A Hays man killed a woman by shoving dirt down her throat in 2005. Now he’s getting out of prison early

Tim Hrenchir
Hays Daily News
Angela Goddard, shown in this photo, died of suffocation when her former boyfriend shoved mud and dirt down her throat in November 2005 near Hays.

Angela May Goddard desperately dialed 911 on her cell phone as her former boyfriend shoved mud and dirt down her throat in an oil field southwest of Hays.

Dispatcher Debbie Cox took the call on a chilly afternoon in November 2005 and heard Goddard screaming.

"I could pick out bits and pieces of words," Cox testified later at the killer's preliminary hearing. "She screamed and said 'No, Jason' and 'Help me' and 'I trusted you.' There was a lot of pleading."

Goddard died that day of suffocation. Her killer, Robert Jason Land, pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 18 years, 10 months in prison.

Land, now 48, subsequently earned prison good-time credits that will enable him to go free after a little more than 16 years instead of serving his full sentence.

Land is to be released Dec. 14, said Carol Pitts, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections.  

Goddard's mother, Jill Goddard, is working to spread the word that Land will soon get out.

"What is wrong with our justice system that (Land) is being set free to murder again?" she asked a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter.

The reporter had not received a response as of Wednesday to a letter he mailed last week seeking input from Land at Larned Mental Health Correctional Facility, where he is an inmate.

Kansas Department of Corrections policy directs reporters seeking to initiate contact with a specific inmate to write a letter to that inmate and send it by standard mail, Pitts said. 

'The wrong person'

Land was 32 years old when he killed Angela Goddard. He had no prior criminal record and was separated or divorced from his wife, a female faculty member at Fort Hays State University.

Land's middle name is Jason, and he commonly is referred to as "Jay."

Land was threatening suicide "and Angela felt sorry for him and wanted to help him," Jill Goddard recalled.

Angela Goddard, the youngest of three children, was 21 years old and living in Russell.

She was a junior at Fort Hays State University, where she was majoring in architecture and hoped to design homes for handicapped people, Jill Goddard said.

Angela "was full of energy and radiated a contagious exuberance to everyone around her," says the Find A Grave website page highlighting her final resting place at Morland in Graham County.

"Her greatest joy was helping others," it says.

"This time she helped the wrong person," Jill Goddard said.

Robert Jason Land is serving prison time for crimes that include the 2005 second-degree murder in Ellis County of his former girlfriend, Angela May Goddard.

'He would get violently angry'

Land appeared to be calm and nice, Jill Goddard said, adding that "he plays innocent and dumb and makes you feel sorry for him."

But Land made Angela Goddard feel worthless, because he felt worthless, Jill Goddard said.

"He transferred his feelings of worthlessness to her," she said.

Angela Goddard came to fear Land, Jill Goddard said.

"Jay was stalking Angela," she said. "He threatened to kill us, her parents, if she quit seeing him. He played mind games with her. He told her that he had killed other girls."

On the day she died, Angela Goddard met with Land thinking he would return a stolen cell phone to her.

The meeting took place in an oil field where young people often met to park and talk, Jill Goddard said.

A Hays police officer suggested in advance that Angela bring along a friend if she went to the field, but Angela chose not to do that because she thought Land wouldn't return the phone if she took that step, according to court testimony.

Land beat Angela Goddard and stomped on her head, leaving boot marks, Jill Goddard said.

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"There were bite marks on her arm where he tried to get the phone away from her," she said.

But Angela Goddard died of suffocation, not from the trauma wounds suffered during the attack, according to testimony at Land's preliminary hearing from Lyle Noordhoek, the pathologist who conducted her autopsy.

"She died as a result of the mud," he said. "With the large amount of mud and debris, it is impossible for air to pass into the lungs."

Land was arrested at the scene. He contended another man had attacked them and killed Angela Goddard.

'Grief with no chance of parole'

Land was initially charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded no contest as part of a plea agreement in August 2006 to second-degree murder, committed intentionally but without premeditation, and to assisting in a suicide attempt that occurred Nov. 9, 2005.

"He said he'd mix drugs to make (Angela Goddard) die," Jill Goddard testified. "He helped her mix it up. He told her before she passed out that he'd done this before with other women."

Members of Angela Goddard's family spoke at Land's sentencing hearing in September 2006, asking that he receive the maximum possible total sentence.

"He sentenced us to a life of loss and grief with no chance of parole," said Angela's sister, Amie Goddard.

Land's father, Wayne Land, testified that he wished he'd provided his son a better environment as he was growing up.

"I left him alone a lot," Wayne Land said. "I feel very responsible for everything."

Psychologist Gina Smith said it was possible Land suffered from dissociative personality disorder.

Robert Jason Land was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 18 years, 10 months, by Ellis County District Judge Thomas Toepfer, who would die at age 61 in 2012.

'Now it's all back in front of me'

Land entered Kansas Department of Corrections custody in October 2006.

He has since been disciplined seven times, including once for a clothing violation and twice each for possessing contraband, violating published orders and possessing sexually explicit materials, state prison records show.

Land is currently working in a prison job that allows him to be off-site, said Pitts, the corrections department PIO.

Jill Goddard — whose husband and Angela's father, David Goddard, died in 2012 at age 63 — said she found it highly upsetting to learn that Land was being released in December, and there was nothing she could do to prevent it.

"I'd kind of put that whole experience in my past," she said of her daughter's killing. "Now it's all back in front of me."

While corrections officials say they're only complying with the law by releasing Land, Jill Goddard suggests that statement will provide no consolation for Angela Goddard's family members or whoever else Land might victimize once he gets out.

A federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report says about 12.5% of convicted murderers released in 30 states in 2005 were arrested within six months, and 51.2% were arrested within five years.

"In my opinion whoever does this (releases Land) should be held responsible for the next murder he commits," Jill Goddard said. 

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