Court to hear case of man who killed Wilmington woman


By Tom Barr - tbarr@wnewsj.com - and Associated Press



COLUMBUS — The Ohio Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in the death penalty case of a man convicted of fatally beating and stabbing an 88-year-old Wilmington woman during a robbery, according to the Associated Press

Death row inmate James Goff was sentenced to die in the 1994 slaying of Myrtle Rutledge in her Wilmington home. He was found guilty by a jury the following year.

A federal appeals court ruled in 2010 that Goff received poor legal help during his appeals. He went before a judge in 2015 for a new sentencing and again received the death penalty.

The 43-year-old Goff argues he was wrongly prevented from presenting a psychological update and evidence of his good behavior in prison at his re-sentencing.

The Supreme Court set oral arguments for June 12.

Rutledge was in the process of moving out of her old farmhouse, where she had lived for 47 years, and into a new double-wide mobile home that was built behind the farmhouse, according to an appeal filed on behalf of Goff in 1998. (The entire document can be found on www.justia.com.)

The appeal document states:

Rutledge decided to purchase some new furniture for her new house, and on Sept. 14, 1994, she and her daughter went to Butler Home Furnishings in Wilmington. After purchasing a new mattress, box springs, chair, ottoman, and sofa, Rutledge made arrangements for the furniture to be delivered the next day.

Butler Home Furnishings had employed Goff for furniture deliveries for about a year. They would contact Goff when he had a delivery and then, depending on the item, would get another person to assist Goff with the delivery. Butler Furnishings had also used Manuel Jackson as a delivery person for the seven months prior to September 1994.

Goff and Jackson were contacted to make the delivery to Rutledge on Sept. 15, 1994. When Goff and Jackson arrived with the furniture, Rutledge directed them to put the new furniture in the new house. Since there was no bed frame in the new house, Goff asked whether Rutledge wanted them to obtain the frame from the old house and assemble the bed in the new house. After they indicated that they would not charge Rutledge any additional money for this service, Rutledge took them into the old house, up to the second floor, and pointed out the bed frame that was to be used with the new bedding. The old house was in a state of disarray from the ongoing moving process. Jackson thought he saw Goff “snooping” through Rutledge’s belongings.

On Saturday morning, Rutledge’s daughter went to pick up her mom for a family reunion. Her car was not there, and when her mother did not answer the door, she assumed that she had already left for the reunion. When she arrived at the reunion her mother was not there.

She went back to her mother’s house, entered, and went upstairs to her mother’s bedroom. There she found her mother’s battered and naked body lying on the floor of the bedroom. A pool of blood was on the bed, as well as the floor area. After ascertaining that there was no pulse, she tried using the phone to call the police, but there was no dial tone.

She covered her mother with a blanket and drove to the police station. The police and an ambulance were dispatched. Once it was determined that Rutledge was dead, the police secured the scene and began a criminal investigation.

Deputy Sheriff Fred W. Moeller, the crime scene investigator, determined that the door to the victim’s house had been forced open. Someone had apparently tried to enter the home through a window, because the window screen was lying on the ground outside the house, but entry was not made though the window. The phone wires on the outside of the house were cut.

No fingerprints were found in the bedroom. In Moeller’s opinion, the room had been cleaned. Other fingerprint smudges were found in the house, but never matched. There was no evidence of blood anywhere else in the house except the bedroom.

After Moeller left the scene to return to the police station, he was notified that the victim’s car was found on North High Street in Wilmington.

He went to the scene, and the keys to the car were found on the floor on the driver’s side. A pink towel was on the front seat of the car, and no prints were found anywhere on the car. Moeller believed that someone had wiped down the car.

The deputy coroner testified that Rutledge died from blunt and sharp trauma to the head, neck, shoulders, and ankle. Her death also resulted from blood loss due to multiple stab wounds, one of which severed the carotid artery. The coroner was unable to determine the time of death.

When Goff and Jackson left Rutledge’s house after delivering the furniture on Sept. 15, they purchased some crack cocaine and went to Goff’s house to smoke it. Goff later returned the truck to the furniture store.

Jackson did not see Goff again until 1-1:30 a.m. the following morning when he saw him running through an alley. Jackson later saw him on Grant Street. Goff had changed his clothes from earlier in the day when they had delivered the furniture.

While staying with Timothy Shaffer, Goff talked with him about Rutledge’s death. Goff asked Shaffer what he would do if he killed someone. Goff then told him he stabbed a lady and bent the blade of the knife. He also choked her. Goff then told Shaffer he took her car and left it in front of the Mulberry Hill Apartments. After wiping the steering wheel, he drove the car to North High Street, where he left it, and then bought about $90 worth of crack and smoked it. Goff admitted that he went to Rutledge’s house to rob her.

On Sept. 21, Shaffer saw a newspaper article about the Rutledge murder and asked Goff to leave his trailer. About two weeks later, Shaffer received a letter from Goff telling him that his (Goff’s) life was in Shaffer’s hands and to not tell anyone. Shaffer eventually called Colonel Tim Smith at the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, and turned over a pair of tennis shoes and a laundry basket belonging to Goff. Shaffer ultimately told Smith all of what Goff had said about the murder.

Goff was arrested on Sept. 21, 1994 on a drug charge. During the interrogation, Goff admitted that he had a crack habit, that he bought crack whenever he could, and that he would steal and trade items to buy crack. He indicated that he delivered furniture to the Rutledge residence, but when questioned about the murder, Goff asked for an attorney and questioning ceased.

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By Tom Barr

tbarr@wnewsj.com

and Associated Press