Pushing Up Lilies

The Murder of Joy Risker by Polygamist Preacher Sean Goff

Episode Summary

Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies. I'm Julie Mattson. Join me as we unravel the sinister web woven by polygamist preacher Sean Goff, who shocked the world when he was accused of killing his wife, Joy Risker. Together, we'll piece together the events leading up to Joy's tragic demise and explore the tangled relationships and hidden secrets that drove Sean to commit such a heinous act. As we navigate the twists and turns of this harrowing true crime story, we'll confront the dark realities lurking beneath the surface of seemingly idyllic communities. So, buckle up as we embark on this gripping journey into the heart of darkness.

Episode Notes


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Episode Transcription

0:06 Welcome to Pushing Up Lilies.

0:08 I'm your host, Julie Mattson.

0:10 Pushing Up Lilies is a weekly True Crime podcast with spine tingling, unusual and terrifyingly true stories from my perspective as a forensic death investigator and a sexual assault nurse examiner.

0:24 Do I have some stories for you?

0:26 Are you ready?

0:31 Hey, y'all who had hail this past week?

0:34 We were in North Dakota.

0:36 My mother-in-law passed away and so we were there for several days, and we saw on Facebook that they had really bad hail here in Texas and we didn't know if it hit our house or not.

0:48 It turns out it missed us, but we didn't know until we got home.

0:51 We pulled up.

0:51 And the first thing I did was run over to my new car to make sure that it didn't have any hail damage.

0:57 But, oh my gosh, it's crazy.

1:00 I mean, people were posting literally baseball sized hail.

1:04 I mean, it's just weird weather.

1:06 I'm just over the weird weather.

1:09 It's supposed to be in the sixties today.

1:11 It was 90 a couple weeks ago and then it slated the next day and then hail and it's just crazy, crazy, crazy.

1:19 It snowed when we were in North Dakota on the day of the funeral.

1:23 Just a little bit, just a lot of snow.

1:25 But there's a lot of snow still settling on the ground because the temperatures are still freezing anyway.

1:31 I, I was like, I don't know why.

1:32 I always like to talk about the weather a little bit.

1:35 We've been busy in our office.

1:37 I've been off for a week while we were traveling, but it has been super busy.

1:45 A lot of scenes, a lot of phone calls, we get so many phone calls during the day of just various things.

1:52 You know, people that have questions about their loved one and you know, want to know what the autopsy report read or how to get a copy of it.

2:01 And again, you know, we always deal with the doctors that sign the death certificates incorrectly.

2:08 Some of those things are just always going to be a constant battle and I think every medical examiner's office has those struggles.

2:15 But, you know, it's all in a day's work.

2:18 We do it because we love it and I do encourage anybody that wants to get into this field to do it.

2:26 I am considering starting to do some training classes and would love to hear from people if you would be interested in that.

2:34 Maybe even check to see if I can get them approved for CEU’s through the ABMDI or even through the Texas Board of Nursing or other Boards of Nursing.

2:47 Because I do think that forensic nursing is an important part of the career and it's not just limited to those of us who do forensics.

2:56 It's important even for emergency room nurses and home health care, nurses, and hospice nurses for everybody to kind of have a little bit of education on the forensic part of it because again, they don't teach it in school.

3:12 They are teaching it in a lot of the high schools which I love and a lot of the kids that are in high school are coming out, you know, wanting to be in law enforcement or wanting to work crime scene investigations.

3:25 But they don't look at it from a nurse's point of view.

3:28 They look at it more as law enforcement.

3:31 I just think nurses are good at it.

3:32 I mean, law enforcement officers are too, but we kind of have the upper hand because we are familiar with the medications that people take.

3:41 I just think that, I don't know, I mean, I think that we maybe have more compassion towards the family just because that's what we do is take care of people.

3:51 And I just encourage nurses to learn more about it even if you don't want to be in our specific field just to have that extra knowledge about what to look for and those types of things, I think is super important.

4:05 Anyway, this week, I want to talk a little bit about, this is another death.

