Confessed killer says he may have been on steroids

Steven L. Goff, 41, of Ventnor, wipes his eyes as he makes a first appearance in court April 2, 2013 before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio, after being charged with murder for the 1990 slaying of Frederick Hart of Galloway. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
Steven L. Goff, 41, of Ventnor, wipes his eyes as he makes a first appearance in court April 2, 2013 before Superior Court Judge Michael A. Donio, after being charged with murder for the 1990 slaying of Frederick Hart of Galloway. ( TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer )
Posted: April 04, 2013

MAYS LANDING, N.J. - Steven Goff, the drifter handyman turned confessed killer, waited 23 years to admit killing 15-year-old Frederick "Rickey" Hart in the woods near Absegami High School, but his involvement in the death did not come as a surprise to local police.

Goff, 41, known as a teenager to police for a string of burglaries and a steroid distribution ring while a student at Absegami, was interviewed at the time of Hart's disappearance in May 1990, police sources said Wednesday.

He admitted nothing, the sources said, and after Hart's body was found in the woods behind the Clubs Condominium complex in December 1991, a cause of death could not be determined. A police source said any stab wounds did not cut into the bones. On Monday, after having driven first to the Canadian border, Goff reversed course and drove to the Galloway Township Police Department to surrender.

Goff continued his spree of confessions Wednesday, telling a television reporter by phone he might have been "wacked out on steroids" at the time of the murder and giving one jailhouse interview before saying he was too emotionally wrought to give another.

Police sources, meanwhile, divulged the theory of the perplexing case they first worked on 23 years ago.

"There was hearsay on the street that Goff killed him," one local police source said. "They were involved in burglaries, and it was a fight over the goods."

Another source said the two had been involved in a burglary of a home belonging to someone who may have been looking to avenge that burglary and that the two were fearful and fighting over possible fallout from that crime.

Alan Rickel, a friend for the last decade in Ventnor, where Goff had been living with his 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Biscuit, said Goff's brother had told him Goff was a wrestler at Absegami and the steroid distribution was tied into that activity. Hart was also a student at the time of his murder, a freshman to Goff's senior.

"This kid found out about it," Rickel said. "He was going to rat him out."

Absegami athletic director Steve Fortis and Steve Ciccariello, superintendent of Egg Harbor Regional School District, declined comment on any matter connected to the case.

In the phone interview with NBC 10's Ted Greenberg - Goff called Rickel while Greenberg was at the home - Goff described an agonizing 23 years that led to his coming clean on Monday.

"I just, I can't live with myself anymore," Goff said in the recorded conversation. "I was away scot-free, but you know that doesn't mean I was away in my mind."

He declined to give a specific motive, but said: "I lost control of my emotions for multiple reasons. I might have been whacked out on steroids."

Goff was confident that he had gotten away with murder. "I wasn't worried about getting caught," Goff said in the interview. "I had no chance to get caught whatsoever."

As to why he came forward now, Goff said he had become an emotional wreck. "I couldn't live with myself anymore."

"I wanted to give the family some closure," he said. "I think they're entitled to that. For 20 years, these people went to bed worrying about what happened to their son."

Linda Goff, an older sister who is a lawyer in Egg Harbor City, said she has been estranged from her brother for 25 years. She said the family became estranged around the time of his criminal activities. Their mother is ill, and their father has Alzheimer's, she said. Another brother is also estranged.

She said she has not spoken to Goff since his confession and had no plans to attend any of his future court hearings.

"Steven will have to answer to God for what he's done," she said.

In Ventnor, meanwhile, Goff's transformation from neighbor to notorious confessed murderer continued to take its toll. Some neighbors said they had been alarmed by his volatile temper and a suspected drug use.

But others were disarmed by his devotion to his dog and his interest in the burgeoning "North Beach" civic movement in his beach town neighborhood bordering Atlantic City. (Biscuit was being boarded at the Ventnor Veterinary Office and would be put up for adoption, Rickel said.)

Richard Gober, active in the neighborhood, described him in a Facebook post as "articulate and brilliant" and praised him for "stepping up to the plate and accepting total reponsibility."

In Chester Springs, Pa., meanwhile, the victim's stepsister Kathryn Fonash said the news of Goff's confession had brought up painful memories and declined to comment further.

Contact Amy S. Rosenberg at 609-576-1973 or arosenberg@phillynews.com. Follow on twitter @amysrosenberg

Staff writer Aubrey Whelan contributed to this story.

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