) It’s not something we like to talk about.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Why did it get started?

(Family photo of Lloyd Ford, Tommy, Sandy Burke and Pamela)

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) I honestly didn’t know what else to do.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Why did she keep it so long...

(Photo of Judy Gough and Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: She was all I had.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) ...while it did its evil work?

(Family photo of Lloyd, Sandy and Tommy)

Ms. SANDY BURKE: (Voiceover) To think that he had walked away.

(Photo of Lloyd)

Ms. BURKE: We couldn’t even stand it.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) What would that secret do?

(Photo of Lloyd)

Mr. GARY ZIEGLER: Everybody has a secret or two...

(Voiceover) ...but this?

(Dish of ice cream; gun)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Ah, yes, families. I suppose you could say this one—the family, if not the secret—got started in the middle of nowhere, which is what they like to call it here in Ainsworth, Nebraska. It wasn’t so surprising, perhaps, that when young Lloyd Ford was done with school, he got out, joined the Navy, sailed off to see the wide world from an aircraft carrier, this man at the center of the secret. Sandy Burke is his eldest daughter.

(Windmill; corn field; semi truck on road; sign for “The Middle of Nowhere”; man walking on street; Ainsworth water tower; photos of Lloyd and dog; photos of Lloyd in naval gear; Sandy)

Ms. BURKE: (Voiceover) My dad was just a fun guy. He was very fun loving.

(Photo of Lloyd)

Ms. BURKE: He loved people. People loved him. People tended to gravitate towards my dad.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Especially women. That was not a secret. When Lloyd went back to little Ainsworth after his stint in the Navy, one of the hometown girls caught his eye at the county fair. Before long, they were married, and that’s how Sandy came along, and her little sister Pamela, who loved her dad, but apparently wasn’t the only one.

(Photo of Lloyd; Ainsworth town sign; corn field; photo of Lloyd and woman; photo of Lloyd and baby Sandy; photo of Lloyd, Sandy and Pamela)

PAMELA: All of the women around here had huge crushes on him and his brother, and I’ve always heard he had to have a woman in his life.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And when Lloyd and his wife took their little family out West, it was, so they say, to get away from some other woman. Anyway, that’s where little Tommy was born, and Lloyd learned to be a real family man.

(Corn field; photo of Lloyd, Sandy and Pamela; family photo of Fords)

Ms. BURKE: (Voiceover) He loved fishing. He would take us fishings and we’d just bring strings of fish home, or sometimes we’d bring no fish home, but...

(Photo of Lloyd and fish)

PAMELA: We usually ate them for breakfast.

Ms. BURKE: Yeah, we did.

PAMELA: People look at me now and say, ‘You had pancakes and trout?’ That’s kind of morning, noon and night when you went camping with dad. You just had pancakes and trout.

Ms. BURKE: (Voiceover) And he just loved to have us with him. He would get down on the floor and, you know, we’d crawl all over him.

(Family photo of Fords)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then? Well, the kids are always the last to know what happened, or why, but it wasn’t long before their mom suddenly packed them up and headed back to Nebraska.

(Photo of Sandy, Tommy and Pamela; photo of woman with Sandy, Pamela and Tommy; road)

PAMELA: A lot of times in divorces a child will take one side or the other, and I took my mom’s. My dad was the bad guy. My dad did something to make my mom leave.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) They loved him still, of course, even when he started courting the new woman, Judy, twice divorced, three kids of her own, including Kimberly, Judy’s only daughter, who, all in all, was happier on those rare occasions when there was no man around her mother.

(Photo of Lloyd, Sandy, Tommy, Pamela; photo of Judy, Kimberly and others; photo of young Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: I personally liked it best when it was just her, the boys and I, no husband, because her attention would focus.

MORRISON: You’d lose her?


MORRISON: When a new man came along, what was she like with that person?

KIMBERLY: They were it. We still got fed and taken care of, and the norm, you know? But it was all about them.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And in 1973, it was all about Lloyd. They married and then divorced and then remarried and tried to pretend a “Brady Bunch” life at this very house on Clark Street in Boise, Idaho. Lloyd drove long-haul trucks, Judy styled hair. They joined the Shriners, went bowling, planned fishing trips. Lloyd’s youngest, Tommy, lived with him and his stepmom, but Pamela stayed with her mother in Nebraska and rarely visited. By 1980, Sandy was 20 and off at college, but still, as always, called Lloyd every week.  Until the day Judy answered the phone.

(Photo of Lloyd by photo of Judy; exterior of house; semi on highway; photo of Lloyd; photo of Judy; beauty salon sign; photo of Lloyd and Judy; photo of Tommy and Lloyd; photo of Pamela; photo of Sandy; house exterior; photo of Judy)

Ms. BURKE: (Voiceover) And when I first called, Judy told me he was away on business.

