A polygamist killed the mother of two of his three young children and disfigured her before burying the body in the Arizona desert, a prosecutor said today, but his attorney said the case wasn’t as it seemed.
Sean Goff, 38, is accused in the murder of 25-year-old Joy Risker, who disappeared on Sept. 19, 2003, after having dinner with him at the Hotel Del Coronado.
A camper in Maricopa County, near Gila Bend, Ariz., happened upon her grave three months later.
Risker had been stabbed nine to 11 times in the chest, her fingertips cut off, her teeth sawed out and her face cut off and pulverized, said Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco.
“This case was a calculated move to preserve his reputation — a crime of pride,” Greco said of the defendant.
Goff told a co-worker just before Risker disappeared that “Joy had two weeks to shape it up or he was shipping her out,” Greco said in his opening statement.
The defendant’s first wife, Sheila, was in Santa Barbara with all three children when Risker went missing, the prosecutor said.
On Sept. 13, 2003, the defendant bought a hacksaw, shovel, pickax, ax, chisel, sledgehammer, butcher knife, gloves, duct tape, two padlocks, 75 yards of rope and 50 feet of chain, Greco said.
When Sheila Goff got home, the defendant called to say that he and Risker had broken up and that she hadn’t taken it well, according to the prosecutor.
He asked his wife to clean up some blood in the bathroom and Risker’s bedroom and said he would be home later, Greco said.
When the defendant returned a rented SUV, it was filthy and had soil, rocks and two gas cans in it, the prosecutor said. More than 1,200 miles were put on the rental, the prosecutor said.
Sean Goff said he had taken Risker to a local hospital, but the medical center had no record of the victim being there, Greco said.
The defendant also wrote e-mails as if he were Risker, saying she was in Europe and would write more soon, the prosecutor said.
On Oct. 21, 2003, the defendant told police, “I killed her. I’m not going to tell you where she is, and I’m not going to tell you how I did it,” then refused to elaborate, according to Greco.
Defense attorney Albert Arena told the jury that his client, Sheila Goff and Risker all entered into their polygamist relationship with “eyes wide open.”
The attorney said Risker took full advantage of the situation to promote her self-interests, which included schooling to learn sign language and a wide-ranging social life.
Arena said Risker was a “drain on the family,” and Sean and Sheila Goff talked about giving her an ultimatum.
The attorney said the defendant took Risker to the Hotel Del Coronado for dinner, telling her, “Either you accept this lifestyle that we have all agreed upon or you have to go.”
When Sean Goff and Risker got home, they argued and a knife was introduced into the fight, Arena said, but did not elaborate.
The prosecution’s claim that it was murder is nothing more than a script, the attorney said.
At the end of the estimated three-week trial, jurors will have to consider when Risker’s death was a result of murder, manslaughter or self-defense, Arena said.
Note: according to an NBC Dateline story on Sean Barclay Goff, he
used to belong to a non-denominational Christian Church in San Diego. He used to be travel abroad to India and Russia to do evangelical missionary work. Sean Goff was never a member of any sects of the Mormon Church that advocate polygamy. When he “married” Joy in 1997, he had to leave his San Diego church and a job he had held in a well-known Christian Ministry.
June 26, 2006