SALT LAKE CITY — Could the arrest of a man in Utah in a drug trafficking investigation help solve a murder case in Indiana?
That's what authorities in both states are trying to determine.
On Jan. 30, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper arrested Christopher Michael Goff, 38, of Indianapolis. He was charged Feb. 22 in 3rd District Court with drug distribution, a third-degree felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.
Goff was pulled over for a minor traffic violation while driving on I-80 in Summit County. The UHP trooper who made the traffic stop reported smelling marijuana after approaching the car. Two duffel bags containing 22 pounds of vaccuum-sealed bags of marijuana were found in the vehicle, according to charging documents.
After his arrest, investigators conducted a forensics search of Goff's cellphone, something typical of drug investigations.
But what they found on the phone wasn't typical, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 3rd District Court.
Investigators found a picture "of what appeared to be a deceased female seated in the driver seat of a vehicle with the front driver side window broken inward," the warrant states. "The female appeared deceased with a gunshot wound."
There were no signs in the picture of police or emergency responders being at the scene, according to the warrant. Investigators concluded that "the quality and clarity of the photograph indicate the individual who took the photograph was at the scene prior to the response of emergency personnel, and standing near the presumed deceased individual."
A text message found on the phone from later that same day stated, "Indy's third homicide victim of the year has been identified as 19-year-old Svitlana Novotney," the warrant states.
Detectives did a Google search and found a news article that talked about the shooting death of Novotney in a car on Jan. 9. The picture on Goff's phone was taken at 4:22 a.m. that day, the affidavit states, the same time the woman was believed to have been shot.Comment on this story
"I discovered the address where Ms. Novotney's body was located was a 2 minute walk (0.1 miles) from the address where Goff (the owner of the cellular phone) lives," the investigator wrote in the warrant.
Other messages found on the phone included "various photographs of marijuana and prescription medications … along with large quantities of cash and a photograph of a handgun," the report states.
The Utah Department of Public Safety said police in Indianapolis were contacted. A call placed by the Deseret News to the Indianapolis Police Department was not immediately returned. It was not known Wednesday whether Goff is considered a suspect in the woman's death.