(Photo of Judy)

Ms. BURKE: So I called back a few days later and she said, ‘Oh, no, he isn’t home yet.’ And I thought, that’s funny, because he’s usually only gone like two or three days, and he’ll be back. And I called the next week and he still wasn’t home. And I called my mom. So I think that my mom called out to Judy, and she said, well, the truth was she thought that Lloyd had ran off with another woman and she didn’t think he was coming back.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Days went by, then weeks; no word from their dad. At the end of the school year, Tommy’s stepmom sent him back to Nebraska to live with his birth family.

(Clouds; house exterior; semi on road; Ainsworth water tower)

Ms. BURKE: It was hard. I mean, my dad, for Tom and I, especially, he was everything to us.

MORRISON: And you thought he loved you.

Ms. BURKE: He did.

MORRISON: And now it seemed, perhaps, he didn’t even care.

Ms. BURKE: You know, when we first heard, I think we really believed he’d be back. If he left Judy, he would be back to get us.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) That summer Lloyd’s father hired a private investigator.

(Photo of man)

MORRISON: Your father’s father assumed that he abandoned him, too, and everybody.

Ms. BURKE: It was very hard on my grandfather. My grandfather would come in almost every week and—to give me updates on, you know, had we heard anything.  The detective hadn’t found anything. He was following leads, but nothing was coming up.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) They heard stories. He moved to Michigan. He boarded a plane and never made his connection. Even a story that he was on Mount St.  Helens when it erupted. Sandy and her sister Pam longed for answers, a phone call even, but there was nothing. Where was their father? Whatever happened to Lloyd Ford? Here’s a hint. Sandy didn’t know the family’s secret, nor did Pam, but Kimberly did. She knew all about it, where Lloyd went and why, because she was there. But if she revealed it, would anyone even believe the chilling tale she’d carried and hidden for so long? Coming up...

(Photo of Lloyd and Judy; airplane taking off; Mount St. Helens erupting; photo of Sandy; photo of Pamela; photos of Lloyd; photo of Sandy; photo of Pamela; photo of Kimberly; house exterior; yard; trunk)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) I spent my whole life waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know?

(Photos of Kimberly; Kimberly on deck)

MORRISON: And here it was.

(Voiceover) The secret slips out.

(Kimberly; house exterior)

Mr. ZIEGLER: (Voiceover) I knew I needed to do the right thing.

(House and yard; photo of Lloyd)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And investigators step in, when The Family Secret continues.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The sad thing about a family secret is all the pain that’s apt to trail behind. When Lloyd Ford dropped off his family radar back in 1980, left them all for another woman or some other life, whatever it was, the children of his first marriage felt utterly abandoned, devastated.

(Family photo of Lloyd, Judy and children; photo of Lloyd and Judy; photos of Lloyd; photo of Sandy)

Ms. BURKE: I mean, the ground you stand on doesn’t seem stable anymore.


Ms. BURKE: 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 lovable enough? Did we do something terrible?

MORRISON: (Voiceover) No, but someone did. Though these sisters couldn’t know that the answer to their decades of questions might involve the complicated relationships in Lloyd’s new family, particularly between a mother and daughter, between Judy and her daughter Kimberly. Little Kim, nervous, needy, desperate to be perfect.

(Pamela and Sandy walking; photos of Judy and Kimberly; photo of Kimberly)

MORRISON: How does a little girl attempt to be perfect for her mother?

KIMBERLY: She tries not to make her mad, you know, do things that I know would make her happy, clean the house. We all worked in the yard. Everything had to be just so. So it looked nice when somebody came over. So it looked normal.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And if it did, the love could be so good, so warm, enveloping, happy. If only the furies could be kept at bay.

(Photos of Judy and children; photo of Judy)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) You learned to read her moods?

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Oh, yeah. Really well.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: If she wasn’t in a good mood, we stayed gone, out of the house.

MORRISON: Stayed out of her way.

KIMBERLY: Oh, yeah.

MORRISON: Because?

KIMBERLY: You didn’t want to see her upset.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) That, said Kim, was the woman her children knew so intimately, not like the Judy who presented herself one way or another to the outside world.

(Photos of Judy)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) She was different for everybody.

(Negative photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: 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.

MORRISON: You saw all this happening when you were a little kid?

KIMBERLY: Sure. She knows, in a certain situation, what she needs to say.

You know, ‘I should laugh here,’ or, you know, ‘Maybe I should cry.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Watching this, said Kim, she knew very well that love one moment to the next could be given or withdrawn.

(Photo of Kimberly; photos of Judy)

KIMBERLY: She was the one we feared. Did as you were told.

MORRISON: If she wanted you to do something and you just kind of didn’t do it...

KIMBERLY: Oh, no, we never did that. Never. Just didn’t want to rock the boat, you know? I was so afraid she was going to leave.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And thus it was abandonment Kim feared when her mother brought men home.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: She was all I had.

