HAMMOND — Phone records helped secure a murder charge Friday against a Missouri man, as Hammond's mayor questioned why the man was allowed to post bond on previous charges alleging he attempted to murder the same woman in November.
Sylvia Williams, 55, survived after her ex-boyfriend shot her six times at her Hammond mobile home Nov. 1, but she died Thursday when he returned to her residence and shot her five more times, court records allege.
Charles Goforth, 56, was taken into custody Thursday night in Missouri and charged Friday with murder, authorities said. He will face extradition proceedings in Missouri before he's brought before Lake Criminal Court officials.
Goforth previously was charged with attempting to murder Williams in November at her residence in the Sheffield Estates mobile home park in the 3600 block of Sheffield Avenue, court records show.
Goforth threatened to kill Williams and shot her in front of her then-12-year-old granddaughter after Williams asked him to leave because she found him video chatting with another woman, records allege.
Lake Criminal Court Magistrate Natalie Bokota set his bond at $80,000 surety or $8,000 cash in early November, records show.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked Goforth to a relative's home in Independence, Missouri, and took him into custody Nov. 5. He was extradited from Jackson County, Missouri, arrived in Lake County on Nov. 25 and posted an $8,000 cash bond Nov. 26, records show.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said Friday that Goforth never should have been released on bond in the previous case.
"The system FAILED the victim in this case. This violent felon should have NEVER been set free on bond in the first place," McDermott wrote in a social media post.
Bond reform and jail overcrowding doesn't mean violent, dangerous felons should be released from jail, he said.
"These judges better get their heads on straight or more residents of NWI could also be in danger," McDermott said.
'She wasn't protected'
Williams' family agreed with McDermott.
Williams' daughter-in-law, Lolita Levingston, told The Times on Friday that Williams began receiving a barrage of phone calls from Goforth after he bonded out of jail in the previous case.
Something should have been done then, she said.
"Everyone dropped the ball on this," Levingston said. "She wasn't protected."
Levingston said Goforth should not have been allowed to post an $8,000 cash bond for such a violent charge, especially when detectives had video footage of him telling Williams before shooting her in November that he was going to kill her.
"And then they still let him out," she said. "How could somebody let him out on a bond when there's video of the incident? She wasn't the aggressor. She wasn't hitting him. She was running, and he shot her in front of (her granddaughter)," Levingston said.
Bokota, the magistrate who set Goforth's bond in November, did not immediately return a message left Friday with her office.
The bond Bokota set appears to be standard for the charges in Goforth's previous case, which included attempted murder, a level 1 felony, and criminal recklessness, a level 5 felony.
According to a bail schedule and guidelines approved by all four Lake Criminal Court judges in July 2014, the standard minimum bail on a level 1 felony with a nonsuspendable sentence is $50,000. The standard minimum bail on a level 5 felony involving a victim younger than 14 is $30,000.
The court may set a higher or lower bond based on the alleged facts of a case. Bond must be at least $50,000 when a defendant has a pending felony case or is charged with an unrelated felony, the guidelines state.
Goforth had no felony convictions, was not on probation or parole, had no other felony or misdemeanor charges pending, and was not on bond in any other cases at the time he was charged in November, documents show.
Goforth will be held without bail on the murder charge when he is returned to the Lake County Jail. In Lake County, murder defendants are held without bail unless they petition the court for a hearing and the court finds the presumption of guilt is not strong.
Bokota entered not guilty pleas to attempted murder and criminal recklessness during Goforth's initial hearing Dec. 11. She also granted him permission to live in Missouri.
Records indicate the Lake County prosecutor's office did not seek a no contact order at the initial hearing or at any point leading up to Williams' homicide.
Levingston said police — but not the prosecutor's office — notified Williams of Goforth's release in November.
A spokesman for the prosecutor's office confirmed Friday that Williams was notified by police of Goforth's release after posting bond.
"After Goforth was released, this office did have contact with Ms. Williams. She was instructed to get a civil protective order, how to do so, and was told that doing so would be the quickest way to get an order of protection," the prosecutor's office said. "The state of Indiana is limited from commenting further given that Goforth has two pending criminal cases."
Deputy prosecutors typically seek no contact orders at defendants' formal appearances.
Because Goforth already had hired a private attorney, no formal appearance was scheduled in his case. His next court appearance on the attempted murder charge is set for Feb. 7.
Defendants typically are not fitted with a GPS monitor unless they agree to wear one as part of a request for a bond reduction. Goforth was able to post his bond and never requested a bond reduction, records show.
Man 'did not want to go to jail'
According to charges filed Friday, police found 43 blocked phone calls made from Goforth's number to Williams' phone between Jan. 24 and 30.
Williams' relative told police Goforth recently had been calling Williams "in an attempt to smooth things over because he did not want to go to jail," court records say.
Two surveillance cameras captured video that was instrumental in securing charges against Goforth in November, but police found after Williams' homicide Thursday that those cameras had been removed from the home, records say.
Phone records showed Goforth's phone had been in the area of Williams' home between 6:30 and 7:12 a.m. Thursday, documents state.
Williams' relative told police she left the home between 7 and 7:25 a.m. to take a child to school and returned to find Williams lying on the floor behind the front door, bleeding from the chest area. Williams was taken to Franciscan Health hospital in Hammond, where she was pronounced dead.
Hammond's license plate reader system showed a white 1975 Chevrolet Nova registered to Goforth's wife in Missouri was traveling in the area of Williams' home about 7:30 a.m. Thursday, records allege.
Hammond police traveled to Independence, Missouri, on Thursday and arrested Goforth while he was driving the 1975 Nova. Investigators executed a search warrant for the car and found a cellphone, knife and clothing, records state.
Goforth's wife told Hammond detectives she noticed a .38-caliber revolver she owns was missing from its case.
Revolvers don't eject spent bullet casings, and no casings were found Thursday in Williams' home, records state.
Investigators recovered seven bullets from Williams' body during an autopsy, including five from the shooting that caused her death and two from the previous shooting, according to documents.
'She loved to dance and laugh'
Levingston said her mother-in-law's two granddaughters celebrated birthdays Friday.
"And because of this judge, they are spending their birthdays mourning their grandmother," she said.
Williams will be missed by family and friends. She brought everyone together and was always cooking up dishes for family gatherings, Levingston said.
"Everyone wanted her spaghetti. Everyone wanted her chicken casserole," Levingston said. "She loved to dance and laugh. She was a people person and loved her family.
"She was also a very blunt person. If she felt it, she's telling you. She will tell you exactly how she feels and then smile and hug you later."
Williams' death marked the 13th confirmed homicide so far this year in Northwest Indiana.
Police ask anyone with information about Williams' homicide to call Hammond Detective Sgt. Mike Nemcek at 219-852-2977 or Detective Sgt. Steve Guernsey at 219-852-2978.