Merced mom angry, hurt over sentence for daughter's killer

When Joanna Murillo found out that Benjamin Goddard was only getting 9 years in prison, the grief of losing her daughter came back tenfold.

Video Transcript

GILBERT MAGALLON: Well, Warren, Heaven's mom Joanna Murillo was hoping Goddard's sentencing would bring her some closure. But when she found out he was only getting nine years in prison, a heavy wave of emotions took over her. The grief of losing her daughter came rushing back.

Joanna Murillo of Merced has been stuck in a dark place since the loss of her 17-year-old daughter, Heaven Murillo. The pain of her death has left a tight grip on her and her family.

JOANNA MURILLO: I'm not even a normal person anymore. Like, I always call myself "The Walking Dead." I'm the Walking Dead.

GILBERT MAGALLON: Murillo is now demanding justice be served. Recently, she learned the man accused of killing her daughter, 37-year-old Benjamin Goddard, would only serve nine years in prison. Goddard pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter and giving drugs to a minor, accepting responsibility for Heaven's death. The Merced County District attorney accepted.

JOANNA MURILLO: Am I sad and hurt? I am sad and hurt, but I'm pissed, too. Like, I am so pissed.

GILBERT MAGALLON: Heaven, who according to her family was a frequent runaway, went missing in June 2017. Nearly a year later, a body found in a Merced County field was identified as Heaven. Detectives tied Goddard to her death, tracing his cell phone to the field where the teen's body was found. The DA's office ruled it a homicide, but the cause of death was undetermined. Murillo is certain it was Goddard.

JOANNA MURILLO: He didn't just kill Heaven. He killed me and my kids.

GILBERT MAGALLON: Murillo now holds on tightly to a white teddy bear she calls "Heaven." Inside it is a glass heart filled with her daughter's ashes. Pictures of the free-spirited teen are placed throughout Murillo's home. They serve as a constant reminder of Heaven's warm but commanding presence.


Murillo and her loved ones say Goddard needs a longer prison sentence, and they're willing to fight for it.

ALICE MITCHELL: If you have daughters and this man is out on the street, your children are not safe. And the Merced district attorney and the defense is not doing anything about it.

GILBERT MAGALLON: The prosecutors on this case stated they accepted the nine-year plea because there wasn't enough evidence to determine how the teen died or who was with her. Murillo plans to hold a demonstration outside the district attorney's office this Monday at 8:00 in the morning. In the studio, Gilbert Magallon, ABC 30, Action News.