MORRISON: Because it was changing all the time, and all these men would come into her lives, your life, and then go again. But you had her.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) Anyway, Judy stayed put. It was Lloyd who would not be sticking around. After her husband seemed to disappear off the face of the earth, Judy filed for divorce. And when Lloyd didn’t show up at the hearing, Judy got everything. Kim remembers a rainy afternoon when her mother pawned off their wedding ring. She remarried, a man named Tom Gough. Life went on.  A quarter century passed. By 2007 Kim was 40, the single mother of two teenagers of her own, still held in her own mother’s emotional web. But unspoken guilt increasingly clouded her mood, even at work. This was her boss, Gary Ziegler.

(Photo of Judy; photos of Lloyd; photo of Judy; rain on street; pawn shop sign; photo of Judy and Tom Gough; Kimberly at pier; Kimberly and woman;

Kimberly driving; Gary Ziegler)

MORRISON: What did she seem like to you?

Mr. ZIEGLER: Always seemed like she was carrying something deep down inside her, some kind of baggage. Don’t—you know, couldn’t put my finger on it for a long time.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Gary had, what would you call it, antennae for these things.

(Ziegler walking)

KIMBERLY: He had called me to come have a cup of coffee with him, and he could read me really well. And he’s like, ‘What’s wrong?’ And I fell apart.

MORRISON: Told him the whole thing.

KIMBERLY: Told him everything.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And that’s how the family secret, contained for more than 20 years, was leaked for the first time to an outsider, who listened in something like disbelief.

(Photo of Kimberly and Judy; Ziegler walking; photo of Kimberly and Judy)

Mr. ZIEGLER: Everybody has a secret or two, but this? I deliberated for days before telling anybody.

MORRISON: You decided not to keep a secret.

Mr. ZIEGLER: Correct. I knew, the way I was raised, I needed to do the right thing.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) So Gary called the prosecutor’s office, which called the Boise Police Department, which opened an investigation into Lloyd’s long-ago departure. A 27-year-old disappearance, a case they never knew existed, but they certainly did now. And that’s how, one day, the cops showed up on Kim’s doorstep.

(Ziegler with phone; Boise City police vehicles; photos of Lloyd; town hall;

Kimberly sitting)

KIMBERLY: I spent my whole life waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know?

MORRISON: And here it was.

(Voiceover) Coming up, what was it about Lloyd’s disappearance?

(House exterior)

KIMBERLY: She says, ‘How would you like it if Lloyd was gone?’

(Voiceover) And you’re thinking, there’s no way she’d do it.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: Who would do that?

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The mystery is about to be answered when DATELINE continues.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kimberly had a secret, a terrible, unspeakable, guilty family secret. She’d kept it, nursed it, cried about it for a quarter century, until finally, no longer able to hide the awful truth, she’d spilled it to her boss. And now she’s about to tell us.

(People parasailing; Kimberly at pier; Keith Morrison interviewing Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: It’s real hard to face the truth. It almost killed me.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was late afternoon, spring was coming. It was 1980.  Lloyd was still around, the rest of the kids outside. Kim was, as usual, trying to be the perfect little daughter, helping around the house. They were in the kitchen, Kim says, when Judy looked down at her and asked a very curious question.

(House exterior; yard; photo of Lloyd; photo of Kimberly; house exterior)

KIMBERLY: She was just cooking dinner, and she says, ‘How would you like it if Lloyd was gone?’ Gone to a 12-year-old? Going, divorcing, moving out?

MORRISON: What’d you think when you heard that?

KIMBERLY: It sounded all right.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kim was used to Judy’s uneven love life. Divorce didn’t sound like disaster. She loved having her mother to herself. Here’s Kim’s memory of what her mother said to her.

(Brick wall; photo of Kimberly; photo of Judy; photo of Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: ‘Oh, you know what? Wouldn’t it be nice if he wasn’t here? And, you know, we could be together. You know? Just you guys and me, and wouldn’t that be nice?’

MORRISON: The way it used to be.

KIMBERLY: Just like I always wanted it.


(Voiceover) But then, subtly, unmistakably, said Kim, her mother’s idea changed, didn’t sound like divorce after all.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: She made a list of all his faults and...

MORRISON: Do you remember what you said?

KIMBERLY: I never really questioned her. I just sit there and let her talk, you know.



MORRISON: And this went on?

KIMBERLY: A couple days, maybe a week. 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?’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Did you think that that meant what that he was...

(Photo of Lloyd)

KIMBERLY: Well, I thought like maybe he had cancer or he was sick. You know?

MORRISON: That maybe he was going to die and she was preparing you?

KIMBERLY: Yeah. I mean, you never know.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But that was not what Judy had in mind, said Kim, and soon it was much cleaner what she did intend.

(Photo of Lloyd; photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: And then when she said, you know, ‘What if I killed him?’

