WALLKILL, NY — Craig Godineaux turned 50 in early February, and he’s spent nearly half his life in prison cells.
Most of that time behind bars has been for his role in the 2000 Wendy’s massacre in Queens.
We met him at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, New York.
“I’m not accepting this,” Godineaux told PIX11 during a prison interview. “I don’t want to be labeled a statistic with a DIN number on my shirt, walking around like a lost soul in prison.”
Godineaux, born in the Bronx and raised mostly in Queens, pleaded guilty for his part in the May 2000 shooting of seven Wendy’s employees on Main Street in Flushing.
The victims were duct taped, herded into a basement freezer and forced to kneel.
While begging for their lives, plastic bags were placed over their heads, and then each was shot execution-style, the first two by Godineaux’s accomplice, John Taylor.
“He’s a creep, he’s a real creep,” Godineaux said of Taylor, who was widely considered to be the mastermind of the robbery that turned into a slaughter.
Taylor had been forced out as assistant manager of the Main Street Wendy’s and moved to another location about a year before the shootings.
He met Godineaux when the two worked as security guards at a Jamaica, Queens clothing store.
They’d only known each other a month before the Wendy’s massacre.
“I was just antagonized and influenced by him,” Godineaux said.
Godineaux avoided the death penalty because childhood testing put his IQ under 70.
He wore a pair of black wool gloves during the robbery, which police found in his pockets two days later, when he was arrested for the murders.
John Taylor gave him up.
Now, 20 years later, Godineaux is saying he tried to stop Taylor from shooting the victims.
Godineaux said the robbery got out of control when manager Jean Auguste tried to break free of his duct tape.
“Once the manager broke free, because they said the manager couldn’t breathe—and he swung at me—off of impulse, I hit him!” Godineaux recalled.
“And once I hit the manager, John reached over and shot him. And once he reached over and shot him, he shot the female. And once he shot the female, me and John are in the freezer fighting,” Godineaux claimed. “I’m like picking him up, beating him up and everything.”
“We’re wrestling for the gun, and as we’re wrestling for the gun, he picks it up and he cocks it back, and he tells me, ‘If I hit him again, he’s going to shoot me.’”
“So that’s when he told me to finish it. And I said, ‘Finish what?’ He was like, ‘You got to finish everybody, you got to kill everybody…..He like forced it in my hand,” Godineaux said of the gun.
“I just closed my eyes. By the time I closed my eyes, for some reason, everybody was dead.”
When PIX11 asked how he could successfully shoot five people in the head with his eyes closed, Godineaux replied, “For some reason, everything landed. Every bullet landed.”
Jaquione Johnson was the last person shot by Godineaux.
Two of the five people Godineaux shot survived.
“That’s a lie,” Johnson said of the story the killer told us in prison.
“It was one, two, three, pass the gun,” Johnson said. “Four, five, six, seven —and I was the seventh one. Nothing else happened.”
Johnson made a miraculous recovery from being shot through the top of his head, probably because the bullet traveled in a space between the two lobes of his brain, down his nasal cavity and into his mouth.
Co-worker Patrick Castro—also shot by Godineaux—only had his cheek grazed by the bullet.
But Jeremy Mele, Ramon Nazario, Ali Ibadat, Anita Smith and Jean Auguste were not so fortunate.
Godineaux was still on the main floor of Wendy’s when John Taylor forced the manager to summon the seven employees to the basement for a meeting.
“I don’t know why I didn’t stop them, I don’t know why,” Godineaux told PIX11, during a recent interview at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, New York.
“Do I remember their faces?’ Godineaux asked, in response to our question.
Taylor and Godineaux made off with $2,400, and Godineaux said his accomplice “gave me 300 dollars and the gold coin….It was that gold coin they had in the year 2000 with the eagle on it.”
During the prison interview, Godineaux talked about his early life, saying he was the victim of a sexual assault when he was 10 years old.
He said he was introduced to “street life” near Foch and Merrick Boulevards when he was 18 years old.
Street life meant he ended up dealing crack on his designated corner in South Ozone Park, by 135th Street and Rockaway Boulevard.
His corner was about two miles from the family home where he was living on the “south side” of Jamaica.
“I didn’t want my mom to see me,” Godineaux said. “The further the better.”
Godineaux did time for selling drugs and then for robbery before ending up in prison for five life terms with the Wendy’s massacre.
“At the end of the day, this is my fourth time being in prison,” Godineaux said. “But this is my first time for something real serious.”
He remembered being treated like a pariah by correction officers when he first went into a New York City jail after the Wendy’s arrest.
“They used to tell everyone in Queens House (of Detention) to face the wall, like I’m Jeffrey Dahmer or Hannibel Lecter,” Godineaux said.
Looking back, Godineaux said he was stressing about money before the Wendy’s robbery and needed to pay bills and child support.
But he blames John Taylor for manipulating him.
“I blame him because he saw me as weak-minded, and he saw me as a child,” Godineaux said. “And he influenced me to go with him. And I didn’t even want to go with him.”
Godineaux also is angry with defense attorneys—and the prosecution team—that pushed him to plead guilty to five life terms, which left him with no possibility of parole.
He has advice for young people struggling to find their way.
“Try to stay off the streets, and try to get a job,” Godineaux said. “Try to set up a life for yourself. Set up a bank account.”