#SHETOO: Toni Goman, in Pieces

Posted: April 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

Four weeks after her headless torso was fished from the Pacific Ocean the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center opened in Columbus, Ohio;
like its namesake, the crisis center’s existence would be cut short by violence two decades later.

Southern California, November 2nd, 1973. The three Palisades High School students couldn’t believe their eyes.
Gale Cruse, James Levesque and Liz Taylor—no, not that Liz Taylor—had pulled over to change a flat tire on the Pacific Coast Highway and spotted an object bobbing in the surf at Castle Rock Beach.
Closer inspection revealed a decapitated human corpse, arms, breasts, and legs amputated.
The trio had skipped school hoping for an adventure but happening upon the aftermath of a mutilation murder was not the Beach Boys-brand of fun in the sun they had anticipated.

“[Finding the body was] frightening. How evil and how ugly and how sad. Who the heck would do something like this?” James Levesque, Palisadian Post, August 10th, 2017

Upon arriving at the scene LAPD officers discovered a human leg at the water’s edge with a single blue platform shoe, size 6B, placed nearby; a blue purse, devoid of identification, had been discarded on the shore.
A search of the nearby waterway unearthed a matching shoe but no signs of the corpse’s missing appendages.
Detectives were unable to synch the decedents’ particulars with any existing missing persons report and a canvass of local stores revealed the shoes were not available for sale in California;
surmising the victim hailed from out of town,
the LAPD staged a press conference pleading for tips with the blue accessories featured front and center.
It’s unclear if this development was prompted by the publicity, but two days later a missing persons report was filed by the traveling companion of twenty-eight year old Ohio State University student Toni Goman.

“Toni was a special cousin. She always made everything more fun.” Vicki Amos Murray, Palisadian Post, August 10th, 2017

Adopted by maternal relatives at birth, Toni Elinor Goman was a divorcée, a single-mother of an 8-year old son and a campus radical.
A quintessential ’70s feminist, she loved strolling through the forest topless while reciting poetry and agitating with her fellow Ohio State University students to demolish gender norms.
A member of the Women’s Action Coalition, Toni had been instrumental in creating and fostering a faction of the group which eventually became Women Against Rape (WAR), an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence.
During Thanksgiving break she’d traveled west in anticipation of a possible relocation to Southern California after graduation.

“Regardless of age, race, social class, lifestyle or achievement all women share a single status: that of being potential targets of violence.” From Freeing Our Lives, the Women Against Rape manifesto, 1978

With no fingers for fingerprinting and no teeth for dental matching authorities relied on the torso’s scars and moles for comparison—eventually the medical examiner was able to confirm the remains found at Castle Rock Beach belonged to Toni Goman, who had been stabbed to death prior to dismemberment.
The friend she had been traveling with—an (unnamed) male Ohio State University Student with a prior assault and battery conviction—claimed he’d dropped Toni off at a low-rent Beverly Hills hotel and when he returned for her a few days later she had vanished.

Southern California in the 1970s was a dismemberment wonderland.
The handiwork of mutilation-enthusiasts Edmund Kemper, Patrick Keaney and Randy Kraft left the landscape literally littered with body parts—-here’s a part, there’s a part, everywhere a part-part.
In the six months preceding the discovery of Toni’s remains hacked limbs and torsos belonging to a total of six different victims were discovered strewn throughout the area;
LAPD cadets were scouring Santa Ynez canyon for the missing appendages of one of these victims—a male teenager—when a searcher discovered a jawbone which later proved to belong to Toni.
Despite an extensive search her upper skull, three missing limbs and amputated breasts have never been recovered.


LAPD cadets search Santa Ynez canyon

 
Toni Goman’s murder has never been forensically linked to any of the West Coast mutilation slaying of the era
but there was speculation in the press dismemberment devotee Richard Lawrence Marquette was responsible—at the time of Toni’s death he was out on parole for a 1961 dismemberment slaying and he would later return to prison for two Oregon mutilation murders in the mid-70s.
(Valuable lesson for parole boards everywhere: when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.)