MORRISON: ‘What if I killed him?’

KIMBERLY: Right. She was being so vague. And you’re thinking, there’s no way she’d do it.

MORRISON: But this is...

KIMBERLY: It was so surreal. Who would do that?

MORRISON: And then that was the last that was said for a while or what?

KIMBERLY: For a bit. And then she started going through scenarios, you know?  ‘What if I smothered him? What if, you know, what if I slit his throat?’ And you’re sitting there, and you’re like, ‘Why are you telling me this?’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) She was 12, desperate for her mother’s approval, which is why, she said, she muffled the silent voice in her head that asked why she was being sent to the store to buy sleeping pills.

(Photo of Kimberly; strip mall)

MORRISON: When you went on that errand, did you have any notion of what they were for?

KIMBERLY: She sent to us the store all the time.

MORRISON: Later on you saw her doing something with those sleeping pills?

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Crunching them up.

(Pills crushed by fork)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Crunching them up.

(Pills crushed by fork)


MORRISON: To a powder.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kim watched Judy prepare Lloyd’s favorite dessert—ice ice cream with butterscotch topping—watched Judy mix in those crushed sleeping pills, watched Lloyd devour it. Next morning, when the boys went off to school, Judy kept Kim at home, so she knew her stepfather stayed in bed, saw her mother crush more pills in Lloyd’s coffee, in his soup, in more ice cream. Later, said Kim, she heard a racket behind the bedroom door.

(Ice cream with butterscotch topping; powder put on ice cream; photo of Lloyd;

Franklin Elementary School sign; house exterior; coffee with powder; soup with powder; ice cream with powder; light under door)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Lloyd was trying to get out to go to the bathroom.

(Light under door)

KIMBERLY: And they had their fishing poles behind the door, and he had the hooks in his hands.


KIMBERLY: Yeah. And I don’t even know that he felt the pain...

MORRISON: Yeah. Did he say anything?

KIMBERLY: But he was just all tangled up and he was mumbling.

(Voiceover) And the only thing I understood was Lloyd had said, ‘What in the hell is wrong with me?’

(Photo of Lloyd)

KIMBERLY: And he kept falling into the wall. And she’s, you know, telling him he’s going to be fine and, you know, ‘You’ll feel better soon.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Then, Kim says, Judy turned round to her, gave her another errand.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: I was told to go outside and get the trunk and clean it out.

MORRISON: Did you understand why you were doing this?

KIMBERLY: But I wasn’t—I think I was too afraid to comprehend what was going on.

(Voiceover) I was just living second to second, doing what she was telling me to do.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) But she remembers, she said, clear as if it was this very morning, what happened when she dragged an old trunk back into the house.

(Kimberly; empty trunk)

KIMBERLY: She had come out of the bedroom, and she was standing there smoking.

(Voiceover) And I was in the living room. And she just put it out and said, ‘I’m ready.’

(Cigarette burning; photo of Judy; smoke; cigarette in ashtray)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Coming up, one moment of horror and a lifetime of pain.

(Clark Street sign; trunk)

KIMBERLY: You just stuff it deep inside...

(Voiceover) ...and try to be normal.

(Fence in alley; photo of Kimberly)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Reliving that fateful moment when The Family Secret continues.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kimberly, 12 years old, saw her mother standing in the living room of their house on Clark Street in Boise, Idaho. Behind the bedroom door, her stepfather was in a stupor, induced by the very sleeping pills Kim said her mother had sent her to buy. Now, said Kim, she heard her mother say, ‘I’m ready.’

(Photos of Kimberly; photo of Judy; Clark Street sign; house exterior; light under door; crushed pills; photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: She told me to go in the bedroom, which I didn’t like, because we weren’t allowed in there. She had been in there prior, checking on him and whatnot, at some point had put him on the floor, on a sheet.

(Voiceover) And I really didn’t know exactly how she was going to do it until I walked in and saw the gun at the end of the bed. And she went over and turned up the stereo really loud, and she said that it would cover the noise.

(Blue floor; bed; stereo volume knob)

KIMBERLY: First she asked me to pull the trigger.

MORRISON: She gave you the gun?

KIMBERLY: No, no. She was holding it.

MORRISON: She was holding the gun...

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) And she wanted me to pull the trigger.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) ...pointed at him.


KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Right.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) Where at him?


KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) At his chest. And then she said, ‘Well, help me pull the trigger.’ And I basically refused to do it.


KIMBERLY: 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.’

(Voiceover) And so I put my hands on either side of her, and I closed my eyes really tight.

(Light under door)

KIMBERLY: 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.’ And it was just a moment later...

(Voiceover) ...there was this loudest noise I ever heard in my life. And I ran out the backyard into the alley.

(Gun; photo of Kimberly; fence and alley)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kim cowered there, shaking and listening.

(Fence and alley; photo of Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) I was horrified. I just sat there, you know, I was crying and screaming...

