By Elesha George
On Wednesday, December 22, 2021 a jury in Anguilla found 26-year-old Glenville Nkomo Kenyatta Hodge guilty of the 2019 murder of 27-year-old Taitu Goodwin, a native of Antigua and Barbuda.
The man was only 24 years old when he severely beat, choked and stabbed the former Miss Anguilla to death.
The details that led to the horrific murder of the daughter of former Ambassador Bruce Goodwin was revealed during a jury trial that led to the conviction of her killer, after a record eight weeks in court.
Lead prosecutor for the Crown, Thomas Astaphan Q.C described it as “a tragic set of events” that led to the death of “a fantastic person” who had “remarkable accomplishments” at the pinnacle of her life.
Hodge and Goodwin were said to have known each other since December 2016, during which time they entered into a relationship that according to Hodge, quickly turned violent.
The jury learned that on the night of her death, Hodge stalked Goodwin who worked as a Trade and Investment Officer in the Anguilla Ministry of Finance, before eventually killing her and trying to dispose of her body.
“She had 15 individual blows to her face which the pathologist Dr King said was inflicted either by an open hand with much force or by the heel of the palm of the hand. Fifteen different blows to her face, which broke her mandible on both sides; broke off two of her teeth at the root; and caused her to have hemorrhaging in the brain; and what the doctor described as brain damage which rendered her unconscious. That is the nature of the violence inflicted on the young lady, in addition to her being throttled by the young man,” the prosecutor explained.
According to Astaphan, physical evidence presented to the court suggested that Goodwin was attacked inside her home at about 1.30 on the morning of September 9, 2019.
In his defence, Hodge claimed that on the night of September 8 he tried to contact the victim but his messages were not going through. So, he decided to go to her apartment and noticed that she was not there.
He told the court, as he was leaving, a car drove up to the gate and he stepped into the bushes and recorded her walking towards her apartment.
He claimed that he then went to his car where he began to cry because he realised that his suspicion that she was seeing someone else was true.
He further tried to convince the court that he drove home and went to bed where he watched TV. At which time he claimed that the victim telephoned him. According to him, he answered the phone but said nothing and just listened to her.
He then claimed that he got dressed and drove back to her apartment and knocked on the door which she opened up for him.
From then, he tried to paint a picture to the court that Goodwin and not him was the aggressor.
He told the court that as he stepped inside her apartment his phone connected to the wifi and began to beep, indicating that messages were registering which caused Goodwin to become aggressive and try to grab his phone.
He claimed a struggle ensued which caused him to scrap his shin. He then said he went to the bathroom to clean off the blood and whilst there, he said the victim came to wipe the blood off the floor.
Incidentally, the white rug he claimed that she used only had one speck of blood and the forensic scientist Mrs. Esther Thomas-Hodge and Dr Stephen King, a forensic pathologist, both indicated that the amount of blood they saw in the photograph could not have come from the scrap of the convict’s shin but was consistent with blood that would have come from the victim’s mouth while she laid on the floor.
Thomas-Hodge also testified to the court that there was no evidence of blood found in the bathroom where Hodge claimed he was wiping the blood off himself.
He further tried to convince the court that they decided to go for a drive to sort out their differences which is when they drove over to Windward Point. He said that Goodwin chose the destination.
When they arrived, he parked the car, they got out and he claims that he laid a blanket on the sand in front of the car. He said Goodwin sat on the blanket while he stood and leaned against the car. He claimed she then extended her hand to him and motioned him so that he could to sit with her.
According to his testimony, “She extended her arm, I held it and she pulled me down to the mat. I sat directly in front of her with my phone in my hand. I was asked a series of questions. I responded to some of which I was asked. We then had further conversations. As the conversation went on I saw things were getting heated again. I said something to her, I saw when she looked back at my car, I noticed when she looked in the direction of what appeared to be a rock on the passenger side of the car. She got up and I got up. She slapped me with her right hand. When she slapped me I said something to her and she replied. She slapped me again and I pushed her. She stumbled backwards away from the car. She fell and she got up. When she got up she approached me, said something to me and motioned towards the direction where I saw the rock. As I saw her move forward, I pulled her back. As I pulled her she turned around and spat in my face. When she spat in my face I fired a fist which resulted in her getting hit on the left side of her face.”
