In recent years, the Denver District Attorney's Office has put an emphasis on closing cold cases. Now, the office has announced that it's solved the brutal 1997 slaying of Surle Goldfogel, 67, and while the family has expressed gratitude, the resolution isn't complete. Jonathan Clinton, a heroin addict said to have committed the murder, is dead, and his mother, ID'd as Jill Clinton, won't be charged with a crime even though she's allegedly known for years that her son was guilty and lied to authorities about it. Photos, details and more below.
Because Jonathan Clinton died in 2003, allegedly of causes related to his addiction, there is no arrest affidavit in his name. However, the DA's office generated a supplementary report, on view below, which details a dogged investigation for which Detective Troy Bisgard and Commander Ron Saunier are credited with carrying to completion.
At around 3 p.m. on January 25, 1997 (just over eighteen years ago), Denver police officers were called to 57 South Jasmine Street. Upon their arrival, they found Goldfogel's body. The report says she was "lying on the pantry floor with her head in a puddle of blood." An autopsy later determined that she'd died from blunt-force trauma of the head and chest.
Goldfogel's sister said they'd spoken late the previous night and had planned to get their hair styled the next day. When Surle didn't show up for the appointment, her sister went to her home and made the shocking discovery.
Initially, Goldfogel's head had been covered with a rug, which was entered into evidence along with a towel, cigarette butts and a window and window screen that appeared to have been the entry point for the killer, presumed to have been a burglar who'd committed murder after breaking into the house. Yet neither fingerprints nor DNA could be traced to a killer, and while numerous interviews were conducted at the time, no arrests were made.
Little progress on the case was made for more than a decade, despite efforts to retest and review evidence in 2007, 2009 and 2010. But in 2011 came a break. A tipster called the cops to point the finger at Jonathan Clinton. Turns out he and his mom, identified by 9News as Jill Clinton, were living across the street from Goldfogel's place with his grandmother.
The caller said they were both heroin addicts and cited conversations with both Jill and the grandmother suggesting that Jonathan was responsible for the Goldfogel's death.
DNA samples were taken from various parties over the next couple of years, but the case remained stalled -- and a 2013 tip claiming that someone else had killed Goldfogel didn't speed up the process. But along the way, investigators discovered that Jonathan had been interviewed in the immediate aftermath of Goldfogel's death, and after denying any wrongdoing (and even passing a polygraph test), he'd given the cops four other names of people he thought had been committing burglaries in the area.
These former friends were subsequently quizzed, and they said Jonathan was actually the burglar -- and claimed his mom was his "fence," tasked with selling the items he sold or trading them for heroin. They added that Jonathan had become "extremely paranoid" and began having "hallucinations about people coming to get him" after the Goldfogel murder.
Jill Clinton was interviewed twice in 2013, including once after she was arrested on an unrelated matter. Each time, she denied knowing anything about Jonathan having committed the murder -- although she also failed a polygraph test. According to the report, it wasn't until September 2014, after police learned she'd been paying her ex-husband $400 a month not to rat her out about the murder, that she confirmed Jonathan had murdered Goldfogel when the victim had come back unexpectedly and found him in her house. He'd punched her and fled without taking anything, Jill said.
This information convinced Denver DA Mitch Morrissey to declare the case cleared. Her family reacted to this news by releasing the following statement:
18 years is a brutally long time to live with pain and uncertainty. Nearly 7,000 sunrises...countless missed weddings, births and holidays each tainted by loss and grief that we couldn't reconcile. The uncertainty was daunting and the senseless brutality unimaginable.
Time and circumstances have erased the chance for real justice. All that's left is any solace and closure that comes with finally knowing the truth. There were those who knew and stayed silent which only served to generate more pain for an already raw and tattered family. Then there were those who did the right thing, came forward and spoke up, and to them we are eternally grateful.
Commander [Ron] Saunier refused to let this case be buried and forgotten. Detective [Troy] Bisgard was dogged, tireless and relentless in his pursuit of a case nearly two decades old. Their spirit, tenacity and dedication represent all that was best about Surle and virtues she would have valued and appreciated most. Thank you for not allowing her to be forgotten.
As for Jill, the DA's office has announced that she will not be charged with a crime, because the statute of limitation has elapsed.
Had Jill spoken out earlier, Goldfogel's family would have suffered through fewer than 7,000 sunrises without knowing the truth.
Below, see a larger version of Jonathan Clinton's booking photo, followed by a 1997 report by 7News about the crime, and the supplemental report.
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