Cellphone pings in desert help untangle mystery for police

The day after a love triangle exploded and a man went missing, several pings from cellphone towers provided the clues police said they needed to unravel his mysterious disappearance.

Christopher Ross, 52, and Georgene “Cookie” Ross, 56, were arrested Monday on charges of murder with a deadly weapon and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Keith Goldberg, a 54-year-old cabdriver who went missing in January.

Las Vegas police said a contentious love triangle had developed between Goldberg, his ex-girlfriend Cookie Ross and her estranged husband, Christopher Ross, in the month’s before Goldberg’s disappearance.

The frustrations exploded into violence during an argument at Goldberg and Cookie Ross’ former apartment on Jan. 31.

Police said Goldberg was killed in the struggle and dumped somewhere in the valley.

Christopher Ross’ phone placed him in a remote desert area near Sunrise Mountain and the Lake Mead Recreational Area for more than six hours on Feb. 1, a day after his rival disappeared.

“We believe he was moved and transported to a desert area of the valley,” Homicide Lt. Ray Steiber said. “Unfortunately, he met his demise and was killed at the hands of this couple.”

Goldberg’s body has not been recovered, but his family has accepted his likely fate.

“We know we’re looking for a body,” said Jodi Goldberg, Keith Goldberg’s sister.

A FALLING OUT

An arrest report released Tuesday detailed the three-month investigation and exposed contradictions in the Rosses’ statements that police say eventually linked them to Goldberg’s death.

Goldberg and Cookie Ross moved into their apartment at 2362 N. Green Valley Parkway in Henderson on Feb. 27, 2011.

Although Cookie Ross was still married to Christopher Ross, they were separated when she dated Goldberg. It’s unclear whether Goldberg knew his girlfriend was married when they moved in together.

Police said the relationship began to fail by December, and Goldberg called Henderson police several times.

In one call, Goldberg told dispatchers that Cookie Ross had battered him. In another, Goldberg said Christopher Ross threatened him.

Henderson police responded to the apartment each time but never cited or arrested anyone, the arrest report said.

After Goldberg disappeared, Cookie Ross denied ever having dated him. But police said evidence contradicted her claim.

She told Goldberg she loved him in one voice mail obtained by police, and Cookie Ross’ own sister, Gloria Langguth, told police they were a couple.

A week before Goldberg disappeared, problems among the three escalated. Henderson police were called to the Green Valley apartment on four consecutive days from Jan. 24 to Jan. 27. Goldberg moved out on Jan. 26 and moved in with a fellow cabdriver.

A VIOLENT END

On Tuesday, Jan. 31, Goldberg made several stops. The first was to a Dotty’s casino on St. Rose Parkway near Las Vegas Boulevard South, where he was captured by surveillance footage. That was the last known photograph taken of Goldberg.

According to the arrest report, Goldberg unexpectedly met Langguth at Dotty’s.

Langguth asked whether Goldberg would let her into the Henderson apartment so she could start packing her sister’s things, the report said. They drove there in separate cars.

When Goldberg returned from a haircut about an hour later, Christopher and Cookie Ross had also arrived. Langguth told police that a fight sparked and that she saw Christopher Ross throw Goldberg into the wall. Ross had accused Goldberg of stealing the bedroom set, the report said.

Langguth then left the apartment and went back to Dotty’s, the report said.

A neighboring resident about 2 p.m. heard an argument between people in the apartment.

The neighbor called Henderson police and said he witnessed a man in a hooded sweatshirt slamming a woman, whom he later identified as Cookie Ross, against the wall. The neighbor couldn’t identify the man.

When Henderson officers arrived about 2:30 p.m., no one answered the door, and police cleared the scene without ever entering the residence.

NEVER SEEN AGAIN

Three minutes later, Christopher Ross called his employers at the Fiesta and said he couldn’t make his evening shift.

About 11 minutes later, Langguth drove by the apartment and noticed both her sister’s and Goldberg’s cars were still there.

She called Cookie Ross and asked whether everything was OK. Cookie Ross told her the police had just come to the door, but they didn’t answer. When Langguth asked where the men were, the sister said Christopher Ross was on top of Goldberg, the report said.

Just before 4 p.m., Cookie Ross called Goldberg’s employers at the Lucky Cab Co. using Goldberg’s cellphone and reported him sick. She later told detectives that Goldberg had asked her to make the call.

According to cellphone tower records, all three phones were near the apartment between 2 and 4 p.m. At about 4:15 p.m., Cookie Ross’ phone and Goldberg’s phone began moving toward downtown Las Vegas, and several calls were made to Richard Harris Law Firm, which had represented both Cookie Ross and Goldberg in a civil settlement regarding a car accident.

Cookie Ross met alone with a lawyer at the firm that afternoon and said she hadn’t seen Goldberg in some time, the report said. The lawyer later told police Goldberg recently had attempted to place a lien on Cookie Ross’ part of the settlement.

Cookie Ross later admitted she was carrying Goldberg’s phone and car keys when she met with the lawyer.

She told police she returned to the apartment and returned Goldberg’s belongings. Detectives have not recovered Goldberg’s keys, cellphone or laptop.

On Feb. 5, two days after Goldberg was reported missing, Cookie Ross wrote on his Facebook wall:

“Keith after we met on Tuesday you made it perfectly clear how you feel about the current situation & I still did favors for you & I also promised you I would never contact you or ANY of your family but I’m begging you to PLEASE contact your family ASAP,” she wrote. “They are e EXTREMELY concerned about you. Again PLEASE contact them or I will have to. CALL ANYBODY PLEASE.”

BODY NEVER FOUND

Christopher Ross’ cellphone records placed him near the Green Valley apartment from the evening of Jan. 31 into the morning of Feb. 1, contrary to what he told police. Ross said he left the apartment during the day on Jan. 31 and returned to his own home.

At about 4 a.m., cellphone tower records placed him near his own home, but by 6 a.m., his phone had again pinged at a tower near the Green Valley apartment.

At 11 a.m., Ross’ cellphone was pinpointed in a remote desert area near the Lake Mead National Recreational Area and Sunrise Mountain, where it remained for most of the day.

“Christopher spent over six hours in the desert … in contradiction to his statement that he was moving (his wife’s belongings) all day,” the report said.

Goldberg’s car was found Feb. 10 parked downtown on a side street near the Stratosphere. It was covered in dirt and looked like it had been in the desert, the report said. There was a spot of blood on the rear bumper.

On Feb. 13, Cookie Ross was tailed by detectives to the area the car had been parked. Detectives noted that when she passed by the area Goldberg’s car had been, she slowed to under 2 mph.

When detectives asked Christopher Ross about the cellphone records in March, just a few weeks before he was arrested, Ross admitted he had gone to the desert to clear his head, a fact he had never told police before. Ross said he “forgot and should have mentioned it,” the report said.

Jodi Goldberg, Keith Goldberg’s sister, said late Monday night that she was relieved about the arrests but anxious to locate the body.

“Justice still needs to be served,” Jodi Goldberg said.

Police haven’t found Keith Goldberg’s body and said neither Christopher nor Cookie Ross is talking.

When Christopher Ross was being arrested at the Fiesta on Monday night, detectives asked him where Goldberg’s body was located.

When Ross paused for a moment, detectives asked whether he was going to answer.

Ross replied: “You told me I have the right to remain silent.”

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@review
journal.com or 702-383-0283.

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