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Utah mom to prison for toddler son's methadone death

Published August 19, 2014 12:26 pm

Courts • Jill Goff pleaded guilty to second-degree felony child-abuse homicide.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tooele • Jill Goff took a nap as her toddler was dying.

She didn't call 911 or take her children to the hospital. When her older children, ages 5 and 8, began feeling ill, she didn't immediately tell anyone why — that she had inadvertently given her children methadone, thinking it was Gatorade.

On Tuesday, a judge sentenced Goff to prison for up to 15 years for this.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense attorney asked the judge to send the 33-year-old mother to prison.

Committing her to a year in jail, said Chief Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle, would have sufficed.

"It's not going to bring her child back," Searle said of a prison term. "It's not going to serve any purpose … but satisfy the lust for vengeance."

But 3rd District Judge Robert Adkins disagreed.

"The court is extremely concerned of your lack of doing anything after your child had consumed that methadone and even when the second child was taken to the hospital," Adkins said, as he sentenced Goff to the maximum punishment he could give. "Your children who survived did so without the assistance of you, Ms. Goff."

Goff's 2-year-old son, Aiden, died of a methadone overdose in January.

The 8-year-old told his aunt, Camille Nielson, and the 5-year-old told a detective, that their mother fixed a pink drink for Aiden, according to a probable-cause statement. He did not like the drink so Goff had the 5-year-old taste it, and she said it was "gross," the statement adds. Jill Goff then had the 8-year-old taste it, and he said it tasted like medicine, according to the statement.

Goff called 911 on Jan. 31, when the family discovered that the toddler, Aiden Goff, was not breathing. Emergency responders tried to save the toddler, but he died at the home at 485 Oak St., Tooele police Capt. Paul Wimmer said at the time.

Several hours after Aiden died, the boy's 8-year-old brother and 5-year-old sister turned up at the emergency room, having also ingested methadone, police say.

Both survived.

That neither of the other two children suffered more harm or death, Nielson told the judge Tuesday, was lucky.

"Everyone keeps saying this was an accident. It wasn't an accident: She laid him down knowing he had overdosed and let him die," Nielson said through tears. "She made the choice to let Aiden die, and I think she should have to suffer the consequences of that because everybody else is."

No one believes the woman gave her son the lethal dosage on purpose.

Prosecutors said Goff had been keeping her medicine in Gatorade bottles, making the pink liquid easy to mistake for a soft drink.

According to court documents, Goff told investigators that after the taste tests, she realized that she had poured the methadone and not Gatorade into the cup, according to the probable-cause statement.

Goff said she tried to get Aiden to throw up, then went to bed and took a nap with him, the statement adds.

Goff declined to address the court Tuesday.

She remained dry-eyed throughout the proceeding, but, defense attorney Jacob Linares said, she has expressed remorse and suffered by herself behind the bars of the Tooele County jail.

"This is a horrific, tragic accident that she suffered, as well as the rest of the family," Linares said. "Had she known for sure what was happening, she would have done whatever she could to change the outcome."

Linares said his client has suffered from depression in the aftermath of losing her son, and was unable to attend the child's funeral.

"She's accepted responsibility," Linares said. "She knows that she failed to call 911 and that waiting was ultimately what resulted in this child's death. She understands she should have acted in a different matter. If given the chance again, she would."

Goff has no prior criminal history in Utah.

After the hearing, Searle said he was not surprised by the judge's refusal to follow his and the defense attorney's recommendations.

"The judge was obviously troubled by the inaction toward this child and how she handled the other children," Searle said. "There are no winners here. A child is dead and a mother is going to prison. She has four children. And I'm sure that regardless of what she did, I'm sure they still love her."

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae