Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Photo/Tammy Curtis

Jennifer Harden, the mother of convicted killer Jacoby Goehler was sentenced to 20 years on March 21 in Fulton County. She pled guilty to felony hindering apprehension in the case and accepted the negotiated plea from the original charge of conspiracy to commit first degree murder in the murder of Davidlee Stansbury in April of 2021

By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

It is a horror story that didn’t have to be. One of two very close families, one of two mothers and two sons. Both mothers lost their sons, one to a life prison sentence, the other to three bullets. But, one of the mother’s crossed the line with her son and recruited him to kill his longtime friend over what has been largely speculated to be nothing more than a lie. Nearly two years of being forced to sit through numerous court appearances and repeatedly relive the nightmare of losing a child ended on March 21 for David and Alicia Brewer, murder victim Davidlee Stansbury’s parents. While the court battles are likely far from over, with expected appeals, the last of the three involved in the Stansbury’s murder, the convicted killer, Jacoby Goehler’s mother, Jennifer Harden, was sent to prison for 20 years.

Victim’s Impact Statements

After the plea both David and Alicia Stansbury read their victim impact statements to Harden, a woman they knew very well as their children grew up in each other’s homes. Alicia told of how her son would have done anything for anyone. “All you would have to do is come to me [about the rape allegations]but instead, I never get to see my beautiful boy again. You have to live with that.” David, who was a bit more angry, spoke last. ”For what actions you played, you deserve a life sentence. All you had to do was come to me and you knew that. But, you had to play your role in it. I hope you serve the maximum amount of time allowed for your role in it and I hope hell has a special place for you.” Harnden spoke for the first time publicly before being sentenced. “I am sorry, I just wished things were different than this,” she said crying. Wearing the glass necklace that contains a portion of Davidlee’s cremains, Alicia and David, clad in the same shirts they have worn many times to court bearing their son’s smiling face, quietly exited the court room with hands adjoined in unity with tears flowing freely. After being taken into custody immediately after her plea, Harden was escorted from the Fulton County courtroom by Salem Police Chief Shad Overman. The family was robbed of the ability to see one of the three responsible for her son’s death be taken away as the bailiff requested the couple leave the parking lot due to her attorney John Bartlett’s demand. Harnden was taken to the Fulton County Detention Center where she will await transport to the Arkansas Department of Corrections to begin her sentence.

The Plea

Harnden, 44, accepted a negotiated plea for felony hindering apprehension that with a 20 year sentence. The family had rejected an earlier plea negotiation from the defense for five years in the crime. After learning of their son’s death nearly two years ago, the Stansbury family were not prepared for the news that would come soon after. Even Goehler’s now ex-wife, Brayden Delancey, said she was sickened to discover that her own mother in law, who had consoled her after learning of her husband’s involvement in the murder of his life-long friend.

Harden’s Arrest

Delancey said at the initial plea hearing in May of 2021 for both her ex-husband, Goehler and Harnden, “This woman held my daughter that same day. She cried to me like she couldn’t believe her son could do something like this. Words cannot explain the amount of anger I have toward these people. I hope they spend the rest of their life behind bars. They can all go to hell.” She also apologized to the family for the pain her husband caused them and said, “My heart goes out to Davidlee and his family. He was a beautiful soul taken too soon.” She even comforted the family throughout the court proceedings. Harden was originally arrested after evidence, including cell phone and email history, implicated her in the crime including begging her son to bring her a gun so she could kill Stansbury for allegedly raping her 14 year old daughter, Christina. She was charged with felony conspiracy to commit first degree murder, just two days after her son on April 26, 2021. At that time, her bond was set at a $250,0000 cash. She spent three months in jail before the bond was reduced to $150,000 cash or professional and she was able to post it and was free until her plea.

Goehler’s Sentence

A jury found Harnden’s son, Jacoby Goehler, 20, guilty of First Degree Murder on Oct. 21, 2022 in Fulton County. He was sentenced to the maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, as he was the admitted shooter.

Barker’s Sentence

The other co-conspirator and third to be arrested just weeks after the murder, was Goehler’s friend, Travis Barker. He received 30 years in a negotiated plea on a first degree murder charge. Barker later testified against Goehler, without the requirement from the prosecution as part of his plea. Evidence in the case proved Barker provided Goehler with the gun, the location as well as helping lure Stansbury to the location his life would end with three gunshots. Barker also helped get rid of the gun, destroy evidence, including Stansbury’s cell phone and initially lied to police in an attempt to cover up the crime.

Evidence

Evidence in the case proved after getting texts from his mother and being informed of the alleged rape Goehler acted. Initially, he was not cooperative with law enforcement, but later, on April 26,after nearly two days of a grueling search by police, the public and helicopters, Goelher led police to the location he had shot his friend. He also told his wife he had shot Stansbury. At his trial, testimony from Goehler’s mental evaluation and medical records outlined the type of mother Harden was to her son. She had a long history of drug addiction and mental issues and was very domineering over him. The detailed reports of mental abuse including Goehler attempting suicide and his need to please his mother. She was ultimately responsible for encouraging him to kill Stansbury. The motive was the alleged, yet still unfounded, rape of Goehler’s sister. The testimony in Goehler’s trial also outlined how the family learned about the alleged rape that had happened nearly ten months before with a house full of people home. It wasn’t reported to family until three weeks before Stansbury’s murder, yet had never reported it to law enforcement. The family then moved to Melbourne after the murder and sought a counselor, who also allegedly never reported the alleged rape accusation, despite being a state mandated reporter. Christina’s testimony was very contradictory, including explaining the timing of telling about the alleged crime during a time when Harnden was suffering from what her husband described as a mental breakdown.

Davidlee’s Legacy

The family would like their son to be remembered as the kind hearted friend to all. Salem High School Classmates of both Stansbury and Goehler, including Laken Bailey, were in shock over the details of the case and could not believe Goehler committed the murder. Many others, including former friends and students have commented on Stansbury’s well known kind nature and his love for people and acting. Stansbury graduated from Salem High School in 2020. While a student, he participated in the Drama Club as well as other activities. Some may have known him as Davidlee “Bug”. He was an avid fan of “Superheroes”, with Spiderman, Captain America, and Flash being three of his favorites. Davidlee was known to be goofy, loved by everybody, and had a smile that was contagious. He was a loving son, brother, uncle, friend, and was a member of the Immanuel Southern Baptist Church in Salem, Arkansas.

It will never be over

As the final cell door clanked on the last of those involved, closure is something the Stansbury’s family will never have. As Goehler’s mother’s freedom ended for 20 years, the victim’s mother returned home just as empty as the day she learned her child’s life was taken. “Nothing will ever make it okay, nothing will bring my son back,” Alicia said after Goehler was sentenced.