Jurors are expected to begin deliberations Monday on whether Jon David Goldberg committed premeditated murder or fired in self-defense when he shot his wife’s boyfriend to death in September 2016.
Visiting Judge Graham Cribbs dismissed the jury about 1:45 p.m., telling jurors to return Monday morning to hear closing arguments and instructions on the law. Then the case will be handed to the jury.
Today was the 12th day of often-emotional testimony in the trial. The 37-year-old Goldberg testified in his own defense, trying to explain how he ended up shooting Timothy Smith five times outside Smith’s home on Rohnerville Road.
After he fired one bullet point-blank into Timothy Smith’s chest, Goldberg testified today, he fired four more shots because he was still afraid Smith was going to kill him.
“The next four shots were in self-defense?” Deputy District Attorney Luke Bernthal asked Goldberg during cross-examination this morning.
Goldberg said he “continued to pull the trigger until the threat was gone.” He said he closed his eyes after his gun went off when Smith tried to grab his weapon. When he opened his eyes Smith, 42, was lying on the ground.
Bernthal wondered how Goldberg had managed, without seeing, to shoot Smith four times in the back. Four of the five shots he fired were fatal.
“Did you practice doing that with your eyes closed?”
Goldberg said no.
He acknowledged he’d told psychologist Andrew Renouf that his gun went off by accident, and also he “didn’t know why” he kept firing at Smith afterward.
“Was it a self-defense reaction or an accidental discharge?” the prosecutor asked.
“I’d say both.”
He admitted that the first time he’d ever said his eyes were closed was during trial testimony. But he repeated several times today that he feared Smith was going to shoot him.
“Mr. Smith reached for a gun in his truck,” Goldberg said. He heard something drop on the front seat, he assumed it was a gun, and then Smith came at him.
“When he grabbed my wrist and tried to take my gun, that was a threat to my life.”
Bernthal asked Goldberg repeatedly about why he had strapped a gun on that morning at his home near Bridgeville, after his wife Rachel Goldberg admitted she was having an affair with Smith. Goldberg said he didn’t know who was going to show up at his place. One possibility was that Tim Smith might come “to take my wife and kid away.”
Goldberg insisted that even though he took a loaded gun to Smith’s Rohnerville Road home later that day, the revolver was on the floorboard of his van and he had no plans to use it. He was just there, he said, to talk to Smith’s wife Jessica Springer about what she knew about the affair.
He says he was shocked to see Tim Smith’s truck at home, because he understood Springer had kicked him out after learning about the affair. Also, Goldberg says he thought Smith had gone hunting.
Bernthal pointed out that after seeing Smith’s truck there, then driving down the street and turning back around, he could have decided at any moment to just keep driving. Instead he pulled his van up behind Smith’s truck. And he took his .357-magnum revolver off the floorboard and clipped it on.
His intention was only to speak to Springer, Goldberg said. And when Smith walked out the front door, Goldberg wasn’t looking for a confrontation.
“This guy was my friend,” Goldberg said. “I wanted him to say something to me. I loved that guy.”
Bernthal showed Goldberg a text sent to him by Springer that morning, telling him he didn’t need to drive all the way to Fortuna because she had kicked Tim out and didn’t know whether he would be there. So Goldberg should have known there was a possibility Smith might be home.
“He was supposed to go hunting,” Goldberg insisted.
He had seen guns in Smith’s truck, he said, in the exact spot behind the driver’s seat where Smith reached in, his hands positioned like he was grabbing a rifle. He admitted, though, that Smith had no weapon in his hand when he was shot.
“You drew your gun,” Bernthal said.
“Yes, I was scared. I drew my gun. … He grabbed for my weapon to take it away from me and shoot me. It all happened so fast.”
Bernthal asked why Goldberg hadn’t driven directly to the Fortuna Police Department and reported he’d just had to shoot a man in self-defense. Instead he drove to his friend Steve Shapiro’s house and told him he needed help because he’d just shot a man. Together they left Goldberg’s van on Avenue of the Giants, then Shapiro drove him home.
Goldberg said he wasn’t thinking straight. He was in shock. All he wanted to do, he said, was talk to someone who loved him. He acknowledged he lied previously when he said he hitch-hiked home after his car broke down. He didn’t want to get his friend Shapiro in trouble.
When the shooting occurred, Goldberg’s mother was in Mexico. And he said today that his father spends about half of his time there.
It was interesting, Bernthal noted, that when Shapiro testified he “volunteered” twice that “I didn’t drive him to Mexico.”