(Fence and alley; photo of Kimberly)

KIMBERLY: ...rocking back and forth and listening.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Listening for what?

(Fence and foliage)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) For his voice, her voice, something.

(Fence and foliage)

MORRISON: Because you didn’t think she had actually done it.

KIMBERLY: I wasn’t sure. Maybe she missed. Maybe he woke up. You know?

There was a part of me that really wanted him to wake up.

(Voiceover) But I made my way back to the house.

(Fence and curb)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Back to her mother.

(Front door)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) I think she hugged me, told me she loved me.

(Photo of Judy)

MORRISON: That was supposed to make it OK?


MORRISON: And did it?


MORRISON: What happened then?

KIMBERLY: I had to go into the room.

(Voiceover) And the smell was still there.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) The smell of what?


KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Gunpowder. And I didn’t look at him.

(Gun and smoke)

KIMBERLY: I just grabbed the end of my sheet, did as I was told.

MORRISON: The sheet he was lying on?

KIMBERLY: Pulled him down the hall. She had one end, I had the other.


KIMBERLY: And he was too heavy. He was so heavy.

MORRISON: This is where you got in close.

KIMBERLY: I had to touch him.

MORRISON: What did it feel like?

KIMBERLY: He was still warm.

MORRISON: But very obviously dead?


MORRISON: (Voiceover) But she was not finished then, not even close. Her mother, she said, had another job for her.

(Photo of Kimberly; trunk)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) She said, ‘Well, we got to lift him up and put him in the trunk.’


KIMBERLY: I had to grab him under his legs and he was so heavy.

(Voiceover) And we got him in there and she just shut the lid, closed the latches. And we drug it out back and put it next to the house.

(Empty trunk; trunk’s latches; trunk on porch)

MORRISON: Out the door on the porch?

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) Stacked some boxes on it.

(Trunk on porch)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Judy rented a carpet cleaner. Kim helped her clean the blood off the floors. She scrubbed the blood off the wall. She made it look normal.

(Photo of Judy; photo of Kimberly; bedspread)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But that trunk kept sitting there on the porch.


MORRISON: What’d she do with it?

KIMBERLY: A couple days before she murdered him, she told the boys that we were going to plant a peach tree out back, and so they were to dig a big hole to put the tree in. And a few days after the murder, the hole’s filled in, there’s no peach tree. She’d changed her mind.

MORRISON: Did you ever figure out how she got that trunk from the porch to the hole and got it filled in?

KIMBERLY: She had to ask my brother Shane.

MORRISON: So now there are two people in on it, you and Shane.

(Kimberly nods head yes)

MORRISON: Did you talk to Shane about it?

KIMBERLY: Not really.

MORRISON: You’re brother and sister. Did the two of you say, ‘My God, she just killed him and we’re complicit.’ Did—and that conversation never happened? Why not?

KIMBERLY: We didn’t talk about. She swore me to secrecy, made me promise.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) There was more to the secret then. Judy, said Kim, devised a cover story. And when she said it, it sounded true.

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: She totally lived the, ‘My husband left me for another woman.’

MORRISON: And that was really believable?

KIMBERLY: Yeah. And there was such a short time after Lloyd left—Lloyd was murdered...

MORRISON: Funny how that’s stuck in your head, “Lloyd left.”

KIMBERLY: That’s what—that’s what we had to say.

MORRISON: Because that was the fiction for so many years.

(Voiceover) Kim stuffed it all inside, locked up the secret, kept her mother happy. But it wasn’t over. A few months later, she said, Judy had another job for Kim and her brother Shane. Couldn’t leave a body in the backyard, said Judy. They’d have to dig it up, move it. They had buried it in an old trunk they had on the property back then. This one is still on the porch all these years later. Out in the yard, said Kim, they started digging.

(Photo of Kimberly; house exterior; backyard; trunk’s latches; shovel in ground)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) We were digging for quite a while.

(Shovel in ground)

KIMBERLY: And we came to the trunk, and it was falling apart.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) They looked at their mother. What should they do?

(Photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: And she’s—was just so cold and matter of fact.

(Voiceover) Just, you know, ‘Grab what you can.’


KIMBERLY: As we started pulling it out, there was this horrendous smell.

MORRISON: He hadn’t disintegrated?

KIMBERLY: Not much. And you could still see his tattoos on his arms.

(Voiceover) They had decided that it wasn’t going to work and to just rebury him.

(Shovel blade; backyard)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) So he stayed there.


KIMBERLY: He stayed. And you just stuff it deep inside, and try to be normal.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But of course it wasn’t normal at all. And over the years, said Kim, it was only her conflicted ties to her mother, that powerful emotional glue, that kept the two close and the secret horror bottled up.  That and her mother’s promise.

