Judge denies bid to dismiss manslaughter charge in Plant High teen’s overdose

Titan Goodson’s lawyer argued there was no proof he supplied the heroin that killed Katie Golden, 17. Trial is set for December.
Titan Goodson points to visitors in the courtroom during his unsuccessful motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge against him Thursday.
Titan Goodson points to visitors in the courtroom during his unsuccessful motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge against him Thursday. [ SCOTT KEELER | Scott Keeler ]
Published Nov. 15, 2019

TAMPA — A judge denied an effort Thursday to dismiss the case against a Tampa man accused of manslaughter in the heroin overdose death of his former girlfriend.

That means a jury will likely decide next month if Titan Goodson, 20, is responsible for the death of 17-year-old Katie Golden.

Goodson’s attorney, Norman Cannella Sr., argued unsuccessfully that the case against him is thin and the state has no proof his client provided Golden with the drugs that killed her.

“This case is one that hangs on a shoestring,” Cannella said in court.

A prosecutor acknowledged the largely circumstantial nature of the evidence, but said it is clear Goodson showed a “reckless disregard for human life.”

“There are a lot of circumstances that clearly demonstrate the defendant bought heroin that day and supplied it to Ms. Golden,” Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon said.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Melissa Polo quickly denied the defense’s motion. The trial is set for Dec. 9.

Katie Golden died from a drug overdose in April 2017. She was 17.
Katie Golden died from a drug overdose in April 2017. She was 17. [ Tampa Bay Times ]

Related: Man accused in Plant High senior’s overdose death wants case dismissed

Goodson stood throughout the 45-minute hearing wearing an orange jail jacket, his chin held high. When he entered, he smiled and made hand gestures toward relatives who sat in the courtroom gallery.

State Attorney Andrew Warren sat nearby along with several high-ranking employees of his office. They chatted privately afterward with Golden’s parents, Cliff and Dawn Golden, who have said they want someone held responsible for her death.

Golden was weeks away from graduating from Plant High School when she died April 18, 2017. She had been found three days earlier, unconscious and not breathing, in the Harbour Island condominium where Goodson lived with his grandparents, Sherman and Sandra Brod.

In the months that followed, Golden’s story became a local focal point in the broader conversation about how to combat the nation’s opioid crisis. Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions even mentioned her name in a February 2018 speech during a visit to Tampa.

Related: Parents of Plant High cheerleader urge others to learn from her death by heroin overdose

In court, attorney Cannella noted that Tampa police labeled Golden’s death an accident before they closed their investigation. A detective wrote in a police report that state prosecutors concluded there was not enough evidence to charge him and that it could not be disproved that Golden bought the heroin herself.

But in October 2018, a grand jury indicted Goodson.

Harmon, the prosecutor, wrote in a court document that further evidence came to light after the police closed their death investigation. It included new witness statements and a forensic examination of Golden’s cell phone.

Golden left her parents’ home the morning of April 14, 2017. Harmon noted records which indicate Golden and Goodson took an Uber ride from Harbour Island just before noon and ended up in the 4700 block of Taliaferro Street in Seminole Heights.

The prosecutor wrote that witnesses have identified a man who lives on that block who goes by the nickname “Yoda.” He is a known heroin dealer, Harmon wrote. It is alleged that he was the drug supplier for Golden and Goodson.

Harmon also noted that Goodson had a friend help him pawn a computer at a pawn shop that day. A Tampa police detective testified in a deposition that it is common for people to sell or pawn items to get money to buy drugs. Goodson didn’t mention pawning the computer when he was later questioned by police.

Related: Lawsuit filed against grandparents of teen blamed in Plant High senior’s heroin death

He did admit that they both snorted heroin that night, according to a police report. Afterward they fell asleep. He awoke about midnight and found Golden breathing but unresponsive. He called his father, who told him to place ice packs on her body. After doing so, Goodson went back to sleep.

When he awoke again at about 5:30 a.m., he found her cold, her skin blue, according to police records. He summoned his grandparents, who called 911.

If convicted of manslaughter, Goodson faces a possible penalty of 15 years in prison.