4:11 This happened in San Diego.

4:13 And this is about a pastor, a youth pastor.

4:19 And I know a couple weeks ago we started talking a little bit about pastors.

4:24 Joy Risker was the wife of a polygamous creature and she disappeared from her San Diego home.

4:33 She was 25 when she met her husband.

4:39 She was bubbly, and she was looking for a father figure because her dad abandoned her family when she was a teenager.

4:48 And we see that a lot, you know, young girls looking for somebody to kind of be a father figure and someone to look up to because they didn't have one in their teenage years.

4:57 But she met Sean Goff who was a youth pastor when she joined the church and her mom was super happy, she liked to party, and her mom was hoping that Sean would keep her from partying.

5:16 She enrolled in the youth group at the church.

5:19 He was reportedly very good looking and intelligent.

5:23 Since she started going to the church.

5:25 She started working as his personal assistant.

5:28 Eventually, as it sometimes happens when you work with the opposite sex, they became inseparable.

5:36 And when she turned 18, he invited her to move into his home, which he shared with his wife, Sheila.

5:45 He was already married, Sheila seemed happy, Sheila welcomed joy into the family, joy, kind of agreed to help care for their newborn.

5:57 It was kind of going to work.

5:58 I don't know if Sheila really understood that she was going to be a lover of his as well.

6:05 I don't know if, maybe she looked at her more of a nanny in 97, one year after moving in Goff secretly officiated a wedding ceremony between him and Risker.

6:18 He was then married to both women, which we know in some states is illegal and it was illegal at that time in California and could also damage his ministry.

6:31 I mean, it never looks good when a youth pastor, you know, is a polygamist in a state where it's not legal.

6:38 And we know that sometimes the church congregation doesn't like that kind of thing.

6:44 It definitely could have damaged his ministry.

6:47 He was doing something he wasn't supposed to be doing at the time.

6:50 Now each woman lived in a separate bedroom, he would alternate bedrooms.

6:56 He goes back and forth from Sheila's room to Joy's room.

7:00 Sheila agreed to this because she was raised to believe that the man was the ultimate authority.

7:05 If that's what he wanted, that's what he gets and that's how she was raised.

7:10 He was going to get whatever he wanted and was supposed to be authority over her.

7:16 But Goff had a friend who gave him an ultimatum and he said that if he didn't tell the church congregation, the friend was going to, when the church found out his secret, he was kicked out and we knew that was going to happen.

7:30 Right?

7:31 I mean, again, churches don't really lack to hear that their youth pastors, a polygamist that was not welcomed in the church and he was kicked out.

7:41 His friends were shocked and concerned, but nobody could really change his mind.

7:46 This is what he wanted and again, is what he got.

7:49 In 2000 Joy and Sean Goff welcomed a son.

7:55 Now, Joy's mother passed away one day after the birth which further isolated her from, I guess, reality.

8:06 You know, she didn't have a father, she didn't have a mother anymore.

8:10 She was very isolated.

8:13 This became her only family.

8:15 One year later, Joy had a second child and Goff never left her side.

8:22 He acted more controlling and dominant.

8:26 They went to a wedding together.

8:29 And so this was seen by people at the wedding how dominating and controlling he was.

8:35 That wedding was the last time she was seen before her disappearance in September of 03.

8:43 Now at that time, I believe she was 25.

8:46 They met when she was 18, her friends would call Goff and ask him where Joy was.

8:53 And what happened?

8:55 The story that he told them was that she ran off to Europe and left her kids behind.

9:01 He pretended to be distraught.

9:03 You know, he pretended to be upset about her being gone.

9:07 And again, I think he thought that she probably wouldn't be missed much because her mom was no longer alive to follow up and make sure she was ok, and he probably was so controlling that she didn't really make him aware of all the friends that she had her friends though knew that she would never leave her kids.

9:28 And so she was reported missing on October 5th of 2003.

9:34 Whenever he reported her missing, he never mentioned the polygamous relationship like he never said, yeah, you know, I have another wife or we have two kids together and I have Children with my other wife, Sheila.

