Cousin: Accused Mass. woman more than 'Psycho Mom'

She has no doubt what prosecutors say is true: Her step-cousin doused her own children with lighter fluid, slashed their throats and set their apartment on fire. She's also adamant that Tanicia Goodwin should never again be near the two children, who somehow survived.

But Isis Haraty also knows Goodwin's encouragement is the main reason Haraty is now attending community college, despite having dropped out of middle school. That's just as real to Haraty as her anger at Goodwin for the horror of March 18.

"A person isn't one-dimensional," said Haraty, 22.

A status hearing was held Thursday in Goodwin's case and a probable cause hearing was scheduled for June. Goodwin faces charges including the attempted murders in Salem of her 3-year-old daughter, Erica, and her 8-year-old son, Jamaal, who lived even though Goodwin allegedly cut his throat so deep the boy's trachea was exposed.

The sickening allegations disgust and baffle those who knew Goodwin.

But Haraty still wants people to know there's more to Goodwin than the woman with the wild hair and dead eyes photographed during her initial court appearance.

"It's not 'Psycho Mom,'" Haraty said. "She's also my cousin. She's also my friend. She's also all these other things, too."

Goodwin's attorney, Steven Van Dyke, declined to comment for this story.

Goodwin, 25, never knew her father, and her mother died of natural causes when she was pregnant with Jamaal, said Makeda Haraty, Haraty's mother and Goodwin's aunt.

Isis Haraty knew Goodwin best shortly after Jamaal was born, when Goodwin was a teen mother and Haraty was a middle school dropout, so gripped by a fear of crowds she sometimes couldn't step on a train.

"She felt isolated, I felt isolated and we found solace together," Haraty said. "We were both like statistics: ... 'Black kids who can't make it to school.' But we didn't want to stay like that."

Goodwin eventually got her GED, and encouraged Haraty to do the same.

"She was like, 'You are going to get your (butt) out this house. ... You can't stay in here, the world is out there,'" Haraty said.

"Without her, I would not be in college right now," added Haraty, who studies English at Bunker Hill Community College.

When Jamaal was about 3, Goodwin gave custody to her cousin, Wayne Cox, who then lived in the same building, so she could continue her schooling. Goodwin petitioned successfully in 2010 to get Jamaal back when Cox planned to move to Georgia, telling the court her life had stabilized.

In fact, things would soon fall apart. Goodwin had moved to Salem after she had Erica in 2008. But Goodwin didn't have a job, and family members say they heard increasingly less from her.

In May 2011, state social workers were notified after Jamaal told teachers Goodwin hit him, including once so hard in the forehead that his nose bled, prosecutors said in court.

In August, Goodwin received an eviction notice after failing to pay two months' rent. The case was later settled.

Haraty said she would call Goodwin every few weeks, but Goodwin rarely picked up.

Her cousin Shannon Suttles, who'd had a falling out with Goodwin, reached out around Christmas by texting her a picture of her baby son. Goodwin never acknowledged it.

On March 18, a responding firefighter found Goodwin naked and wet outside her smoking apartment, according to police reports. Jamaal was sitting inside against a wall, covered in lighter fluid and struggling to breathe through the hole in his throat. Erica was bleeding and abandoned on a neighbor's couch.

Goodwin, meanwhile, walked barefoot to the Salem police station and allegedly told officers she'd hurt her children to protect them. In her cell that night, she continuously repeated, "I'm sorry, my babies," according to a police report,

Six weeks later, Erica is living with her father and Jamaal is with family members, according to the state Department of Children and Families. Erica is laughing, talking and playing, said Makeda Haraty. She's more worried about Jamaal, who's old enough to remember that night.

Jamaal is able to talk and "doing very well," according to attorney Courtney Linnehan, who's representing Cox as he tries to regain custody of the boy.

Suttles, 26, thinks her cousin needs treatment more than just incarceration. That doesn't mean things will be right between them. "I don't think I could ever forgive that," she said.

Isis Haraty hopes to talk to Goodwin, to find out how she could do what she allegedly did.

Still, Haraty admits, "I'm afraid of the answer."