A man accused of being involved in the death of Heaven Murillo entered no-contest pleas to involuntary manslaughter and furnishing narcotics to a minor.
Benjamin Goddard , through the entry of his no-contest plea, admitted responsibility for the death of Heaven Murillo on or around September 2nd, 2017, his negotiated sentence is of 9-years at the California Department of Corrections and rehabilitation.
Ms. Murillo was 17-years-old at the time of her death and was last seen approximately a month before being found.
Murillo’s death investigation began when her body was found at a field just North of Dickenson Ferry Road and East of South Thornton Road in Merced County, the District Attorney Office said.
The Merced County Sheriff’s office coroner unit, the missing and unidentified persons section of DOJ, and the human identification laboratory at the California State University of Chico all worked to identify Ms. Murillo’s remains, she was positively identified in April of 2018.
The Merced Police department Detective unit were able to begin an investigation into Ms. Murillo’s disappearance and death, medical experts were unable to determine a cause of death, but the autopsy ruled Murillo’s death a homicide, but the cause of death was “undetermined”.
Detectives with the Merced police department identified Mr. Goddard as a person of interest related to the death.
Ms. Murillo was seen with Mr. Goddard on July 31, 2017, telephone records also indicated Mr. Goddard traveled to the field where Ms. Murillo body was found.
A search uncovered other evidence created by Mr. Goddard that suggested he traveled to the field at least one time after Ms. Murillo’s body was transported to the location.
Mr. Goddard admitted to spending time with Ms. Murillo during the days and hours before her death, and he admitted to using Methamphetamine with her, but he denied any responsibility for Ms. Murillo’s death or the transport of her body to the field.
Medical evidence confirmed Methamphetamine and one other drug in Ms. Murillo’s system. In the years since Ms. Murillo’s body was identified, the investigation has never been able to locate evidence to help in determining exactly how Ms. Murillo died or who she was with at the time.
Detective Russel was the lead detective on the case, but upon identification of Ms. Murillo, the entire Merced police department took on the case.
Travis Colby and Angelica Lozano prosecuted this case. In light of the evidence in the case and in consideration of the wishes of Ms. Murillo’s family, District Attorney Kimberly Lewis approved the negotiated plea, Mr. Goddard is scheduled to be sentenced on April 23rd, 2021.