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She died of a heroin overdose. Was it manslaughter?

Titan Goodson stands accused in the 2017 heroin overdose death of Plant High senior Katie Golden. In an unusual trial, a jury will decide if he is responsible.

TAMPA — The 911 call came in just after 5:30 a.m.

Katie Golden, a 17-year-old Plant High senior, lay on the bedroom carpet of a Harbour Island condominium just across the water from downtown.

She wore a gray sweater and socks. Bags of ice were tucked under her armpits and down the front of her underwear. She was unconscious, not breathing, her body succumbing to the effects of heroin.

Her one-time boyfriend, Titan Goodson, struggled to revive her as his grandfather called for paramedics.

“This isn’t working,” Goodson can be heard saying on the 911 recording as he pumps her chest. “She’s dead, man. She’s dead.” Keep going, he is told, you’re helping her breathe.

“No, I’m not,” he says, starting to cry. “She’s dead. She’s been dead for ... hours.”

What Goodson did and did not do leading up to that 911 call on April 15, 2017, will soon be scrutinized by a jury to determine if he is criminally responsible for her death.

The state of Florida says Goodson, now 20, most likely gave Golden the drugs that caused her overdose. They also say he didn’t do enough to help her when she went into medical distress.

The defense counters that this was a tragic accident.

Goodson’s attorney has suggested Golden’s death was her own fault. He has also questioned the motivation of prosecutors who got Goodson indicted on a manslaughter charge a year after the case was closed by police as an accidental death.

A criminal charge for an accidental overdose is unusual, though such cases are popping up with greater frequency, particularly as authorities try to hold people accountable in the nationwide opioid crisis. But critics say these kinds of prosecutions are counter-productive because they fail to adequately address addiction and often target an addict’s friends or family rather than drug dealers.

Scheduled for trial in March, the Goodson case raises difficult questions about both personal responsibility and the law.


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

Cliff and Dawn Golden have filed a lawsuit in connection with the overdose death of their 17-year-old daughter Katie Golden. The teen was a senior at Plant High. [Times (2017)]

Katie Golden stood just shy of 5 feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. She was a cheerleader at Plant High School, weeks from graduating, with plans to study social work at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne. She could play the piano. She had a job at a bowling alley. She was the youngest of three children. She lived with her parents — Cliff Golden, a salesman for an information technology company, and Dawn Golden, an engineer with a communications firm — in the Bellamy, a high-rise condo tower on affluent Bayshore Boulevard.

She had dated Goodson. Her parents did not like him. They felt he was a bad influence.

He was a slender kid with dirty-blonde locks that draped his shoulders. He lived with his grandparents, the lawyer Sherman Brod and his wife Sandra. They were his legal guardians, an arrangement Sandra Brod later told police was partly because of Goodson’s father’s struggles with substance abuse. Records show Rocky and Michelle Goodson both have prior drug-related arrests.

The boy had his own bedroom in their Harbour Island home, where he spent most of his time with the door closed. His grandmother suspected he used drugs but never caught him with them. She said he treated her poorly. The Brods had vowed to make him move out once he graduated and turned 18.

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

Hours after Golden was rushed to the hospital, Goodson walked out of his bedroom wearing a black T-shirt, boxer shorts and socks. He sat at a dining room table beside his grandfather and spoke with three Tampa Police detectives.

He had dark circles under his eyes and trouble keeping them open, police noted in their report. They asked if he had taken drugs. He first said no but later admitted he and Golden had snorted heroin sometime after 8 p.m. They then fell asleep.

He said he woke about midnight. Golden was breathing and mumbling, but he couldn’t get her to wake up.

Unsure what to do, he phoned his father, described in court and police records as a man with a long history of heroin use. At his father’s suggestion, Goodson filled several plastic bags with ice, carried Golden to a bathtub and put the bags under her arms and around her body. She seemed to improve, he told police, so he carried her back to bed.

He woke again at about 5:30 a.m. Golden’s fingernails were blue. Her skin was cold.

The police told Goodson that Golden was at Tampa General Hospital in critical condition and might not survive. He “attempted to cry,” a detective wrote in a report, then stopped and stared.

Police asked if he had supplied the heroin they used.

“No,” he said, according to a police report. “Katie brought the heroin.”


Katie Golden, left, and Titan Goodson appear in this photo included as an exhibit in the manslaughter case against him. [Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Court]

Medical personnel managed to keep Golden’s heart beating. But when she arrived at the hospital, she was comatose, having suffered severe brain damage. She remained that way for three days before the decision was made to take her off life support. She died just after 5 p.m. April 18. It was a Tuesday.

Golden’s parents knew she previously had problems with substance abuse. They had paid to send her to rehab. But they later told a Tampa Bay Times reporter they never suspected their daughter would use heroin.