At some point, he wanted the court to believe that Goodwin took the phone off the blanket and threw it around 40 feet behind the car which prompted him to go get it.
It was then he said, he turned around and looked towards his car where he noticed her “throwing herself on the ground”, implying that her injuries were self-inflicted.
He then listed a series of events that ultimately caused him to “defend himself,” hitting her in the face at least two more times.
He then claimed she picked up a rock and threw it at him. She then ran to the driver’s door and he claimed that the trunk of the car flew open. He saw she had a knife in her hand and walked towards him slashing, while he walked backwards. He managed to grab her hands until he managed to squeeze the knife out of her hands.
He claimed she then picked up the same rock and from the corner of his eyes he saw her coming towards him again. He said he saw a hand gesture and saw there were stones in her hands.
He said he swung his right hand in a backward motion to block the stones and then heard her scream, which is when he realised she was stabbed.
He told the court he then tried to get her into the car to transport her to get help.
But evidence did not support his story and in fact the prosecution’s case was that it was in the wee hours of the morning, when Hodge jumped through the victim’s window and attacked her.
They also believe that when Hodge recorded Goodwin going towards her apartment, he never left the scene as he alleged.
It was the prosecution’s case that he beat and choked the 27-year-old until he thought she had died.
Afterwards, he wrapped her in a blanket and he drove to Windward Point – a desolate area with extremely bad roads at the eastern end of Anguilla – to dispose of her body.
When Hodge had driven about 30 yards from the water, the prosecution put forward that his car got stuck in the sand which is when he lifted her out of the trunk.
As he lifted her out of the trunk, her left leg fell and her left sneaker left a full impression in the sand immediately behind the trunk of the car. There was no other print of her shoes anywhere else on the scene, indicating that Hodge removed Goodwin from the trunk.
There was also a mark on her face that was consistent with with her face being pressed on an amplifier in the trunk of the car.
The evidence suggests that when Hodge was walking towards the sea with Goodwin in his arms, eight feet in front of his car, she showed signs of life and he dropped her.
He then got a 17cm knife which he used to stab her in the back.
Goodwin’s body was found eight feet in front of the car, with the blanket over one of her arms.
“There were defensive wounds on her hands which suggested that initially she was trying to ward off the knife attack,” Astaphan recalled.
During that time, the killer’s car got stuck in the sand which forced him to call his mother for help from his cousins to remove the vehicle. It was then, he supposedly also admitted to his family that he had killed the woman.
According to court evidence, the relationship between the couple ended in July of 2019 but Hodge continued to stalk and harass Goodwin up until her death. Whatsapp messages were submitted into evidence to support that claim.
During the month of August and the first few days in September, the court heard of a number of pages of Whatsapp messages between the two – most of which were initiated by her killer.
There were pictures and messages of physical abuse to include black eyes, bruised skin and cuts on her hands, which Goodwin alleged in the Whatsapp messages, had been inflicted on her during their tumultuous relationship.
In fact, on the morning of August 31, Goodwin made a report to a senior police officer against Hodge who had spent most of the night of the 30 and the early hours of the morning of the 31 in her yard, where he allegedly listened to her telephone conversations and was Whatsapping her repeatedly.
During the course of the messages, she repeatedly asked him to leave her yard and he repeatedly denied being there. However, in cross examination he admitted that he was there and that he was sitting on the front porch while messaging her.
He was warned by the police officer not to contact her or visit her home unless she gave him permission.
Astaphan told Observer that he grew frustrated at times, considering the disparity between the physical evidence presented to the court and the stories Hodge told, but admitted to Observer that he had to keep his composure to ensure that justice prevailed.
“A lot of people knew her, so when he was painting this picture of evil, it couldn’t sell because nobody knew her like that,” he remarked.
The jury ultimately rejected Hodge’s defence and accepted the prosecution’s case based on the facts and evidence presented.
Hodge is expected to be sentenced following case management in January and faces a maximum sentence of natural life imprisonment.