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Shoe salesman gets life in co-worker's murder

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A judge called the acts of shoe salesman Charles March, who strangled and butchered his co-worker, the definition of evil and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom watched, along with a crowded courtroom, as photographs were shown of Kathy Goble's hacked and broken bones.

He heard defense attorney Brandon Cook ask for mercy, calling March a man with a conscience, tormented and a "walking wasteland." He said he deserved a chance at rehabilitation and freedom some day.

"A conscience separates a man from a monster," Cook said in a quiet voice. "He's not one of those unfeeling ones. There's no end to his torment and there will never be." 

But the judge obviously was more aligned with the words of Assistant Prosecutor Fred Giggenbach, given strongly and loudly, and demanding no sympathy.

"If he had a conscience he would not have butchered her and put her body right outside his bedroom window," Giggenbach said forcefully. "What do you think Kathy Goble saw when she looked up as he crushed her throat under his hands?

"Do you think she saw a man or a monster?" he asked, turning to the packed gallery behind him.

Giggenbach said that while Goble's family anguished for two years over her disappearance, March went to work each day at Kelley's Mens Shop to fit customers with shoes. He walked past posters asking for information about her, including ones hung up at Kelley's by her co-workers.

"This was a selfish, wicked and depraved act," Giggenbach said.

Goble's son and his best friend attended the hearing.

Prosecutor Mark Plants met with repeated objections from defense attorney Richard Holicker over the presentation of photographs depicting Goble's bones. The most gruesome photograph, showing her cut-up body at the medical examiner's office, was not displayed at the hearing.

Dr. Douglas Owsley, a forensic scientist with the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., testified about his assistance with the recovery and study of those bones.

He said Goble died of a very forceful compression of her throat that caused multiple breaks in the bones -- "obvious throat trauma incompatible with life." 

Also shown were pictures of March's Chesapeake mobile home and the bones as they were discovered there unexpectedly last April. The skull was well preserved and wrapped in aluminum foil, the torso rolled in a blanket.

The makeshift grave was 4 x 2 1/2 feet and only 16 inches deep. It was covered over with cinder blocks. March's son made the grisly discovery and called police. 

Owsley said two saws were used to sever the limbs and head -- a small one that was ineffective and a larger one that "did the job." The larger saw was found in March's home.

March put his head in his hands as Owsley detailed the method of killing and dismembering. At times, he shook with sobs.

Later, before sentencing, he read in a weak voice from a written statement. He asked forgiveness from everyone, and God.

"I am very sorry for the Goble family and for my family, but most of all I am sorry for Kathy for hurting her and causing her death," he said. "Maybe some day, in some other world, she will find it in her heart to forgive me."

March said, "I pray every day for Kathy's soul and for some understanding from God as to what caused me to do this."

Then, he broke into tears as he finished and said he never expected to see his grandchildren or any of his family ever again.

Bloom said March's act was monstrous and Goble's death was cold and calculated.

After the hearing, Billy Herrald, the family friend who has served as spokesman from the beginning, said there was a sense of justice and relief.

Herrald said, "It was the news that we hoped for, that he will not see the light of day outside prison for the rest of his life."

Owsley, who has worked on nationally famous cases including that of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, said Goble's son is considering donating her remains to the Smithsonian. There, they will be preserved and used to help train young forensic scientists, he said.

Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at or 304-348-4832.


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