9:47 Like he never mentioned that when he reported her missing in October or friends.

9:53 I'm not really sure quite who did, but Goff told investigators that she decided to backpack through Europe and then he claimed that she was with an old boyfriend.

10:04 His story changed a little bit.

10:06 Originally, there was no mention of an old boyfriend and then all of a sudden there was days later, her friends received emails from her account where she said that she ran off with her ex and needed time away.

10:22 Not everyone believed that they were from her.

10:25 And usually you can tell, you know, we all have certain lingo that we use whenever we message our friends.

10:31 I think that if my husband sent a message from me, my friends would know, I mean, because you know, I say, OK, where he just puts the letter K like we know how our friends talk to us.

10:45 The ex-boyfriend apparently lived in Massachusetts and had not been in touch with Risker for years.

10:53 Of course, during the investigation, they reached out to him and he's like, nope, haven't heard from her.

10:58 Police discovered that her last call to Goff was on the evening of September 19th of 03 and that was withheld from them as well.

11:10 I'm sure that when they looked through her cell phone, they saw that the two had a conversation that evening, and golf then changed his story.

11:19 He claimed that the two got into an argument, but she came back that evening and then the following day, she left for Europe with two suitcases.

11:29 Then it came out that Risker's friends told investigators that Goff had another wife.

11:35 They didn't know about that until then police visited Sheila, who was in Santa Barbara with the kids when Joy disappeared, how convenient for him to send her away.

11:48 And she said she went there because Goff wanted special time with joy.

11:54 Goff walked into the PD and his story changed again.

11:59 He said that she had an accident at home and was, quote unquote, killed.

12:05 Now, I'm no police officer.

12:08 But I mean, we know when stories change like this, it's never the truth.

12:13 He was obviously guilty when he was pressed about the location of Risker's body after he told the police that she was killed.

12:23 That's when he lawyered up.

12:24 He asked for an attorney.

12:26 He was placed under arrest at that time.

12:29 And then investigators went to the home, Sheila said that she was in Santa Barbara at the time.

12:36 Goff called her and told her that Risker would no longer be living with them and that there had been an accident.

12:44 Ok.

12:45 This is not ok.

12:47 I mean, evidently Sheila is definitely, her views are skewed a little bit on what's normal in a relationship.

12:56 But Goff asked her to help clean up the blood when she got home.

13:00 Let's just leave it here.

13:01 Y'all, come on back and we'll, we'll clean it up together.

13:05 Cell tower info did confirm that Sheila was in Santa Barbara when Risker disappeared, and Sheila did give police permission to search the home and of course blood and computer evidence was found.

13:18 Sean had also not only text messaged but sent multiple emails to Risker friends trying to make them believe that it was her.

13:27 Sean Goff was officially charged with murder, but without a body, questionable purchases were made on Goff's credit cards at a hardware store.

13:39 Ok.

13:39 This is not weird when your wife just disappeared.

13:42 He bought a hacksaw, a shovel, an ice pick, a sledgehammer, and a tarp.

13:49 Now, the only thing that's missing is duct tape.

13:52 I mean, again, I love stupid criminals because they're so easy to catch and easy to prosecute.

13:59 But those items that he purchased could not be found afterward.

14:04 But by purchasing them.

14:06 They knew that he had planned to kill her ahead of time.

14:09 This was not a crime of passion where he was standing in the kitchen and grabbed a kitchen knife.

14:14 He planned this out because he went to the store and purchased all these items.

14:18 Goff had rented a car that weekend as well.

14:22 We see that commonly too.

14:23 We don't want blood in our car.

14:24 Right?

14:25 Because then, when the police come look at our vehicle, there's going to be trace evidence.

14:29 He rented a car but wasn't smart enough to realize that the police would find out.

14:33 He rented a car and still gain access to the vehicle that he drove mileage showed that he traveled about 800 miles.

14:41 They believe that he went about 400 miles wherever he was and 400 miles back.

