Todd Goff grabbed his girlfriend’s neck and squeezed. Even after Tiffany Salter’s body went limp he squeezed.
For that, he is guilty of murder, a Richmond County Superior Court jury determined Wednesday. And for that Goff will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole, Judge Michael N. Annis decided Wednesday.
On July 7, 2012, Goff, 25, committed his final act of violence on Salter.
It wasn’t the first time, family members of the 22-year-old told the judge Wednesday. For seven years, Goff controlled Salter’s life. She wasn’t allowed to attend her grandmother’s funeral or meet her brother’s children, they said. Salter – who made good grades in school and dreamed of becoming a vet – had to drop out of school. She couldn’t visit her family. Her phone calls were monitored. She wasn’t allowed to have her own Facebook page.
But worse, and what will always cause them guilt about what they should have, or could have, done different to convince Salter to leave Goff, were the reports that someone saw Salter with a large bruise or a tooth knocked out, said her aunt Susan Salter.
“But I think she was beginning to see she needed out,” her aunt said, and that’s probably why he killed her.
Salter’s family could have left the courtroom during the medical examiner’s testimony but they didn’t. The autopsy photographs of the 125-pound woman detailed the new and old abrasions and bruises on Salter’s arms, legs, chest and back, and the large bruise on the side of her head.
“Not every homicide is a murder, but in this case it is,” Assistant District Attorney Grant Usry argued to the jury in closing. Alcohol abuse and domestic violence does not erase Goff’s intent to kill Salter or that he killed her during the commission of aggravated assault, Usry said.
It would take six to 10 seconds before Salter would have lost consciousness and during that time Goff was looking into her eyes, Usry said. If he had stopped once she passed out, Salter might still be alive, but he didn’t.
Defense attorney Danny Durham asked the jury to find Goff guilty of involuntary manslaughter, that he killed Salter during the commission of a battery. He wasn’t trying to escape responsibility for the crime or his punishment, Durham said. But Goff never intended to kill Salter; he loved her, Durham told the jury in his closing argument.
“At every turn he’s shown nothing but remorse for what happened on July 7, 2012,” Durham said.
Given the chance to make a statement before his sentencing, Goff said to Salter’s family, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. It happened so quick it didn’t seem real.
“I’ll never forgive myself,” Goff said.
In 2012, Salter was one of 128 Georgia residents who died as a result of domestic violence.