Convicted killer paroled, released after decades in prison for NC State student’s death
After spending decades in prison for a murder he says he didn’t commit, Gary Goldman walked free on Tuesday.
The state Post-Release Supervision & Parole Commission recently granted Goldman parole.
“It’s not completely hit me yet,” he said as he walked out of Johnston Correctional Institution in Smithfield and into hugs from family members and supporters.
Goldman was convicted in 1983 of beating Elizabeth “Betsy” Parks Rosenberg to death eight years earlier. Rosenberg, a 24-year-old graduate student, was leaving North Carolina State University’s library when Goldman tried to take her purse and beat her with a metal pipe, according to evidence presented during his trial.
Now 61, Goldman was 17 at the time of the crime.
He was in prison in Georgia for killing a store clerk during a robbery when he was charged with Rosenberg’s slaying. He said Tuesday that he committed the Georgia murder and served the minimum required sentence for it, but he had nothing to do with Rosenberg’s death.
“Early on, I felt like [the North Carolina conviction] would be overturned. and when it wasn’t, I kind of felt that I was guilty of the one in Georgia and this is just karma, an extension of that,” he said. “I really wasn’t bitter about it.”
Chris Mumma, director of the North Carolina Center for Actual Innocence, worked on Goldman’s release and said there is no DNA evidence that links him to Rosenberg’s death.
“They used a jailhouse snitch,” Mumma said. “A friend of his who was also threatened with the murder.”
Even Rosenberg’s sister, Jean Parks, a psychologist in Asheville, now believes Goldman might be innocent and asked the parole commission to release him.
“I knew he was likely innocent. I also learned how he had been rehabilitated in prison,” Parks said by phone Tuesday.
Parks had vehemently opposed his release for years before learning about the case and about how common it was for people to be wrongly convicted.
“I do feel like he has turned his life around,” she said. “It was time for him to have a chance on the outside.”
“It was unbelievable,” Goldman said of Parks’ support. “I was stunned and so grateful.”
Parks’ testimony, along with Goldman’s age at the time of the crime – the U.S. Supreme Court several years ago asked stated to review the life sentences of people convicted as teens – and the job skills he picked up in prison likely influenced the commission’s decision.
While Goldman was in prison, he graduated from a program called New Leash on Life, in which inmates train dogs in preparation for adoption by families with special needs. He already has a job lined up with a veterinarian in Garner.
“In working with the dogs, I’ve learned about compassion. I’ve learned patience that you wouldn’t believe, and these were things that I had not picked up earlier,” he said.
Mumma said she will continue working to exonerate Goldman in Rosenberg’s death.
“We’re not done. He’ll be with family, but it’s not justice for him (and) not justice for Betsy,” she said.
″“Now that I’m out, I can spend a lot of time going through files – what files we can find – and hopefully the process will move quicker now,” Goldman said.
Former Duke University men’s basketball coach Bucky Waters was among the family members who greeted Goldman outside Johnston Correctional. Waters is a cousin of Goldman and said he has sought his release for years.
“It’s like the sun breaking through the clouds,” Waters said of Goldman’s release. “It’s been a war, and it’s not over. We want him exonerated.”
Greg Taylor, who Mumma helped exonerate of a murder charge in 2010, said he spent time in prison with Goldman, and he was there to greet him on the outside Tuesday.
“Today is especially poignant,” Taylor said, noting he also spent time in Johnston Correctional. “I’m very happy for Gary and his family.
Taylor offered a bit of advice to Goldman upon his release: Be patient in trying to adjust to life after prison.