The mother of a young woman murdered in Kettering nearly four decades ago believes her daughter’s killer is alive and living free in the Miami Valley. Mary Beth Marino claims prosecutors refuse to take the case to a grand jury, despite evidence she believes could bring an indictment. The I-team investigated Karen Sue Goff’s murder details and the possible clue that has Marino at odds with prosecutors.
Marino vividly remembers Karen’s dad calling her in November 1987 to tell her the 20 year old had been killed.
“He called me at 10 o’clock that night and he said, ‘Mary Beth, I have bad news. Karen’s dead,” a still grief-stricken Marino remembered.
Karen Goff was born in Dayton and spent her early life in the city. She even posed for Huffy Bicycles as a child model.
Karen and her younger brother, Kevin, moved to Atlanta with their mother after their parents divorced. Marino said her daughter was slow to develop and struggled in school every year. High school photos show her as a band member.
“They put her in the band, but she couldn’t play an instrument. They were trying to make her feel like she belonged.”
Finally, in her senior year, a psychologist diagnosed Karen with a learning disability. She managed to graduate from high school but felt ready for a change and moved back to Dayton to be closer to her father. Don Goff owned a rental house on Kettering’s Carew Ave. and he allowed Karen to live there alone.
“I wasn’t real keen on that,” said Marino. “I was nervous about it.”
Karen could not hold a job because, according to her mother, she could not retain what she learned. She spent her time in the Kettering area with friends and frequented the popular Bourbon Street nightclub on Woodman Drive where she loved to dance.
“She was very attractive and was attracted to the boys and the boys were attracted to her,” said Marino.
But Marino believes Karen’s lifestyle and disability may have left her vulnerable to someone who wanted to harm her. Someone did on November 18, 1987.
“I woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning and I felt something was wrong,” said Marino.
Marino called Karen’s father who was already at work and unable to check on his daughter until later that day.
“Apparently he went over after work at 4:00, and went in and found Karen’s body with the sheet over her head,” said Marino.
Kettering Police detectives have previously told the I-Team, and Karen’s mother, the killer came in through an unlocked kitchen window late at night and cut the phone lines.
“They said Karen was just coming out the shower and that’s when he started to attack her. They said the house was a mess, y’know, like there had been a struggle,” said Marino.
Crime scene photos indicate a violent struggle, ending with Karen raped and strangled.
Case files, the I-Team viewed at the Kettering Police Department, contain the police report and interviews of those who were questioned, but no one was ever arrested. Years went by until 2014 when a new person of interest appeared on investigators’ radar. DNA from a man arrested on drug charges matched DNA and nail debris taken from Karen.
The I-Team has now learned the same person of interest in Karen Goff’s murder served ten years in prison for breaking into a house and assaulting a woman on October 3, 1988, less than a year after Karen was killed about a half mile away from the Crestwell Place home.
Montgomery County Prosecutors presented the person of interest’s DNA evidence to a grand jury in December 2015, but no indictment was returned. Since then, Kettering Police Detective Vince Mason told the I-Team, “Another type of DNA from Karen’s body matching the person of interest was discovered by Ohio’s BCI Lab.”
The I-Team asked Marino if she believes the case should be taken back to a grand jury based on this newer evidence.
“Not only do I believe it, but the Kettering police believe it.”
Prosecutors declined the I-Team’s request for an interview, citing ‘the integrity of the investigation.’
Chief Criminal Division Prosecutor Dan Brandt said in a written statement, “Details such as the locations which were tested for DNA, the persons from whom DNA standards were collected, and the results of that testing must remain confidential.”
Brandt also said, “In December of 2020, this office, along with the Kettering Police Department, had a lengthy meeting with Ms. Marino and her son to address their concerns as to why the case was not being re-presented to the grand jury.”
“At that time the family indicated that while they were still hopeful that the case would be solved in the future, they understood why the case was not returning to the grand jury,” Brandt went onto say.
Det. Mason says he has met with the person of interest three times to ask him about Karen Goff’s murder and the man says, “He never met her, never knew her, never been to her house.”
But Mary Beth Marino is convinced the man killed her daughter.
“Yes, one hundred percent.”
The I-Team is not identifying the person of interest because, even though he is a convicted felon, he is not charged in Goff’s murder. When the I-Team visited the man’s address to try to talk to him, no one answered the door.
Now 75 years old, Marino feels time is running out to get justice for her daughter.
“No matter what happens from it, like I said, justice will be made in its own way, and I have to believe that.”
Anyone who has information about what happened to Karen Goff can call Det. Mason at 937-296-2583.
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