Convicted murderer Jasper Goddard died Sunday, one month after pleading guilty to killing a 7-year-old North Las Vegas girl in 1986.
Goddard, 67, died at University Medical Center, apparently from natural causes, according to his public defender, Joseph Abood.
“His health had been diminishing,” Abood said. “He had been in and out of UMC.”
Goddard admitted to kidnapping April Rhodes from her North Las Vegas home on the night of Nov. 24, 1986, raping her and beating her to death with a cinder block in the storage room of a housing complex not far from her home, court transcripts show.
April’s mother, Kathy Salsbury, was planning to attend the sentencing. She had spent years preparing to testify should Goddard go to trial.
“I wanted to finally face the man who killed my daughter,” she said. “I wanted to be able to look him in the eye.”
Goddard pleaded guilty to first degree murder with a deadly weapon on Jan. 9. He was set to serve a life sentence in prison without the chance of parole as part of the deal, according to his plea agreement. He was scheduled to be sentenced next week.
Salsbury said she cried Monday night when she heard the news of Goddard’s death. The tears came for many reasons, one of the most important ones being closure to the decades old crime.
“It was like I could really close the door,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about his prison.”
But Salsbury said she was angry that she learned of Goddard’s death through Allan Fox, a retired Reno police detective who worked the case years ago and who Salsbury credits with solving the crime. Salsbury said as of Tuesday morning she had not been contacted by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office.
“They don’t even have the courtesy (to tell me he died),” she said.
Goddard was a registered sex offender when he was arrested for the crime in June 2013 during a routine traffic stop in Ozark, Missouri. He confessed to the crime shortly after his arrest, but his case had stalled as prosecutors and defense attorneys argued whether he should face the death penalty.
Abood said Goddard was willing to plead guilty years ago in exchange for life in prison. Even if he had been sentenced to death, Goddard’s failing health guaranteed he would die during the appeals process, Abood said.
“We ended up spending a lot of time and money to end up to the place where we probably should have been a while back,” Abood said. “But as long as Nevada has got a death penalty — whether it’s used to execute people or not — this is the way things are going to go.”
District Attorney Steve Wolfson declined an interview.