14:48 Goff refused to provide the location of her body.

14:52 Three months later, two hikers stumbled upon bones in the desert of Maricopa County, Arizona, which is approximately 400 miles from San Diego.

15:03 The bones had been mixed with stones, the teeth and fingers were absent.

15:09 But the DNA did confirm that it was Joy Risker.

15:13 Two years after that, Goff did trial claiming that he killed her in self-defense after the two fought over a knife and he said that he stabbed her accidentally and then stabbed her again, out of panic.

15:28 It's like her running into the knife, right?

15:30 It was an accident you know, it's, yeah, I know.

15:34 And you know, in a true accident, a normal person is going to call the police and say, oh my God, there's been an accident and not like hide the body, rent a car, and drive 400 miles to hide the body.

15:48 Goff stated that after he stabbed her accidentally out of panic the second time that she went limp, it's believed that he intended on ending their relationship.

16:01 But Goff convinced her to meet him for dinner and then he attacked her with a knife and dismembered her in the bathroom.

16:09 Now, in 2006, a jury found him guilty of murder and sentenced him to 26 years.

16:16 And he is currently housed at the Valley State Prison in Coachella, California.

16:22 When originally questioned, Goff was asked about the location of Risker's body.

16:28 He stated that he wasn't sure that he should answer the question.

16:31 I mean, guilty.

16:34 Goff testified at the trial and claimed that he acted in self-defense.

16:39 Sheila also testified that she met Goff at church in Oklahoma City when she was 15.

16:45 Goff was seven years older than Sheila and married Sheila when she was 17.

16:51 Scary, right?

16:52 This guy's a youth pastor years ago, he marries a 17-year-old that he met when she was 15 and then he meets Joy at a young age through the church.

17:07 She left just like joy was also a part of Goff's youth group in Oklahoma City.

17:14 In 1996 she became pregnant with Kaylin and Sheila found out that Goff wanted a polygamist relationship after that, and she agreed because she feared that she would lose him and that he would somehow get custody of their child.

17:31 Ultimately, she hung on for those reasons.

17:34 Now, in 1997 Sheila and Sean Goff were married and then Risker moved in shortly after that.

17:43 Now, Goff was in charge of family finances, even though he had filed for bankruptcy twice.

17:50 And he told Risker friends that if she ever left him, he would not let her take the Children.

17:57 Goff had a previous conversation with a friend about a possible screenplay about how investigators catch people who commit murder, mistakes, murderers make and how to hide a body so that no evidence was left behind.

18:13 The idea included how to cut a body in pieces, using acid to disintegrate it and washing it down the drain to hide it.

18:21 Weird that he would have that conversation about a screenplay idea like that hasn't happened before.

18:27 I mean, how many movies have we seen where people dismember bodies in the bathtub and hide the body?

18:34 And I mean, come on, this is not an original idea.

18:38 A couple of weeks before the murder.

18:40 Goff told a friend that things were not really working out between him and joy and that she was sloppy and lazy.

18:47 And then he needed to quote unquote, get rid of her.

18:50 Not only does he not hide the evidence when he goes to the store and buys all this stuff to kill her.

18:55 He tells his friends; you know that he needed to get rid of her.

18:59 And then he tells Sheila that she moved down.

19:03 She's not coming back.

19:05 Sheila made plans to go to Santa Barbara and Goff and Risker did not want her to go, but Sheila arranged to go with the three boys.

19:14 That weekend, Goff rented a dodge Durango and told Sheila that it was going to be used to move Joy's belongings out of the house because he was going to ask her to leave on September 13th of 03 is when he made the purchases, the shovel the pickax, the hacksaw.

19:35 He also did, this was at Lowe's.

19:38 He also purchased a chisel, a tow chain and 75 ft of rope and two padlocks.

19:46 This is definitely preplanned.

19:48 But the same morning, Goff went to Walmart and purchased a large cooler glove, five-gallon paint buckets, two rolls of plastic sheeting.

19:58 Here's the duct tape and a butcher knife with eight-inch blade and a 6 ft step ladder.

