Golatt guilty in North Side murder case

2012-09-26T17:53:00Z 2012-09-26T18:27:23Z Golatt guilty in North Side murder caseBy Chris Hubbuch | chubbuch@lacrossetribune.com La Crosse Tribune

A jury convicted Izelia Golatt in the murder of Kristen Rodgers after a three-day trial that concluded Wednesday.

The seven men and five women returned the verdict after 2.5 hours of deliberation following a third day of testimony.

A scrapper found Rodgers, 35, face down in a dirt lot behind 1133 Caledonia St. shortly after 7 a.m. on March 6. Her jacket and shoes were next to her body.

Golatt, 45, has been in jail with a $1 million bond since his arrest on March 9.

The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison, though it will be up to Judge Scott Horne to determine if he could eventually be eligible for parole.

Witness accounts and phone records show Rodgers and Golatt were in frequent contact as she was looking for crack cocaine on the night of her death. Surveillance video from the Rose Street Kwik Trip shows Golatt pumping gas into his van with a woman matching Rodgers’ description in the passenger seat. Minutes later the van is seen on another camera turning into the alley where her body was found.

Video shows the headlights go off and come back on about 17 minutes later as the van pulls away.

Golatt’s attorneys did not contest that the two were together that night but argued Rodgers died of a cocaine overdose and hypothermia.

Rodgers had cocaine in her system, but Dane County medical examiner Dr. Vincent Tranchida, who performed the autopsy, testified that strangulation was the cause of death.

Dr. Shaku Teas said she saw no evidence of strangulation and instead believes Rodgers died of cocaine-induced heart failure and hypothermia.

Teas, a former pathologist with the Cook County medical examiner’s office who was hired by the defense, based her conclusion on a review of an autopsy report, photographs and other evidence gathered by police. She did not perform a separate autopsy on Rodgers’ body.

Teas said the hemorrhaging in Rodgers’ neck muscles was likely the result of her lying face down and a botched autopsy. She explained that people experiencing hypothermia often shed their clothing because they feel warm, as do those under the influence of cocaine.

But under cross examination by District Attorney Tim Gruenke, Teas downplayed the role of cold in Rodgers’ death.

“If there is hypothermia it’s a small part of the cause of death,” she said. “What I’m saying is she has some evidence of hypothermia. I’m not saying it’s the major cause of her death. It’s cocaine.”

Exactly what happened in the alley that night remains a mystery.

Surveillance video – which Gruenke called the closest thing to an eye witness in this case – shows Golatt’s van enter and leave 17 minutes later.

Golatt did not testify, and prosecutors did not offer a motive.

“I don’t know why the defendant did it,” Gruenke said in his closing argument. “I do know they were arguing earlier in the evening. I know when they went into that alley they sat for 17 minutes… That’s a long time to start arguing. It’s a long time to develop anger.”

Gruenke argued that the most likely explanation is the obvious one: Golatt and Rodgers went into the alley together and only one emerged alive; the other showed signs of strangulation.

Defense attorney Allan Beatty argued that the process of elimination is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“It’s not a question of who killed her,” Beatty said. “It’s a question did anyone kill her.”

Beatty argued Golatt, who had helped Rodgers find crack earlier that night, had no reason to kill her. He left the alley; she stayed behind – perhaps to smoke more crack.

“While she was there, 12 hours of crack use and the cold got the best of her,” he said.

Rodgers suffered a seizure, fell to the ground and eventually died, Beatty said.

If that’s the case, Gruenke said, Golatt is “the unluckiest man in the world.”

Rodgers was found less than a mile from the halfway house where she was staying when she left saying she would be back in less than 10 minutes.

“There’s no reason for him to take her there and drop her off,” Gruenke said.

Gruenke questioned how Rodgers got scrapes on her knuckles and her throat by falling face down. Instead, he argued, they were defensive wounds from trying to pry someone’s hands from her neck.

A mother of three who had battled addiction, Rodgers was a fighter, he said.

“I can’t imagine how terrifying her last minutes must have been,” Gruenke said. “She went into a dark alley with a dangerous man. Imagine him on the back of her, pushing her into the ground.”

Copyright 2015 La Crosse Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(9) Comments

  1. HonestAbe
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    HonestAbe - September 27, 2012 1:17 am
    Did you see the video & timeline? If not, of course you don't see "it".

    Just another import with no values. He was more concerned about getting popped for a little coke, than doing the right thing and calling 911 to save her life!

    Shove her out and drive away? Surely a danger to society, no doubt.
  2. HonestAbe
    Report Abuse
    HonestAbe - September 27, 2012 1:16 am
    Soooo, you're a republican?

    Where is this free healthcare? Citizens don't pay for the free clinic, I'm curious, really curious. If you're talking about WIC, that doesn't count.

    Where is this free housing?

    I bet you have no information, only hype to throw about.

    You have no clue
  3. HonestAbe
    Report Abuse
    HonestAbe - September 26, 2012 11:48 pm
    It's the "justice" sanctions that make this a dream place to sell drugs. Get busted, plop down cash and go home to do as you please.

    Murder bumps things up a notch ... but day to day drug addicts are slapped on the hand, as the city only has their hand out. Our city does not care about anything but money!

    Justice Sanctions needs to come to an end, light sentences for drug offenses are outrageous ... and we're not talking a little weed. We're talking people getting busted with heroin, coke, ecstasy and the like ! Whoever is heading this program, and the one that takes the cash ... how do you sleep at night?!?
  4. crazyworld
    Report Abuse
    crazyworld - September 26, 2012 9:57 pm
    May you Rest in Peace Kristen. Justice IS served!
    You couldn't beat your addiction but you didn't deserve to be murdered.

    P.S. I totally agree with 'union conservative'. It is a FACT: Free housing (or for little or nothing), reduced or free cellphone plans for anyone on assistance, energy assistance (IF you have to pay it....depends on your housing plan) free healthcare. Get pregnant and stop on in and sign up! or fake that disability!
  5. Breezy
    Report Abuse
    Breezy - September 26, 2012 9:29 pm
    He was innocent, then he was proven guilty by a jury of his peers. Thats the criminal justice system.

    My2Cents I also agree with all the rulings. I'm merely pointing out that people seem to believe La Crosse have inept criminal justice community, yet convictions is what you guys are seeing.
  6. GraceofGod
    Report Abuse
    GraceofGod - September 26, 2012 8:47 pm
    Murderer REALLY?!? I SEE NO PROOF OF THAT! I see a father going to prison for life because he made the mistake by giving someone a ride in his van and phone calls! Where is the DNA? What was the jury all WHITE? Just Saying La Crosse needs to join the new century of everyone is created equal!!!!!! What happened to innocent until PROVEN GUILTY?!??? This is very sad news for all involved!!!!!!!
  7. my2cents
    Report Abuse
    my2cents - September 26, 2012 7:54 pm
    Breezy you make it sound like you wouldn't mind if a murder was loose on our streets. I for one think the jury got it right on all three homicides.
  8. union conservative
    Report Abuse
    union conservative - September 26, 2012 7:28 pm
    Breey, With the type of leadership we have in this county and city for that matter we will be attracting a lot more of these types of people. After all one can move here with nothing and start out with free housing, cellphone, healthcare all at the cost to the taxpayers. The projects of IL are emptying out right into LaCrosse. ISN'T THAT GREAT!!!?
  9. Breezy
    Report Abuse
    Breezy - September 26, 2012 7:12 pm
    Another homicide conviction. According to you people around here, I thought La Crosse County was where you were supposed to go if you want to get away with it.
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