A LOCAL MORTICIAN HAS OFFERED A free headstone for the victim, a town lawyer announced fund-raising plans for a $20,000 memorial, and the Chamber of Commerce promised a hefty reward for information leading to the killer. “It’s frightening to think our community might be home to someone who would do such a horrible deed,” says Hastings, Nebr., Mayor Phyllis Lainson.
The deed that inflamed and saddened the people of Hastings (pop. 23,000) last week was the murder of Andy, the famous footless goose. On Sunday morning, Oct. 20, he was found in a heap, decapitated and skinned, near the town baseball diamond. Since being born without feet 5½ years ago, Andy had learned to walk with the help of special baby shoes and tiny sneakers—and training—from Gene Fleming, 69, a local businessman who had first taken a gander at Andy on his sister’s farm in 1988. Andy’s eventual triumph over disability had brought him national attention (PEOPLE, Jan. 30, 1989, and Dec. 25, 1989), a visit to The Tonight Show and scores of appearances before school groups, senior citizens and the handicapped. “He was an inspiration,” says Fleming. “I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to kill an innocent goose like that.”
Fleming had last seen Andy the previous Friday evening when he’d brought water to the 100-foot enclosure adjacent to the Fleming home that Andy shared with his lifetime mate, Polly, who is also missing. So far the only clue is a footprint found in the mud beside Andy’s home. Says County Sheriff Gregg Magee: “The probability is that someone will have to come forward with a tip. We’re waiting for a call.” The person responsible for Andy’s death could be charged with cruelty to animals and theft.
As the search for the culprit continued, Fleming buried Andy in his front yard without ceremony. “That goose was very much a part of Gene’s life,” says Nadine Fleming, 66, noting that her husband has received hundreds of notes of condolence so far and about 200 phone calls. Among them: a call from Hastings first grader Justin Aulner, who is paralyzed from the waist down by spina bifida. “He was my favorite goose because he had no feet,” said Aulner, 7. “Why’d they do it?” Fleming wishes he knew.