Richard Lawrence Marquette

Personally, although the crimes have never been linked in the media I’ve always pondered a connection between Toni’s murder and that of seventeen-year old runaway Taunye Moore. Five months after Toni’s death, on April 9th, 1974
Taunye’s dismembered corpse was found packed into three trash bags dumped behind a Los Angeles motel;
in addition to the proximities in location, time frame and modus operandi Taunye and Toni were both from Ohio—Taunye’s hometown Mount Gilead was just an hour’s drive from Ohio State.
A coincidence, probably, but an intriguing one nonetheless.

[“Taunye’s killer most likely had] a pathological hatred of women.” Morrow County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Howland, Galion Inquirer, April 22, 2009

Taunye Moore

Unfortunately, in the newspapers at least, Toni’s murder got lost in the serial slayings’ maelstrom—no new investigatory developments were forthcoming and her name quickly slipped from the headlines.
Her spirit lived on at Ohio State University, however;
the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center, named in her honor, provided a 24-hour hotline and self-defense workshops for OSU students and members of the community at large.
The center prevailed for twenty-one years,
weathering the budget cutbacks and personality conflicts endemic in outreach work but in 1995 an act of violence sparked a chain of events that would destroy the organization—a rapist broke into the WAR office and sexually assaulted the volunteer manning the hotline phones.

“There are many factors leading to this dilemma (rape), not the least of which is the apparent unwillingness of the potential victim to take the minimum precautions when interacting socially.” From the preface of a 1973 sexual assault report conducted by the Columbus Police Department’s Planning and Research Department (hereinafter the WTF Files), quoted in the Ohio State Lantern, October 22nd, 1974

Women Against Rape self-defense class, 1973

“The ‘pill,’ so available and freely used in our society, has undoubtedly developed a somewhat lackadaisical attitude in many females to being the victim of rape.” The WTF Files (Helpful hint for misogynists: calling women “females” is a tell)

Feminism can be hard to get right; navigating situations in which the choices of individual women could potentially endanger all women can be treacherous.
The victim of the rape center attack subsequently opted not to report the crime, and this decision tore Women Against Rape asunder.
One faction of WAR felt the victim had a moral responsibility to protect other potential victims in the community by alerting law enforcement,
and other members of WAR felt obligated to respect the victim’s wishes irrespective of any further harm the perpetrator might inflict on other women.
A contentious meeting (dubbed the “WAR wake” by participants) was convened but the two factions were unable to reconcile their differences; in mid-1995 the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center was disbanded,
twenty-one years of community anti-rape outreach demolished by, of all things, a sexual assault.

 
“There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” Author and neuroscientist David Eagleman, Metamorphosis, 2009

The tale of Toni Goman and WAR’s eponymously-named crisis center is awash with irony: an anti-violence advocate slain in a crime of unimaginable violence, an anti-rape advocacy center destroyed by rape.
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I almost feel like the frequent mention of Toni’s name in conjunction with the center was keeping her alive, somehow increasing the likelihood her murder would someday be solved.
Viewed from this perspective the attack at the WAR office was an attack on Toni herself, the closure of the center effectively erasing her name from future discourse.

1977 OSU Rape is Violence rally

Despite her early death and personal hardships outreach performed in Toni’s name helped hundreds of women over two decades, almost the same number of years she spent on this earth. I am reminded of the final stanza of the poem “May Poles:*

Let’s regard her lasting spark
And tell the tyrants of the dark
Who has left the greater mark

Toni Goman was so resilient it took two separate crimes of violence separated by two decades and two thousand miles to kill her. And that is a legacy that would make any feminist proud.


1972 OSU Bridal Fair Protest

* written by died-by-suicide poet Rachel Wetzsteon about her friend, fellow died-by-suicide poet Sarah Hannah

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