In the weeks that followed, detectives used phone and bank records, surveillance images and witness interviews to build a timeline of Golden’s whereabouts on the day leading to her overdose.

She was supposed to head to work that morning, but phoned her manager and said she wouldn’t be in that day. She went to Harbour Island instead.

There, Golden ordered an Uber that took her and Goodson to the 4700 block of Taliaferro Avenue, a narrow street dotted with modest homes running parallel to Interstate 275 in southeast Seminole Heights. The ride left Golden with just 28 cents in her bank account, a fact prosecutors say supports their theory that she had no money to buy drugs.

At 11:45 a.m., Goodson ordered an Uber that took them back to Harbour Island.

Later that day, he asked a friend for a ride to a Value Pawn shop on N Nebraska Avenue.

Surveillance video from the pawn shop showed Goodson and Golden “being playful and affectionate with each other,” detectives wrote. Their friend pawned a computer for Goodson, took a $20 cut and handed him the rest of the money — $115.

When the cops asked Goodson where he thought Golden might have gotten the heroin, he suggested a boy named Connor, whom she had dated. But when detectives talked to Connor, he said Golden only used drugs around Goodson. He also gave them a name: Yoda.

It was a nickname for a suspected drug dealer. Word was he lived somewhere along Taliaferro Avenue, right where the Uber driver took Goodson and Golden that day.

But text messages retrieved from Golden’s cell phone referenced someone else as an apparent source for drugs. It is not clear if the person she texted was Goodson. She exchanged one undated text string with an unknown person who mentioned money and “gramps” and taking an Uber to see “Angel.”

“And ima get a massive amount of s--- from Angel and we’re gonna die together,” the person wrote.

“Ahhh,” she texted back. “I can’t wait to just be in your arms.”


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

Titan Goodson, at a pre-trial court hearing, is charged with manslaughter in the 2017 heroin overdose death of 17-year-old Katie Golden. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]

The investigation lasted into the summer. By the end of it, police decided there was not enough evidence to make an arrest. A detective noted he could find no witnesses who saw Goodson give Golden the lethal dose. The police were also unable to disprove Goodson’s claim that she brought the drugs.

Detectives met with Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner, a veteran homicide prosecutor, who agreed there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges, a police report states. The case was closed as an accidental death.

Still, Golden’s parents made no secret of their desire to have someone held responsible. They spoke to reporters about closure and justice and said they had talked to the office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Prosecutors continued to gather information. In October 2018, they presented their case to a grand jury, which returned an indictment charging Goodson with manslaughter.

In a recent court hearing, Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon described the initial police investigation as “very cursory” and summarized new information that had come to light. It included sworn statements from Goodson’s relatives along with data extracted from Golden’s cell phone that gave the state “significant information about the defendant and the victim and who would provide ... the drugs.”

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon is the prosecutor handling the manslaughter case against Titan Goodson. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]

They also learned more about the man called Yoda.

His name is Garland Ryan Layton. He used to live in a house at the corner of Osborne Street and Taliaferro. One witness said he sometimes answered the door with a machine gun-style firearm strapped over his shoulder. Now on probation for heroin possession, he and two friends are listed as state witnesses. It is unclear what testimony they will offer.


Stephen Romine, a Clearwater defense lawyer not involved in the Goodson case, said unless the state can demonstrate that he committed an act that he knew or should have known would cause her to die, manslaughter will be difficult to prove. He also noted Florida law lacks a requirement to render aid to a person in medical distress.

“It’s a tragedy. But not every tragedy is a criminal act," Romine said. “Unfortunately, sometimes cases get driven by tragedy instead of what the law is supposed to be."

In April, Golden’s parents filed a lawsuit against the Brods, accusing them of allowing their grandson to possess drugs in their home.

Both families have attended court dates in the criminal case. A hearing in late November offered a preview of what could play out at trial.

“The heart of this defense," attorney Norman Cannella Sr. said, "is that Katie Golden, prior to April of 2017, was a junkie. Unfortunately, tragically ... she’s been portrayed as an angel who happened to have come in contact with the defendant. And the defendant pushed this heroin on her.”

Defense attorney Norman Cannella Sr. represents Titan Goodson, who is accused in the death of his former girlfriend, Katie Golden. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]

The state hopes to keep the jury from hearing certain information about Golden, including testimony that she was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression, any word of troubles at school or that she had run away from home and any mention of her time in drug rehab.

But they also want to tell the jury about Goodson’s past. In particular, there is a 2016 phone call Michelle Goodson made to her son while she was locked up on misdemeanor charges.

It was the day of Tampa’s Gasparilla parade, and Goodson boasted of buying pills and cocaine. He was going to be with Golden that day.

“It’s going to be a day, mom,” he said. She suggested doing the cocaine before the pills. She asked where he got the drugs. From Yoda, he said.

“Please be safe with what you’re doing,” she said.

“I will, mom. Bye, I love you.”