Man arrested for killing 17-year old Merced girl appears in court

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Signs with the face of a murdered Merced teen were held high in front of the Merced County courthouse.

Family and friends came in support of 17-year old Heaven Murillo as her mother saw Heaven's alleged killer in court for the first time.

"I feel horrible , because I know he's close by. I have to see him," said Joanna Murillo, Heaven's mother.

Benjamin Goddard sat silent during his preliminary hearing. He's facing charges involving soliciting a minor and murder in connection with the teens death in 2017.

Medical and law enforcement officers testified that , based on forensic reports, Murillo suffered several fractures to her face.

The defense argued that while the coroner ruled her death a homicide, the report states Heaven's cause of death is still a question.

Prosecutors questioned investigators on their interviews with Goddard, and claim he even admitted to the murder while talking to an undercover officer

"He said that he hadn't killed anybody, and towards the end of that sentence...said not on purpose," said John Pinnegar, Merced Police Department.

However, defense attorneys say Goddard repeatedly told officers he didn't kill the teen, and argue there's no proof the suspect was the last person to see Murillo

"Beyond your belief , you have no evidence that Benjamin is the last person to see Heaven. The way you form that question and the evidence I have before me, no," said Moses Nelson, Merced Police Investigator.

The teen's mother says wants justice...and ultimately, they want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else.

"I want everyone to know Heaven was here, I want other teens to know what can happen to them when they go out in the street," said Joanna Murillo.

Goddard's preliminary hearing is expected to continue on Friday.
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