Merced man pleads not guilty in killing of teenager

Merced Sun-Star (Saturday) - - Local - BY THAD­DEUS MILLER tmiller@mer­ced­

The man ac­cused of killing a Golden Val­ley High School girl and leav­ing her body in a Mercedarea field pleaded not guilty on Fri­day in Merced County Su­pe­rior Court.

Ben­jamin Herbert God­dard, 34, ap­peared be­fore Judge Ron­ald W. Hansen on charges of mur­der and so­lic­it­ing a mi­nor re­lated to the death of 17-year-old Heaven Murillo, whose badly de­com­posed body was found on Sept. 2, 2017, in the 100 block of Hawk Drive, ac­cord­ing to court records and in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­ports ob­tained by the SunS­tar.

God­dard asked for a speedy trial so he is sched­uled to be back in court on Nov. 2. He ap­peared in court in a yel­low jump­suit and did not speak dur­ing the hear­ing.

God­dard’s ar­rest came af­ter a year­long in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Merced po­lice. In­ter­views of dozens of peo­ple and cell­phone records ap­pear to show God­dard had il­le­gal sex­ual en­coun­ters with Murillo, a mi­nor, and that he was the last per­son to see her, be­fore she went miss­ing, ac­cord­ing to the re­ports.

God­dard re­port­edly told in­ves­ti­ga­tors Murillo stayed with him for more than two full days near an il­le­gal mar­i­juana cul­ti­va­tion site he was guard­ing at the south end of R Street in Merced. The same com­pound was raided by the Merced County Sher­iff’s Of­fice in an un­re­lated case, sher­iff’s Sgt. Ray Fram­stad con­firmed.

The de­fen­dant also sup­plied Murillo with metham­phetamine, ac­cord­ing to re­ports. He ad­mit­ted, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, to hav­ing a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with Murillo, say­ing he be­lieved she was 20. He de­nied tak­ing part in her death, po­lice said.

God­dard told in­ves­ti­ga­tors he last saw Murillo when she left with some­one else in a van, po­lice re­ports say. Au­topsy re­ports show the girl had blunt force trauma to her face.

He was al­ready in cus­tody for an­other case when po­lice de­cided to seek mur­der charges.

Ben­jamin God­dard

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