The hardest time - Page 8

After a decade in lockup, J.J. Tennison still maintains his innocence - and his lawyer is still fighting for him

They was beatin' him up."

Ricard pulled a 12-gauge from the truck and gunned down Shannon, "because we knew he was from Sunnydale."

"Were any of two individuals, Antoine [sic] Goff or John Tinneson [sic], do you recall whether they were with you on the night this thing occurred?" one of the officers queried.

"No, they were not," Ricard responded.

There were some flaws in the story. He was fuzzy on some details, like how many shells he'd put in the shotgun and what brand the gun was. He wouldn't name any eyewitnesses to back up his claim. And he couldn't provide the murder weapon.

Ricard's confession was the kind of thing that happens all the time in the movies and almost never in real life - and despite the limits of his story, Adachi assumed Tennison and Goff could start planning their homecoming parties.

The confession turned out to be a bombshell ... that never exploded. Judge Thomas Dandurand shot down a request for a fresh trial. Deeming Ricard's confession unreliable, the police set him free. Legal documents indicate that Ricard now lives in St. Paul, Minn. (Our attempts to reach him through the mail and by phone were unsuccessful.)

On July 2, 1992, nearly three years after the murder, investigator Stemi convinced a witness to step forward. This person, whom we'll refer to as Witness X for obvious security reasons, gave police, prosecutors, and the defense a detailed rundown of the slaying and the events that preceded it. The new account - which was taped and transcribed - corroborated Ricard's confession and included the names of four alleged accomplices to the crime. Ricard was indeed the gunman, Witness X asserted. Tennison and Goff had no part in the crime.

Now, Adachi figured, Tennison and Goff would finally walk. Wrong again. Arlo Smith, district attorney at the time, didn't feel the narrative was strong enough to reopen the case.

Stymied, Adachi kept probing and enlisted the help of private attorney Eric Multhaup in navigating the maze of court appeals.

Tennison and Goff "had nothing to do with it," Witness X tells me in a recent interview. "Lovinsta even got up and told that he did it, and that neither J.J. nor [Goff] had anything to do with it. I do know what happened - I was there."

Over the course of a two-hour conversation Witness X offers a convincing recounting of the crime. "Lovinsta went over there while they were beating him up," shot Shannon, and "came back with his shirt and everything all bloody and said it felt good.

"Lovinsta asked us never to say nothing; everybody was to be quiet," the informer tells me. Adachi hired an ex-FBI agent to run a polygraph test on X; according to the machine, the witness is telling the truth.

Witness X claims - as police had theorized - that Shannon was killed to avenge the deaths of Cheap Charlie Hughes and Roshawn Johnson. "It was just anybody at random, whoever it is from Sunnydale, you're gonna die. Unfortunately, Roderick was right there, and he happened to be from Sunnydale."

Anton (pronounced "Antoine") Goff is among the 5,800 humans stuffed into the Corrections Department's Solano County facility, a strip-mall McPrison built for just 2,100 inmates. It's luxurious compared with his old digs: Goff spent his first five years on 22-hour-a-day lockdown at the infamous Pelican Bay state pen.

The detectives pegged Goff as a man with a clear motive to murder: he'd been wounded - allegedly by a Sunnydale head - in the Cheap Charlie shooting.

But Goff, now 31, claims he was hanging out with "four or five" buddies on the night of Aug. 29 and never even left Hunters Point. "All of 'em was ready to testify," he says.

Ricard "was a friend we knew growing up in the neighborhood. He wasn't nobody I hung around with all the time," Goff relates, saying he's positive of the man's guilt. "He told me everything what happened.

Also from this author

  • Crime Bomb

    Police crime labs are churning out tainted evidence — and nobody's doing anything about it.

  • Crime Bomb

    Police crime labs are churning out tainted evidence — and nobody's doing anything about it.

  • Gun crazy

    BART cop shoots naked man - why?