Crime

Merced man accused of killing Golden Valley High teen arraigned

Benjamin Herbert Goddard, 34, of Merced
Benjamin Herbert Goddard, 34, of Merced Courtesy Merced County Sheriff's Office

The man accused of killing a Golden Valley High School girl and leaving her body in a Merced-area field pleaded not guilty on Friday in Merced County Superior Court.

Benjamin Herbert Goddard, 34, appeared before Judge Ronald W. Hansen on charges of murder and soliciting a minor related to the death of 17-year-old Heaven Murillo, whose badly decomposed body was found on Sept. 2, 2017, in the 100 block of Hawk Drive, according to court records and investigation reports obtained by the Sun-Star.

Goddard asked for a speedy trial so he is scheduled to be back in court on Nov. 2. He appeared in court in a yellow jumpsuit and did not speak during the hearing.

Goddard’s arrest came after a yearlong investigation by Merced police. Interviews of dozens of people and cellphone records appear to show Goddard had illegal sexual encounters with Murillo, a minor, and that he was the last person to see her, before she went missing, according to the reports.

Goddard reportedly told investigators Murillo stayed with him for more than two full days near an illegal marijuana cultivation site he was guarding at the south end of R Street in Merced. The same compound was raided by the Merced County Sheriff’s Office in an unrelated case, sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Framstad confirmed.

The defendant also supplied Murillo with methamphetamine, according to reports. He admitted, according to police, to having a sexual relationship with Murillo, saying he believed she was 20. He denied taking part in her death, police said.

Goddard told investigators he last saw Murillo when she left with someone else in a van, police reports say. Autopsy reports show the girl had blunt force trauma to her face.

He was already in custody for another case when police decided to seek murder charges.

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