Belynda’s pastor, Reverend Mark W. Lenneville, has written a letter to Governor Hutchinson on Belynda’s behalf. He has been by Belynda’s side since this tragedy began, two decades ago.
Dear Governor Hutchinson:
I am writing this letter in support of Belynda Goff’s request for release from prison and grant of clemency.
I have known Belynda Goff for nearly 20 years. During this time I served as her and her family’s pastor and counselor. I was with her at the time of her husband’s murder, through the tragic arson to her house, at the death of her sister, at the senseless killing of her pets by “unknown persons,” at her arrest, investigation, indictment, incarceration, pre-trial activities, trial, sentencing, post-trial events and confinement. I have been there when she, her family and friends received the news about her trial sentence, the appeal for a retrial that was granted and subsequently overturned, and through the process of appeal to the Federal Courts. I have struggled with her dealing with incompetent representation (according to the Circuit Court Judge) and a tainted and eventually censored judge, according to the Arkansas Judicial Disciplinary Board. I witnessed, with her, inadequate police investigation and reporting prior to the trial and at the trial. I was even privy to a likely scenario of events that never fell on the jury’s ears because of her attorney’s “trial strategy.” It has been a long and hard journey for Belynda and all of those concerned about Belynda, her ailing mother and children.
When she joined the First Presbyterian Church in Berryville, her passion and commitment to doing God’s work became apparent quickly. Belynda demonstrated a faith-filled spirit, trust in God and commitment to the belief that God would make all things right and good. She bolstered those who lacked the depth of faith and commitment to Christ. She demonstrated the attributes of a loving and caring parent as she helped her three children deal with the events surrounding the death of their father/stepfather and her subsequent incarceration. She shared her journey and insights with those who were close and far, touching lives through her demonstration of the Love of God that she owned and experienced. She lived a pure and righteous life in obedience to God’s Word and her faith, prior to the events of her husband’s murder, throughout those stress-filled and dark days that followed, and while incarcerated.
Belynda is a caring and nurturing person. She has been a witness to and a source for hope for those behind bars and those who walk in freedom. She is intelligent, having earned a Bachelor and Master degree in religious studies while incarcerated. She is articulate and personable, despite the prison culture. She is tenacious, working hard at everything that she does and performing her tasks well. She has been given additional duties and privileges in prison because of her diplomacy, skill and veracity. She is honest. She is a dedicated and responsible person. Despite the distances between her home in Green Forest and the various prisons that she has been in, she guided her mother’s rearing of the children. Her daughter is a college graduate and is married with a child. Her one son was in the Marine Corps and her other son lives with his sister. She is wise beyond her years, drawing on what she knows as Truth and what she intuitively grasps. When all around her are loosing their heads, Belynda is a calming and hope-filled presence.
I am certain that Belynda would be able to find a job, once released. She is industrious. She is also an accomplished writer and I am sure that she has a “book in her” regarding the past twenty years of her life. Belynda is a hard worker and does not shirk responsibility. Even during the stress of the investigation and trial she was never late for work and would always follow through with her commitments. What employer would not be pleased with a bright, caring, personable, committed, insightful, and articulate independent thinker? Her previous employers felt that she was worthy of employment and I am certain that future employers would feel that same way.
My prayer is that you will find it within your heart to return Belynda to her family, society and freedom. If nothing else, I feel that she is worthy of your serious prayers on her behalf and wisdom discerning her ability to, once again, be returned to society and productivity. May God bless you as you ponder this important decision regarding this person who has served her time and is now ready to be released from prison.
The Reverend Mark W. Lenneville, MBA, MTS, MDiv., LTC (Ret)
Honorably Retired Minister at Large- Presbytery of Arkansas
Managing Partner, Uniformed Services Health Professional Placement (USHPP)