A Catoosa County, Ga., woman accused of murdering a mother to steal that woman's children faces a possible punishment of death.
If convicted, she would be only the second woman on Georgia's death row.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin filed a motion Thursday to seek the death penalty against Catherine Goins. Investigators say she killed Natalia Roberts because she wanted Roberts' kids.
And she wanted Roberts' kids because she wanted her boyfriend back. He left her, according to the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office, because she lied to him about being pregnant.
The sheriff's office arrested Goins on Sept. 23, and at the time investigators weren't sure whether she planned to win her boyfriend back by pretending Roberts' children were hers. Goins faces charges of murder, armed robbery, aggravated assault, kidnapping and possession of a firearm in the commission of a crime.
Franklin's office was closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and he did not return an email seeking comment.
Prosecutors rarely pursue the death penalty against women. Of the 85 inmates on death row in Georgia at the beginning of last year, according to the Department of Corrections, only one inmate was female: Kelly Gissendaner, who was convicted in Gwinnett County in 1998.
There are also only two death row inmates who were convicted in the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit. Donnie Allen Hulett was sentenced to death in 2004, and Jonathan Jarrells was sentenced in 1988, though another judge sent his case back to Walker County on a technicality in 1991. It is still tied up in court.
Goins' attorney, Public Defender David Dunn, said the judicial circuit's four judges are deciding which one of them will preside over the case. Then, that judge will hold a lengthy series of pretrial hearings that are mandated when prosecutors seek the death penalty.
If Franklin continues to pursue this punishment, Dunn will not represent Goins. By law, attorneys from the Georgia Capital Defenders Office must handle the case.
In murder trials, lawyers typically choose between two routes of defense: Either the police mistook the defendant for the real killer, or the defendant killed the victim in self-defense. Dunn could not discuss his strategy Monday, though, because in September he requested a gag order.
After his department arrested Goins, Sheriff Gary Sisk said during a news conference that she met her victim hours before the murder. Goins had spotted her children: a 3-year-old and a 3-week-old.
"Catherine Goins killed Natalia Roberts for her baby," Sisk said.
According to the sheriff's office, Goins told Roberts she had some old baby clothes she could give her.
Roberts agreed to meet Goins at the home of Tony Richards, Goins' friend who had given her access to his house. Richards was at work that day. Inside, according to the sheriff's office, as Roberts walked down a flight of stairs, Goins pointed a pistol at the back of her head and pulled the trigger.
Sisk would not say in September whether Roberts' children were in the house when she was killed, but did allege that Goins put the baby and the toddler in her car and drove away. She called Richards, and told him what had happened. He told her to call 911.
She didn't. But investigators say that Richards convinced her to come back to his house. He then called the police.
Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6476.