During his cross-examination of Goldberg, Bernthal frequently made statements such as “You told that lie to help your defense,” and “You’d say anything to help your defense in this case.”
Goldberg seemed tense but didn’t react angrily.
Goldberg claims he still loves his wife Rachel, even after the betrayal. But yesterday Bernthal played a phone call, recorded at the jail, during which Goldberg called Rachel “a snake.”
Today Deputy Public Defender Casey Russo asked how many other hours of phone calls the jail could have recorded, in addition to the “cherry-picked 25 seconds” the district attorney played.
Goldberg said there are “hours” of phone calls he’s placed from the jail, but “None of that was played.”
Yesterday Goldberg testified it was “love at first sight” when he and Rachel met. Despite her heavy drinking, occasional combativeness and infidelity, he still loves her “unconditionally.”
Goldberg wept as he said he learned that after his arrest, Rachel “went home with another man. She moved in with another man. She took my son away from my family.”
After Goldberg was arrested, Rachel and her son moved in with Goldberg’s Aunt Tammara Schaefer, who lives in Goldberg’s hometown of Fairfield. Schaefer, called as a defense witness today, said she was aware Rachel was having sex with yet another man.
She also said Rachel was distraught when the District Attorney’s Office, a few months after filing the murder charge, also accused Goldberg of abusing her and demanded she come to Humboldt to testify against him.
“She was very upset that he was charged with that,” the aunt said. “She just didn’t want to come here.”
Rachel was called as a witness at the preliminary hearing but refused to testify, even after being held in contempt of court. During the trial she said Goldberg had never abused her and she had never seen him with a gun. Her testimony about “no gun” was completely discredited by the prosecutor.
Bernthal says Goldberg put the gun on to intimidate his wife, and that at one point he fired shots around her.
Rachel and her 7-year-old son David are now living with Rachel’s father and step-mother in Tennessee.
Today Russo also called District Attorney’s Investigator Gary Cooper to the stand, asking Cooper about a phone call he placed this morning to Rachel Goldberg’s stepmother.
Cooper said the stepmother told him Rachel had never told her about any physical abuse by Goldberg, and she was confident she would have told her if there had been abuse. She also said, however, that Rachel was scared and “wanted out of there.”
Russo attempted this afternoon to question Investigator Cooper about a conversation someone apparently overheard between Cooper and a Eureka Police Department officer in the courthouse hallway. Whatever that conversation was, the judge wouldn’t allow it as evidence.
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY ONE: Ruthless Revenge Killing or Unfortunate Tragedy? Murder Trial Underway for Man Accused of Murdering Wife’s Boyfriend in Fortuna
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY TWO: Witness Testifies That Accused Murderer Physically Fought With His Wife, Fired Weapon Near Her on Morning of Crime
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY THREE: Nearby Construction Workers Testify They Saw Murder Suspect Casing House Before Tim Smith Was Shot Dead
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY FOUR: Victim’s Wife Testifies She Heard Gunshots Then Ran Outside to Find Her Husband Dying on the Ground
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY FIVE, Part I: ‘I just held my mom and told her it was going to be OK,’ Victim’s Son Testifies
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY FIVE, Part II: Suspect Said He Was Going to Kill Wife’s Boyfriend, Neighbor Testifies
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY SIX: The Victim’s Son and a DA Investigator Testified Today, Along With a Man Who Was Flipped Off By Murder Suspect on the Day of the Shooting
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY SEVEN, Part I: Four of the Five of the Bullets That Struck Tim Smith Could Have Killed Him On Their Own, Medical Examiner Testifies
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY SEVEN, Part II: Friend Testifies He Drove Murder Suspect Home Day of Shooting, Told Him Cops Were Coming and to Be Nice
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY EIGHT, Part I: Expert Witness Tells Jury About Communication Between the Victim, the Suspect and Each of Their Wives on the Morning of the Shooting
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY EIGHT, Part II: Defense Witness Call Goldbergs a Bridgeville ‘Power Couple’; Attorney Seeks to Raise Doubts About Whether Victim Was Unarmed
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY NINE: Murder Suspect’s Wife Gives Tearful Testimony, Says She Had Sex, Shared Explicit Photos With Victim
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY TEN: Mother of the Accused Testifies About What He Was Like as a Boy; Psychologist Says Goldberg Told Him Shooting Was Accidental
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY 11, Part 1: Murder Suspect Takes the Stand, Tearfully Recounts Learning of His Wife’s Affair With Victim
- GOLDBERG TRIAL, DAY 11: Accident, Self-Defense or Murder? Jon Goldberg Testifies About the Moment He Shot Tim Smith