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UTAH STATE PRISON — Jill Goff admits she was "overwhelmed" by the thought of going before the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole.
She knew she would have to answer questions about what happened on the day she said she mistakenly put methadone in her 2-year-old son's sippy cup, resulting in his death and sickening two of her other children.
Goff, now 37, of Tooele — who failed to call paramedics right away and then failed to tell them what Aiden Laurel Goff had ingested — was convicted of child abuse homicide, a second-degree felony, and ordered to serve one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.
Goff went before a member of the Board of Pardons and Parole last week for the first time. During the emotional hearing that lasted nearly an hour, Goff frequently teared up as she recalled discovering that Aiden had sipped methadone from his sippy cup on Jan. 31, 2014.
"I panicked," she said in a recording of the hearing.
Goff said she tried to make Aiden vomit to get the methadone out, and then gave him a bath before putting him in bed with herself to take a nap. It was her 13-year-old son who later discovered Aiden wasn't breathing and called 911.
When paramedics arrived and asked Goff if she knew of anything that Aiden may have ingested, she said she did not.
"I was scared. I was under the influence (of methamphetamine and methadone),” she told the board.
"Honestly, I thought Aiden was fine. I thought the other kids were fine. That’s where my mind was. If I had any thought that anything was going to go wrong I would have called for help sooner. I didn’t know that this was going to happen. If I would have thought, I would have done something sooner,” she said in tears later in the hearing.
But when board vice chairwoman Carrie Cochran pointed out that Goff failed to tell paramedics the truth after they arrived, and then still failed to tell them her other children had also drank the methadone, Goff said she simply panicked and thought the state would take away her children.
"I don’t know if anything I say can make anyone understand. I don’t even understand. The drugs took over. The thoughts that were going through my mind, I just didn’t want to lose my kids. But in the end I did,” she said.
Over the course of the hearing, Goff talked about her long struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. Goff said she first used meth when she was 15. She later became addicted to prescription pain medication due to an injury. She tried to wean herself from the medication by using methadone. But she admitted to Cochran that she was getting a large amount of methadone for many years.
When asked how she thought years of drug use had affected her children, Goff said, "I think I’ve been unfair to my kids, probably not giving them the time that they deserved. I tried to be the best mom that I could be given the circumstances."
When confronted by relatives about her problem, Goff said she would listen. "It would hurt," she said, "but the drugs would always come first."
Goff has also been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and borderline personality disorder. She said she has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her life, including recently.
"This year I’ve really struggled with the anniversary of Aiden’s death and anticipating the board hearing," she said.
Cochran noted that Goff had been on numerous medications since arriving in prison.
Cody Goff, Jill Goff's ex-husband, read a brief prepared statement during the hearing, saying his biggest concern moving forward is the safety of his children, both their emotional and physical well-being.
"I already lost one child by her and I will not risk that happening again,” he told the board.
Cochran told Goff that whenever she is released from prison, she will most likely have a no-contact order, preventing her from contacting her ex-husband or their children without prior approval through attorneys. An emotional Goff said she recognized that when she gets out of prison it is "not likely" her kids will be in her life, and she admitted that hurts.
"I’m still their mom," she said, but after a long pause, continued, "but I messed up. I did this and it’s my punishment. I just want them to be happy.”
Since being in prison and undergoing many counseling sessions and therapy, Goff said she has learned she doesn't "need drugs to be happy," and has learned other coping skills such as meditation, keeping a journal, and opening up to others when she needs extra support.
She hopes to work in a methadone clinic when she is released from prison to help encourage mothers and other women that it's not worth it.
"I hate it,” Goff said of methadone. "I’m never touching methadone again. I don’t need painkillers. I don’t need them when I’m in prison, I won’t need them when I’m out of prison.”
The full five-member board will now vote on whether to grant parole or schedule another hearing.