(Swingset; bicycle; photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: Hundreds and hundreds of times she reassured me that, you know, ‘I’ll go turn myself in if it’ll make you better.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) What should she do? A perfect daughter could never betray her mother, nor could anyone, apparently, in the circle of deceit that grew and grew. But betrayals were coming, and not just one. Finally, Kim would learn what could happen to a daughter who disobeyed her mother. Coming up...

(Photo of Kimberly; bedspread; smoke; gun; trunk; car on freeway; Kimberly driving)

Detective BRIAN LEE: My first reaction was one of disbelief almost.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) ...the police have a job for Kim: go undercover to catch her mother.

(Kimberly; cell phone; house exterior; photo of Judy)

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Well, I just wanted to talk to you about something.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kimberly was the keeper of an awful family secret, a secret she had never been able to tell her own stepsiblings, Lloyd’s children: that she had attended the murder of their father. And so they knew nothing, nothing at all. In 1981, less than a year after Lloyd’s murder, Judy got married again and life went on as before. Fifteen years after the murder, Judy sold the house on Clark Street to her youngest son, Kim’s little brother, who moved in with his new wife, who learned about the secret and insisted get rid of the body. So now Kim, married with two kids of her own, returned to that childhood home and told her siblings where to dig.

(Kimberly; house exterior; empty trunk; trunk latches; Ford family photos; photos of Judy and Tom; house exterior; trunk; shovel; Clark Street sign; house exterior)

KIMBERLY: I had to go show them where it was because nobody remembered.

MORRISON: But you did.

KIMBERLY: Sure. It’s still burned in my memory.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Kim’s brothers and a cousin dug up Lloyd’s remains, took them to a dumpster. The secret circle grew. And Kim felt she loved her mother still, but warned her, too, it was ever harder to keep silent.

(Backyard; tires; wood; photo of Kimberly and Judy)

KIMBERLY: I guess I had made a deal with her, which was I would never come right out and tell anybody. And I told her that unless somebody asked me directly, because I won’t lie. She didn’t like that answer. So she’d always call and do a mental check on me and then do her old standby promise that she’ll do the right thing.

MORRISON: If and when the time came.


MORRISON: (Voiceover) But she didn’t. And now Kim had told, and 27 years after the day she was her mother’s little helper at murder, the police were at her door. Detective Brian Lee:

(Photo of Kimberly; light under door; house exterior)

Det. LEE: My first reaction was one of disbelief almost. Really? Could this have been kept quiet that long?

MORRISON: What did she look like when she came to the door?

Det. LEE: I wouldn’t say she was surprised. Almost expecting, probably, that we were going to be there.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) So she told it again, relieved to be getting rid of it.

And then came the request she didn’t expect. More than a request, really.  She’d have to go undercover and record an incriminating phone call with her mother.

(Blue bedroom; smoke; gun; car on freeway; Kimberly driving)

MORRISON: (Voiceover) What was that conversation like?

(Kimberly driving)

KIMBERLY: That was so hard.

(Voiceover) I was going to have to betray her to get what they wanted.

(Photo of Judy)

Ms. JUDY GOUGH: (Audio recording) Hello?

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Hey.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) Hey. What you doing?

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Not much.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Here, as the call begins, they chatter for a bit about nothing much. And then...

(Photo of Kimberly and Judy)

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Well, I just wanted to talk to you about something, and I won’t bring it up again, but I started seeing a counselor up here.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) Uh-huh.

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) I talk about everything. But, anyway, I got to go again today, but, just some things I want to get clear in my head.
Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) Yeah?

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) It’s not something we like to talk about, but why did you pick me to help you kill Lloyd?

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) Honey, I didn’t.

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Well, why was I there?

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) I don’t know. Is this a setup phone call?

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) No.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) Can I call you back?

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) OK.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The call was over, a failure.

(Cell phone)

MORRISON: What’d you think when you heard that?

Det. LEE: Made me a little nervous.


Det. LEE: But she was pretty keen to what was going on, I think.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And then Judy called back. They pushed the record button.

(Photo of Judy; photos of cell phone and camera)

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Hello.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) You know, I can’t say anything except that you don’t know the regrets that I’ve had, and that I still have. 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.’

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) Mom, I was 12.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) I know, Kim. I know that. But I’m just telling you what I was hearing, you know what I mean? And it was like at that point there was no turning back. I guess I felt like I was in a hole that I was trying to dig myself out of, a pit. I was in hell, I guess. I don’t know. And I’m so sorry that I took you there with me.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The police had what they needed. But Judy wasn’t finished.

(Photo of camera; photos of Judy)

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) I guess the only thing I can tell you, Kim, is that I love you more than I love life.

KIMBERLY: (Audio recording) I love you, too.

Ms. GOUGH: (Audio recording) I’m sorry that I failed you. I—and I’m sorry that you have to go through this. I know that doesn’t even begin to help, but I’d lay down my life for you if that means anything to you.

