Trumbull prosecutor softer on killer’s release

WARREN – Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins stopped short of saying a convicted local murderer should be released after serving 13 years in prison.

But Watkins – normally adamant that any convicted violent criminal serve their maximum sentence – says Ohio’s Parole Board should consider special circumstances in the case of David Gothay, who helped detectives working on the ”cold case” murder of 33-year-old Mary Stella Wright in 1991.

”On second thought, I think he should probably serve 20 years since he was sentenced to 20 years to life,” Watkins wrote in a letter to the parole board. ”But I truly believe there was remorse, and he (Gothay) wasn’t making any excuses. He told the detectives the truth about his story of drug addiction and murder.

”Importantly, without David Gothay’s cooperation in this case, the Mary Wright homicide would probably be unsolved today.

”In short, I believe guilt and the constant nightmares he said he has had since the murder primarily led to him telling the truth and taking responsibility for the murder. Therefore … I feel the parole board should take this into consideration when weighing whether he is suitable material for release in the future,” Watkins wrote.

Gothay, 51, an inmate in Grafton Correctional Institution, comes up for his first parole next month.

It wasn’t until 1999, though, that Lt. Joe Marhulik and Gary Fonce, Warren detectives, gained a confession and an indictment for capital murder charges in the eight-year-old unsolved murder case.

Gothay also was accused of stealing a television set from the apartment of Wright, who was found dead inside a Tulip Court S.W. residence days after the killing on April 12, 1991. She was strangled with a telephone cord.

Watkins said in his letter that Wright, 33, was a drug abuser and had a history of having unsavory characters visiting her, many of whom were drug addicts. Gothay knew Wright and lived near her but he was among a group of people that police were not able to link to the murder. A main suspect in the case committed suicide shortly after the murder.

The case remained unsolved after leads dried up for Warren detectives shortly after examining what they called an apartment so cluttered that clues were hard to find.

Gothay was extradited in July 1999 from Louisville, Ky., after he was arrested on charges of failing to pay child support to a former wife.

It’s believed the disgruntled ex-wife may have supplied details to Louisville police before Marhulik and Fonce traveled to Kentucky and got a statement from Gothay.

A more detailed audio and video statement was given by Gothay when he voluntarily returned to Ohio to face charges.

Watkins insists that the confession should be reviewed by the parole board.