This is an update to: Youth pastor slays wife, confesses. Why, oh why?
Note: On 12/15 I updated this post with a comment found off the Web, and some commentary.
Eric Brian Golden had his first day in court yesterday. Golden’s confession was read to the the court by Detective LaPrentice Mayes, and other testimony was apparently provided, including some of Golden’s statements to the police outside the transcript. (Remember, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…”). Judge Lawrence Dillon is sending Golden to the grand jury, charged with murder.
New information paints a more troubling picture of the Golden family life. According to Brian Golden, marriage had already been “rocky” for two years—with the trouble apparently beginning after their move to Southside. There was drinking going on (Golden claims DeeDee had already been drinking by the time he arrived home after work at five pm on that day), and anger regarding some unidentified member of the youth group Brian had taken to the mall.
Additionally, testimony implies that while this may have not been a planned murder, it’s looking more and more like something that resulted from excessive rage (from the testimony, it sounds like her neck was broken by twisting, not throttling) and possibly an erosion of control fueled by alcohol. What seems damning—to me, admittedly from afar, in my comfortable and isolated armchair commentator’s perspective—is Golden’s immediate and elaborate extended reaction: get the church’s shovels, burn some personal effects—in another county, bury the body, hide the evidence.
Again, all of this brings me back to my original probe: How can a married couple in ministry under a senior pastor have a “rocky” marriage for two years without anybody in the church knowing about it? If Brian’s claims are true, how long could DeeDee have managed to be drinking heavily before 5 pm without somebody in the church catching on? We have at least the following risk indicators:
1) a difficult marriage
2) a fighting couple
3) possible alcohol abuse
4) possible excessive attention paid to a member of the youth group
Surely these things become evident as they escalate, don’t they?
I’m not trying to lay blame at anybody else’s feet but Brian’s for what happened here. But I guess what I’m saddened over is not just the loss of DeeDee’s life and the grief of her family and friends, but I’m disturbed that the Golden’s were suffering and nobody in the community knew it.
How is it possible to do ministry and remain so isolated? How well do I know my pastors? What would I do if I sensed a marriage was in trouble, that strong drink is clouding senses, that a minister is too attentive to someone else in the church? Would I have the courage to encourage, confront, advise? Would I inform? What would my church’s reaction be? Would it over-react? Would more damage be done in the reaction than in the silent hope that the problems will resolve themselves?
Do the problems ever “resolve themselves” without exposure or do they just move on, and change addresses?
The WTOC, channel 11, website has a video excerpt from the hearing, with some commentary. You can view it here, but I’m providing a transcript of Det. Mayes’ words, because the details are telling.
Mayes reading: “I feel like a monster for what I have done to everyone, especially my son.”
Mayes commenting: “He had took a … one of the kids from the youth ministry groups to the mall, and the argument kinda stems from that.”
Reading, again: “One of my hands was on her face, and the other one was behind her head. As we wrestled, we lost our footing, and fell. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but at some point her head twisted and it felt like her neck was broken. We landed on the floor, her on the bottom and me on top. I could tell she was badly injured. She didn’t move at all and she had the oddest look on her face, like it was frozen in shock. I reached for where we were on the floor and grabbed a pillow. I placed it over her face to hide that look.”
“I made another terrible mistake. I decided to try to hide it. I wrapped her in a quilt, from our bed. I packed some of her things. I placed her in the trunk of her car and drove out to the woods. I buried her, and spent the next couple of days trying to hide the evidence.”
“I have caused enough pain. Her friends and family deserve to know the truth.”
Savannah Now: Murder charge against youth pastor sent to grand jury
12/15/2005 Update: An anonymous poster over at ExChristian.Net who knew the Goldens and attended DeeDee’s funeral commented on Brian and his outrage over remarks overheard at the funeral. Among other things, he had this to say:
I knew both Brian and DeeDee and from the first moment that I met them, I knew that something was wrong. Brian was and still is an unbalanced person. What is worse is the fact that people are not willing to accept the fact that what Brian did was wrong. Some of you people want to pray for him because he made a “mistake.” Breaking someone’s neck is not “making a mistake.” It is cold blooded murder. …
I could not believe some of the comments I heard at the reception after the funeral. “Brian probably had a flashback.” “We don’t blame Brian, we love him and will pray for him.”
And so the predicted anti-Christian fallout begins.
Suspicion is perfected with hindsight. Our fears are confirmed and we “knew something was wrong.” But we said nothing. We did nothing. We did not intervene. We forget the countless times groundless fears were never confirmed, and we interpret our paranoia as prescience because, sometimes, we suspect everybody. And sometimes we are right.
I continue to maintain that there was evidence aforehand, smoke before the murderous fire. Golden’s rap sheet, at least, is evidence enough. But comments like our anonymous poster’s above do not really contribute to our understanding or our ability to triage.
The last people we need to criticize are those who love the Goldens. While my comments regarding failure to intervene might be regarded as criticism, it is not meant in that spirit. I lay no blame at the feet of the church, its pastor, or its staff. My criticism, in the end, is levied at our ecclesiastical culture that foments insular individualism in ministry with an emphasis on performance over character. My reflection on this event over the last few weeks has led me to some personal convictions: I must make certain I am in a mentoring and accountability relationship with an elder. I must proactively be more transparent, myself, so that the evidence of my sins will lead to intervention and transformation. As Bethany Pledge so wisely commented on my first post:
We need to get caught, all of us. We need our sin to find us out; we need others to keep us truthful. Getting caught may be painful, awkward, and embarrassing, but it’s our only hope. How could we have been so blind?
Christ, catch me early, for I know I too am a sinner and capable of such a fall.
[tags]BlogRodent, Assemblies-of-God, Assembly-of-God, youth-pastor, murder, strangulation, ministerial-credentials, Assemblies-of-God-youth-pastor, Pentecostal-youth-pastor, Southside-Assembly-of-God, Eric-Brian-Golden, Brian-Golden, DeeDee-Golden, Deadra-Golden, Fort-Stewart, Georgia, Chatham-County, confession, Stone-Lake, Savannah, Army, Army-veteran, crime, violent-crime, domestic-abuse, manslaughter[/tags]