KIMBERLY: I felt like I was going to die. I betrayed her and I betrayed my whole family.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) And now the police wanted more.

(Brian Lee entering car)

KIMBERLY: (Voiceover) They wanted me to go over to the house...

(Lee in car)

KIMBERLY: ...and show them where everything had happened.

MORRISON: Once again point out the spot where he was buried?


MORRISON: (Voiceover) It was, of course, burned into her memory. For three days the police dug up the past in the backyard on Clark Street.

(Backyard; police tape; excavation team)

Det. LEE: We had to go over and process that area that—where we were told the body was. It’s part of validating the story that Kim told.

MORRISON: So was there anything left?

Det. LEE: We found fragments of bone and bone.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Seven bone fragments, all that was left of Lloyd Ford.  Police were able to determine that at least 10 members of Judy’s family had helped keep the secret.

(Photo of Lloyd; police vehicle; backyard; police vehicle)

MORRISON: In your experience, when that many people are aware of such a dark thing, does it stay hidden for very long?

Det. LEE: No.

(Voiceover) That’s what was puzzling to us, how it was kept quiet for that long.

(Photos of house and backyard)

MORRISON: It suggests a measure of control over those folks which would be unusual.

Det. LEE: Very much so.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But the statute of limitations applied now. Only one person could be held accountable, only Judy. And thus the law would ensure that Kim’s awful secret would be exposed in court, the crime revealed, justice served. But would it be justice? Or even the whole truth? Kim had turned on Judy, but this mother hadn’t quite finished yet with her daughter.

(Lee driving; photo of Judy; Kimberly; trunk; backyard; shovel; courthouse exterior; court in session)

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) I know she was screaming, ‘Do it, do it, do it. Just do it.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Coming up, Judy tells her story. And there’s one more twist in store.

(Photo of Judy and children; Judy in court)

Mr. ROGER BOURNE: A jury could acquit her.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) When The Family Secret continues.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Lloyd Ford missed his children’s birthdays, missed their graduations, their weddings. Sandy Burke’s brother Tom walked her down the aisle. Lloyd missed all that because—or so his family was told—he’d left them all, just didn’t care.

(Photo of Lloyd; photo of Sandy; graduation and wedding photos of Sandy and Pamela; photos of Pamela and Sandy with children)

Ms. BURKE: (Voiceover) Just not having him there was really hard.

(Photos of children)

Ms. BURKE: But to think that he had walked away, we couldn’t even stand it, to the point that my brother and I have never had pictures of my dad out in the house. Because if you have a picture there, someone’s going to have to ask about your dad and you’re going to have to admit that the person that you thought you were closest to in the whole world had just turned and walked away. ‘Where’s your dad now?’ ‘I don’t know.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But, of course, it was all a lie. Their father never left them. And the truth, when police finally called to tell them?

(Photo of Lloyd; Pamela and Sandy walking)

Ms. BURKE: It was just almost indescribable, to think that he had been murdered the way he had been murdered, with absolutely no regard for human life, just none. Just treated like a piece of garbage. That was hard.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Yes, and then they discovered that Lloyd’s own son, Tom, had unknowingly dug his father’s grave when Judy told him to prepare a backyard hole to plant a peach tree.

(Photo of Lloyd and Tom; photo of Tom)

Ms. BURKE: I think it’s almost impossible to comprehend that type of evil.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Sandy watched online as the Boise police dug up all that was left of their father, those seven bone fragments. They tried to understand how Judy got her own children to help murder their father.

(Police line tape; police vehicle; backyard being excavated; police line tape)

Ms. BURKE: My dad was the only dad these kids knew, and yet somehow she got these kids to participate in the murder, to bury the body, to dig up the body later that year. How do you get your kids to do something like that? Where is your mind of someone that would do something like that?

MORRISON: (Voiceover) On September 28th, 2007, Judy Gough, now a 61-year-old grandmother, took her dogs for a walk. And that’s where police arrested her.  But when they took her downtown?

(House exterior; mug shot of Judy; courthouse exterior)

Det. LEE: She requested an attorney right as we sat down.

MORRISON: That was it?

Det. LEE: Yeah. There was no interview.

MORRISON: No surprise.

Det. LEE: Not to me, really. She had 27 years to think about that decision.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Judy was charged with first-degree murder. That’s when Patrick Orr of the Idaho Statesman began reporting the story.

(Judy in court; Patrick Orr in office)

Mr. PATRICK ORR: (Voiceover) This was somebody who had no criminal record.  Her friends described her as a kind, loving person, somebody that they trusted.

(Photo of Judy in handcuffs)

Mr. ORR: So there was a lot of confusion, there was a lot of shock.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Judy appeared before a judge who determined she was not a risk and granted bail. And six months later her public defender went on the offense with a stunning claim. Lloyd, she said, was an abuser. She killed him, she said, in defense of her life and her children.

