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Halfway house fugitive with ‘no conscience, no remorse, no soul’ gets 45 years for killing Bergen ex-girlfriend

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: of Viviana in view before the sentencing
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter
Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: More than three years of heart-rending anguish for loved ones of a Garfield woman slain by ex-con ex-boyfriend after he fled a Newark halfway house was released today during the plea-bargained sentencing of her killer to 45 years in prison.

Friends and loved ones of 21-year-old Viviana Tulli nodded their heads in the crowded Hackensack courtroom after Presiding Superior Court Liliana DeAvila-Silebbi told David Goodell that he must serve 43 years of the sentence before he is eligible for parole because of his criminal history.

Goodell, 34, also must pay $5,000 restitution to the Victims of Violent Crimes Compensation Board.

Family members placed photos of Viviana in view before the sentencing

Given the opportunity to speak, he sought leniency.

“I’m not asking for forgiveness. I just want a chance,” Goodell said.

DeAvila-Silebbi wasn’t offering any.

“You have no conscience, no remorse, no soul,” she told him.

Goodell seemed to prove it when, while being led out by Bergen County Sheriff’s officers, he looked in the direction of the Tulli family and shouted, “A-ha!”

A source with knowledge of the incident told CLIFFVIEW PILOT he laughed while riding the courthouse elevator to the jail transportation van.

Moments earlier, Tulli’s sister called Goodell “someone who does not belong among us, and yet he still breathes.”

“Viviana Tulli was young, she was beautiful, she was 21,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello told DeAvila-Silebi before she handed down the sentence. “And David Goodell took her life because he could — one more horror of tragedy, of domestic violence, of a man visiting violence on a woman, of a man’s hand on a woman’s throat, as he took the life and breath from her.

“I tremble to my very soul when I look in the eyes of her father.  As a father, I cannot imagine the pain that he and his dear beloved wife have suffered at the hands of a killer that has taken the child that Luz gave life to, that she and Carlos loved and protected.

“As I look into his eyes, he looks out into a darkness and says ‘Why, God?  Why could I not protect her from this evil’? The sad truth is: No man can.”

Out on parole, Goodell fled Logan Hall in Newark hours before he strangled “Vivi” Tulli and rammed her car head-on into a police cruiser in a Ridgefield cul-de-sac on Aug. 30,2010, her dead body still in the passenger seat, in what authorities called an attempt at suicide by cop.

The killing brought to light serious problems with New Jersey’s halfway house system, launching a battle between legislators and Gov. Christie over reforms.

Goodell had faked a seizure at the halfway house, was taken to a hospital and then fled when no one was looking.

Early the next morning, he was standing outside Tulli’s  car, parked in a lot at Ridgefield Park High School, when someone called police. Goodell was disoriented and covered in blood, the caller said.

Officers ended up chasing the car into Ridgefield, where the incident came to a horrifying end.

It was the sisters’ mother’s birthday that day. It was also the same day, in a tragic stroke of circumstance, that their father was laid off from his job.

Goodell previously spent less than half a year in Northern State Prison in Newark for assaulting a police officer and threatening to kill a woman he was dating. He was supposed to remain behind bars until December 2011 after he was sentenced by a Passaic County judge nearly four years ago.

Under state law, Goodell, of Clifton (and, previously, Ridgefield Park), could have been imprisoned for four years on each conviction. But he was paroled in February 2010, five months after serving what was originally a sentence of more than two years, records obtained by CLIFFVIEW PILOT show.

Sisters, Stella (l.), Viviana (PHOTO: Courtesy TULLI FAMILY)

Those with direct knowledge of the case told CLIFFVIEW PILOT they believed he’d be judged criminally insane. Things didn’t happen that way, however: Goodell pleaded guilty to murder in late June as part of a plea agreement, sparing the Tullis the torment of a trial.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Trenton brought attention to Community Education Centers, a private company that operates most of the facilities in the state’s $100 million halfway house system.

After hearing from Stella Tulli (a bove, left and below, second photo ), and other witnesses, the legislators introduced more than a dozen measures aimed at tightening regulations and contracts with the private companies in the system.

To this day, little has been done, however.

