By Gemma Handy
The “bright light” that was Taitu Goodwin may have been extinguished but memories of the 27-year-old who was “full of love” and determined to make a positive impact on the world will live on.
Yesterday, the family of the murdered Antiguan welcomed the life imprisonment sentence handed to the man who killed her.
Three months after the long trial during which the brutal manner her short life was taken was outlined in excruciating detail, Glenville Hodge was on Thursday told he would spend at least the next 30 years behind bars.
Taitu’s older sister Tene told Observer of a sense of “relief” that Hodge, 26, had received the maximum sentence – but added that there would be no closure until an accomplice disclosed during the trial was also brought to justice.
The court heard last year that Hodge had stalked and harassed Taitu after she ended a relationship with him, before beating, choking and stabbing her to death in 2019 in Anguilla where she was living at the time.
“We were hoping for the maximum possible sentence – unfortunately there’s no death penalty in Anguilla,” Tene, who tuned into yesterday’s hearing via Zoom from France, said.
“I am kind of relieved, but although the case against Glenville Hodge is closed it doesn’t feel like closure to me, because during the trial it was revealed there was at least one accomplice and she has not been brought to face the law. Until that’s done it doesn’t feel like full justice.”
Born in Antigua, the youngest of nine siblings, Taitu was in the third form of Antigua Girls’ High School when she moved with her mother to Anguilla.
“As a child she was very outgoing, less shy than the rest of us; we were known as shy girls. She was happy, bubbly, very talkative,” Tene recalled.
“She was always just happy to be alive, and a proud Antiguan even though she had left.”
A bright student, Taitu later studied law in France and the US before returning to Antigua.
“It was actually her dream to come back and contribute to the land of her birth,” Tene said.
“She was unable to secure a job with the government and so moved back to Anguilla at the end of 2018 as a last resort.”
A former Miss Anguilla, Taitu instead found employment as a trade and investment specialist with the Anguilla government.
“She was a very bright light in our lives, to all who knew her and even people who just encountered her,” Tene said.
“She was full of life, full of love, very kind and caring, and very ambitious.
“She had a plan for her life, things she wanted to accomplish. She wanted to have a positive impact on the world and she wanted to help people.
“Even though she ended up studying law, her first love was teaching. She had a love for children and was looking forward in the future to having her own family.”
It was when Taitu graduated in New York in 2018 that Tene met Anguillan-born Hodge with whom her sister had begun a relationship in 2016. Even though the pair had separated by then, Hodge had been insistent on attending the ceremony.
“He travelled even though she did not want him to; he insisted he was coming as her friend,” Tene continued.
Further alarm bells soon sounded.
“It was her graduation, it was supposed to be a happy moment and he was trying to make it all about him. He was upset with her for not posting him on social media at her graduation,” Tene explained.
“It got to the point where we had to ask him to leave; we wanted to spend time together.”
When Tene later got back to her then home of California, it was to some very disturbing messages from her sister.
“I got all these messages saying, ‘Tene SOS’. I called her back, he had assaulted her and she had to call the police.
“They told him to go away and asked her if she wanted to press charges. I told her she should – and file a restraining order.
“But she didn’t want to because you know how black men are treated by police in America.”
A week later, Hodge broke into Taitu’s house and a “big altercation” ensued.
“That’s when I told her, you’re coming to California to stay with me, your life is in danger, you have to get out, this man could kill you,” Tene said.
“She thought I was over-reacting; I am a very dramatic person and do tend to have a very strong reaction.”
Still, the sisters spent the summer of 2018 together in California.
“He kept trying to call her – and me. I told him to leave her alone,” Tene continued.
In August 2019, Tene moved to France and that was when Taitu went to Antigua to look for a job, before returning to Anguilla.
“I thought it was over but they got back together. I didn’t know that – obviously I will regret that for the rest of my life,” Tene said.
Tragically, her predictions about how her sister’s relationship with Hodge would culminate proved true.
Tene was staying with her father in Antigua when she got the devastating news.
“It was weird for me because I was at my father’s place; he was going to be back in 15 minutes. I was going to have to be the one to tell him.
“My own reaction was delayed; it was maybe a year before I started processing,” she recalled.
Sadly, Taitu is far from alone in losing her life at the hands of a partner who refused to let go. And Taitu’s situation was complicated further by members of Hodge’s family, Tene claimed.
“A lot of time when we hear people are in abusive relationships, we say to them ‘just leave’. But it wasn’t just him harassing her, it was her family too.
“They were sending her messages telling her he didn’t deserve a broken heart and she had to take him back, trying to make her feel guilty,” she said.
“Sometimes I think women try and leave but it’s like they’re being pulled back. It’s not just men who think they have the right to a woman, to her body, to her life, to control her; it’s society as a whole that tells them, you need to put yourself second and think about him.”
One source of consolation for Tene as she strives to rebuild her life without her beloved sister is memories of the time the pair spent together in California four years ago. Despite the constant calls from Hodge, there were many cherished moments too.
“One thing I think about a lot is when we were driving from Sacramento to San Francisco; we wanted to take pictures by the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We were driving along listening to old music like King Obstinate, music we grew up listening to. Because the sound in my car was so much better than the radio we listened to in our house, we started hearing all these lyrics and realised, right, this is what this song is really saying,” Tene smiled.
Another of Taitu’s sisters, Zakia Goodwin, urged loved ones to be alert to signs of an abusive relationship.
“No one is immune to violence and tragedy; young women are vulnerable to these kinds of acts that are not uncommon in today’s society,” she told Observer.
“Pay attention to your loved ones and be willing and able to intervene. Taitu did go to the police but it wasn’t enough.
“The judge spoke about misogyny when handing down the sentence; men need to understand that women’s lives do not belong to them – and there are consequences,” she added.
Taitu’s mother Janis Elijah said her daughter had been deeply loved by the Anguillan people who regarded her as their “golden child”.
“What happened to Taitu should not be a reflection on Anguillans; those were the actions of one individual,” she said, adding that her phone had been “bombarded” with messages of love and support from residents in the British territory following yesterday’s sentencing.
Taitu’s father, Antigua and Barbuda’s former ambassador to Cuba Bruce Goodwin, also paid tribute to his daughter who he described as “one of the brightest of her generation”.
“She was brilliant in all she did; she wanted to be the best in whatever field she was in,” he said.
In addition to having two Master’s degrees in law, Taitu was naturally adept in languages too.
“Antigua was her great love. Taitu was ebullient, optimistic, a great communicator, and liked by everyone,” he continued.
“There’s a big, big hole where she was. For her to be taken away at that age has been a great pain for us, something we will feel forever,” Goodwin added.
“She was very, very special to me. I hope one day we will be reunited again.”