BILOXI — The Sun Herald has learned that Gov. Haley Barbour helped in the early release of convicted killer Joseph Goff, whose release today after serving eight years of a 20-year sentence has drawn outrage from law enforcement and the community.
A spokeswoman for Barbour on Thursday had said, “The inmate’s release is set by state sentencing laws. The governor has no role.”
But 130 days of the time off Goff received was granted by Barbour in Executive Order 956 for work Goff did cleaning up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Simpson, Quitman, Marion and Walthall counties, according to South Mississippi lawmakers, the Mississippi Department of Corrections and the Attorney General’s Office.
Barbour’s office has not yet responded to a follow-up call from the Sun Herald today seeking further comment and information.
“This is just unbelievable, to give a murderer 130 days off because he cleaned up after a storm, which is what an inmate should be doing anyway,” said state Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula. “It’s beyond me, to be honest with you. I’m almost at a loss for words.”
Goff shot and killed Kyle Todd, 19, while Todd was standing by a Christmas tree inside his family’s Gautier home on Dec. 8, 2001. Todd died in his mother’s arms. He was a former valedictorian at Gautier High School and the son of Carla Todd, president of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
This isn’t the first time Barbour has drawn fire for using his power to release killers from prison early, including another in Pasgagoula.
Barbour signed an order in July 2008 allowing the release of Michael David Graham, who had stalked his ex-wife, Adrienne Klasky, before shooting her to death in 1989 while she sat in her car at a traffic light in Pascagoula in 1989. Graham had done work at the Governor’s mansion prior to his release. The governor suspended his sentence.