In a step welcomed by survivors and victim advocates, Christie in May 2011 repealed a state program that had let some convicts leave prison six months early, hours after legislators approved the move.

The previous program gave an earlier crack at parole to several ex-convicts who went on to commit more violent crimes — including Goodell.

The Parole Board now has discretion to wait three to 10 years following a denial, as well.

Many of those attending today’s sentencing held a steely resolve. At one point, Tulli’s husband reached over and rubbed her shoulders. The group was solemn, united in their determination to see justice finally done.

Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Wayne Mello (STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter)

Public defender Francis Meehan asked the judge to view his client differently than they and Mello did.

“Many people here consider Mr. Goodell to be a monster because of the harm he has done, but I ask you to look at the other side, a person who never had a chance in life,” he told DeAvila-Silebbi. “Both his parents were addicts.  He never had a chance in life.  He left school in the 7th grade, and ended up on the street. He has been incarcerated for 10 of the last 15 years.

“He has been taking care of himself for a very long time, and that caused him to act out in an irrational fashion.”

Stella Tulli, in turn, called Goodell “a piece of garbage.”

“My heart has been ripped from my body, stabbed, stepped on, and shattered,” she said.

“After she was murdered I snuck down into the embalming room and lay with her on the table – held her hand, ran my fingers through her hair,” Tulli said. “I can never erase that image, the bruises on her face.

“Sometimes it is too painful to get out of bed …. The grief never ends …. Yet I still continue to fight for my sister.”

“This was not the first young woman he abused,” said Mello, the prosecutor in the case. “One of them said in the course of the investigation: ‘He will not stop until some girl is dead and he is behind bars for the rest of his life.’

“There is no sentence but the sentence of 45 years – and, truth be told, he wrote that sentence, and that will be his epitaph.”

DeAvila-Silebi agreed.

“Vivi” Tulli

“Domestic violence is rampant – many cases, many victims who die,” she said.

“I’m 100% if you were released today, you would have no qualms about killing another,” she told Goodell. “You’ve been incarcerated more than you’ve been out. But, also, I consider the seriousness of the prior offenses.  A lot of them were assaults – on police officers, women – robberies.

“There is an extreme need to deter you … and that’s the aggravating factor I put the most weight on – the need to deter,” the judge said.

“Viviana was trying to give you some love, some hope, some mercy – and the tragedy is you saw her as someone to be used as property, and not as a beautiful human being,” DeAvila-Silebi continued.

“I don’t accept for a moment that your hard life gives you license to do this.  There are many people who had a horrendous childhood and chose to be loving and giving people.  You have to choose to give love to others — and you chose not to.”

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Loved ones of murder and rape victims — several of them right here in our area — can finally begin to exhale now that Gov. Christie has repealed a state program that let some convicts leave prison six months early. The governor wasted no time, signing the “no early release” measure Monday within hours of the Legislature’s vote for final approval. READ MORE….

Viv’s headstone

EXCLUSIVE: Weeks from the first anniversary of Viviana Tulli’s murder, her headstone is finally in place, replacing a wooden cross sticking from the grave, thanks to a company that responded to a CLIFFVIEW PILOT bid for help. READ MORE ….

THE VICTIM’S SISTER’S STORY (ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT) : My cellphone was vibrating. I wished my mom a “Happy Birthday” that morning and all seemed right. But as the hours passed, a feeling of uneasiness crept over me. So I answered. “The police called your father. They want us all to go to the police station,” Mom said. “Something happened to Vivi.” READ MORE ….

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A bloodied man who police believe had just strangled an ex-girlfriend drove her car head-on into a police cruiser with the woman’s body still in the passenger seat, Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said. The lifeless body of 21-year-old Viviana Tulli of Saddle Brook was found in the car driven by David Goodell, 30, after the crash, he said. READ MORE….

EXCLUSIVE: Accused killer was paroled early after assaulting cops, making death threats …. READ MORE ….

WHAT WE THINK: David Goodell poked a hole in New Jersey’s less-than-secure system of halfway houses nearly two years ago: After slipping away, he strangled his ex-girlfriend before ramming her car into a police cruiser in Ridgefield. Yet it’s only now that anyone is demanding to know how this happened, and what can be done to keep future innocents from harm. READ MORE….

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