(Judy in court; court in session; newspaper headline)

Mr. ORR: This is a woman who loves her family, who did whatever she can for her family.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Reporter Orr spoke to Judy’s youngest son.


Mr. ORR: He told me that Lloyd was abusive.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Lloyd abusive? His own children were outraged at the accusation.

(Photo of Lloyd; Sandy and Pamela on bench)

Ms. BURKE: That wasn’t who my dad was. It was ludicrous to think there was anything going on in the home with my dad and Judy.

MORRISON: No abuse?

Ms. BURKE: No abuse. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) But as the date for Judy’s trial approached, her claim that Lloyd was an abuser hit the paper, became big news around Boise. Would Judy try a battered wife defense? Lloyd’s children, furious and upset about what they considered vicious libel, bit their tongues when the prosecutor told them, ‘Don’t say a word in your father’s defense. The truth will come out at trial.’ Except it didn’t. The trial didn’t happen. Judy struck a deal...

(Judy in handcuffs entering court; newspaper articles; Judy in court; Pamela and Sandy in field; newspaper headline)

Unidentified Judge: (In court) Please state your name for the record.

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) Judy Rae Gough.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) plead guilty to second-degree murder and confess, though the confession wasn’t quite the story her daughter Kim remembered.

(Judy in court; newspaper headline; court in session)

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) I had a rifle. I was sitting on the edge of the bed and I had the gun across my lap. He was sitting on the floor by my dresser, kitty corner from me. The gun went off. It was a terrible smell. And he was dead.

Judge: (In court) When you say the gun went off, what do you mean by that?

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) Your Honor, I must have pulled the trigger.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Then the judge asked about her daughter Kim’s role in the murder.

(Judge in court)

Judge: (In court) So had you talked to your daughter about killing your husband?

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) You know, she said that I did. I don’t really recall that part.

Judge: (In court) Did you call your daughter to come into the room?

Ms. GOUGH: (In court) I don’t think so. I don’t know why she was there. I know she was screaming, ‘Do it, do it, do it. Just do it.’

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Was she now accusing Kim here in court? Was she blaming her own daughter somehow?

(Court in session)

KIMBERLY: For the past 30 years she’s telling you, ‘I’ll do the right thing if it’ll make you better. I love you that much.’ And when zero hour came...

MORRISON: She threw you under a bus.

KIMBERLY: Yep. She left me there.

MORRISON: So the emotion is what, abandonment?


MORRISON: You’re still that little girl who’s trying so hard to make her mom happy.

KIMBERLY: That’s one of my last pieces of my puzzle I’m working on, abandonment.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Abandonment is a family issue, apparently. Lloyd’s first family struggled with it for 27 years until they discovered he didn’t leave them at all. But now that they ached to defend him from a charge they believed to be a cruel lie, they could not. Not without a trial. Had the prosecutor abandoned them now?

(Sunset; photos of Ford family; Pamela and Sandy on bench next to field)

MORRISON: Why was it so important to you to see this go to trial?

Ms. BURKE: This was my dad. This is the only thing that we could do for him. We felt the truth would come out, it would give him back his reputation.  She had taken his life. Then she has to take his reputation, too?

(In court) Hi. I’m Sandra Kay Burke.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) In March 2009 Lloyd’s kids returned to Idaho for Judy Gough’s sentencing hearing.

(Sandy in court; Judy in court)

PAMELA: (Voiceover) We sat through her whole sentencing.

(Judy in court)

PAMELA: And the ending, the judge acknowledged us six kids and Judy as victims. Never once mentioned my father.

MORRISON: Does this feel like justice?

Ms. BURKE: No. It feels like they wanted to get this case over with, that it wasn’t important to them.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) Chief deputy Roger Bourne of the prosecutor’s office defended the decision.

(Roger Bourne)

Mr. BOURNE: We thought that going through a trial where Judy Gough gets to take the stand and vilify their father for hours at a time would not be productive for them and would not be productive for the people. The risk, of course, is that a jury could acquit her; and that, from our standpoint, that would be the worst thing.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The sentence for drugging and killing Lloyd, for having the kids bury him, dig him up, keep their awful secret? Ten years in prison.  She’s there now, has declined our interview request. And Kim has written a book called “Unworthy: What Would You Do for Your Mother?”

(Judy in court; outside prison; Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center sign; jail interior; Kimberly typing; “Unworthy”)

MORRISON: How do you feel about her now?

KIMBERLY: I don’t feel a whole lot about her now. She’s dead to me. And I don’t mean that angry and bitter, because then I’d be like her.

(Voiceover) But that’s not my mom.

(Photo of Judy in handcuffs)

KIMBERLY: My mom left a long time ago.

MORRISON: (Voiceover) The house on Clark Street sits empty, the backyard overgrown. The secret, the deadly secret bound a family almost 30 years. The unraveling tore it apart forever.