One Woman Is on Death Row in Kentucky

Virginia Caudill Was Sentenced to Death

Fuzzy black and white image of a jail cell, photo with dark overtones.

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There is only one woman on Kentucky's death row: Virginia Caudill. What did she do to earn her place on death row?

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The Crime

On March 13, 1998, Virginia Caudill and Steve White were living together when they got into an argument over Caudill's drug use. As a result, Caudill moved out and went to a local crack house.

Once there, she ran into an old friend, Jonathan Goforth, whom she had not seen in 15 years. The two hung out together for the rest of the night. The following afternoon, Goforth gave Caudill a ride to Steve White's mother's home to ask her for money. 

The Murder

Hearing that Caudill had moved out from her son's home, Lonetta White, who was 73 years old, agreed to give Caudill around $30 for a hotel room. Caudill decided to use the money to buy cocaine instead.

On March 15, at around 3 a.m., with the cocaine gone and in need of more, Caudill and Goforth returned to Ms. White's home. When White answered the door, she was bludgeoned to death.

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Turning on Each Other

On March 15, the police questioned Caudill. She denied any involvement, stating that she had spent the evening with Goforth. Before authorities had an opportunity to talk to Goforth, the two fled the state, first going to Ocala, Florida, then to Gulfport, Mississippi.

After two months on the run together, Caudill left Goforth in Gulfport and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, where she was arrested six months later. She confessed to being present during White's murder, stating that Goforth was responsible.

The Proverbial Unidentified Black Man

Goforth was arrested shortly afterward and told police that Caudill and an unidentified African-American man murdered White. He later admitted in court that he had fabricated the part about there being a second male at the scene.

He Said, She Said

Caudill and Goforth blamed each other for the murder. According to Caudill, when White answered the door, Caudill asked her for more money for a hotel room. When White turned to go get it, Goforth bludgeoned the woman without warning. He then tied Caudill's hands together and made her sit in a bedroom while he ransacked the home.

Goforth then convinced Caudill to help him dispose of White's body, which he had wrapped up in a carpet. After placing her body into the trunk of White's car, Caudill and Goforth drove the car and his truck to a vacant field, where they set the car on fire.

Goforth Points the Finger at Caudill

During the trial, Goforth testified that the roles were reversed, and Caudill attacked White. He said that Caudill used the excuse that they were having car trouble to get into White's home and once inside, hit White on the back of the head with a hammer when White refused to give them additional money.

Goforth testified that Caudill beat White to death with the hammer and then ransacked the home, taking any valuables she found.

He also said Caudill was the one who wrapped White's body in a carpet, then convinced him to help her load it into White's car.

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Jailhouse Informants/Sentencing

During Caudill's trial, two inmate jailhouse informants testified that Caudill confessed to killing White, although each informant gave different scenarios as to how she murdered White.

One testified that Caudill admitted to hitting Ms. White over the head twice with a wall clock, and the other informant testified that Caudill murdered White when she was caught breaking into White's home.

Both informants said Caudill admitted to robbing the home and setting White's car on fire.

Virginia Susan Caudill

March 24, 2000, a jury found Caudill and Goforth guilty of murder, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, second-degree arson, and tampering with physical evidence. They each received the death sentence.

Virginia Caudill is housed on death row at the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley.

Johnathan Goforth is housed on death row at the  Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky.

Kentucky Death Row

As of 2015, Harold McQueen is the only person executed in Kentucky involuntarily since 1976. 

Edward Lee Harper (executed on May 25, 1999) and Marco Allen Chapman (executed on November 21, 2008) both volunteered to be executed. Harper dropped all remaining appeals, stating that he would rather be dead than face the torture of prison. Chapman waived all non-statutory appeals during sentencing.