20:04 Sheila stated that he placed them in the garage and had planned to use them for yard work, which he never did.

20:11 Yeah, I mean, it just sounds suspicious given all the other things that he bought too.

20:14 But on September 13th 03, Sheila and the boys left on their trip.

20:20 Now on September 21st, Sheila was driving home, and Goff told her that Joy had cut herself because he was going to take the Children and file for custody.

20:31 See how many times this guy's story changed.

20:34I mean, he's so inconsistent.

20:36 When Sheila returned home, all the blinds were closed and there was blood in the bathroom, the bed and on a mattress in Joy's room.

20:45 Sheila cleaned up the blood, there was also a rug missing and another rug in the dryer, obviously, he rolled her up in the rug.

20:55 Originally, Goff returned home alone on the 22nd and Sheila testified that the SUV was very dirty and there were gas cans in it and that Goff had scratches on his arms and his clothes were torn.

21:11 He threw away the clothes and the shoes that he was wearing.

21:15 Now the SUV that was rented from Enterprise showed that he had driven over 1200 miles when he disappeared.

21:26 This is just like the weirdest story and the worst.

21:31I mean, definitely did not do a good job of covering anything up or hiding anything.

21:37 But this story, I mean, it's so disheartening because this guy was in the church and allowed to work around Children probably didn't have a history of doing anything wrong.

21:47 And then basically met Sheila, you know, when she was a child, she was 17 and then coerced her into marrying him.

21:57 And then when he did the same with joy, that's just kind of, I don't know, it's gross.

22:04 It's sick that he would use the church to try to meet young girls and become the youth pastor with that in mind.

22:12 Which sounds like he did.

22:14 He obviously didn't care that the church wouldn't like what he did because he did it anyway.

22:19 But anyway, this story, I don't know, I just look in, you know, a couple weeks ago when I did the one on the other preachers and I was like, man, I mean, and not that you can't really single out that profession because, you know, there are nurses that kill, there are doctors that kill, there are police officers that kill, I guess what's really sad about it all is even people that we trust are capable.

22:43 I guess that's what makes the world kind of a scary place because we've learned growing up to trust people.

22:51 And now over the years after all these crimes have been committed, we find out that we really can't.

22:57 And so when we start grouping them, you know, look at all these pastors who've killed and look at all these nurses that have killed, you know, we tend to want to distrust everyone in that profession after that.

23:09 But we can't, I mean, there are still good people.

23:12 I would never kill anybody.

23:14 There are good people and there are bad people, you know, in every profession but I thought y'all might like that story.

23:20 I am headed to the medical examiner's office this morning.

23:24 I am hoping that the county is good to me, because I'm a little bit tired, I didn't sleep very good.

23:30 I watched The Bachelor last night and the night before I was up till two in the morning because I was two episodes behind because I didn't get to watch it when I was in North Dakota.

23:40 I start watching something like that y'all and I cannot stop watching it.

23:45 It drives me crazy.

23:46 I lay there awake and then, you know, rethink the whole show and it's just hard to kind of relax after that.

23:53 But anyway, I hope that you'll have an amazing week again.

23:58 I'm going to start looking into doing some training classes that I can use for CEU’s and I would love to know if anyone is interested.

24:06 If you would reach out, send me an email at Julie at Pushing up lilies.com and I would love to hear your input.

24:14 And I think that if I put some out that were good for CEU’s that it would really teach people a lot of things about this career that they need to know no matter what your position in a hospital or a home care setting.

24:28 Have a wonderful week and stay safe and dry or out of the mud or wherever you are.

24:36 And I will talk to you all next week.

24:38 Bye.

24:40 Thank you so much for joining me today on Pushing Up Lilies.

24:43 If you like this podcast and would like to share with others, please do me a quick favor and leave a review on Apple podcast.

24:51 This helps to make the podcast more visible to the public.

24:54 Thanks again for spending your time with me and be sure to visit me at PushingUpLilies.com for merchandise and past episodes.