In June of 2020, it was reported in the media that an inmate at the Airway Heights Correctional Center in Washington had been murdered by his cellmate. 70-year-old Robert Munger was assaulted and killed by 25-year-old Shane Goldsby. However, this wasn’t just a random attack; Munger was in prison for raping Goldsby’s sister.
In 2017, Goldsby had been arrested for stabbing somebody, stealing a Kelso Police car and taking authorities on a high-speed chase which resulted in him hitting a Washington State Police car and injuring a police officer who was inside the car. He was sentenced to just over five years. He had originally been incarcerated at Shelton before being moved to Walla Walla and then Clallam Bay. Finally, he was transferred to Airway Heights Correctional Center in 2020.1
In 2019, Munger had been convicted on multiple child sex abuse charges, including child rape, child molestation and possession of child pornography, and was sentenced to a minimum of 43 years in prison.2 He was ordered to serve his sentence at Airway Heights Correctional Center.
When Goldsby was assigned the same cell as Munger upon his arrival at the prison, he said: “This stuff doesn’t happen. You’re talking the same institution, the same unit, the same pod in the same cell as this dude. That’s like hitting the jackpot in the casino seven times.” He said that despite the anger he felt towards Munger, he had never wanted to kill him. He questioned how and why he was transferred to the same prison and then to the same cell as the man who had sexually assaulted his younger sister. “You put me in the same cell as this dude, I feel set up,” he stated.
According to Goldsby, he had managed to keep his composure before being tipped over the edge by comments that Munger had made. He stated that Munger started giving him lurid details about the sexual assault on his sister, even revealing that he had taken photographs and videos of her. These details were never provided in the media indicating that Munger certainly had divulged the grim details to his victim’s brother. Goldsby claimed that he had attempted to alert prison officers of the predicament he was in but his complaints fell onto deaf ears.
The attack took place on the 2nd of June, 2020, and surveillance footage had captured the entire thing. Goldsby could be seen attacking Munger from behind in the common area of the prison, knocking him to the ground and punching and kicking his head as well as stomping on it. Munger would die three days later and Goldsby would be charged with first-degree murder. He was ordered to be held on $500,000 bond. If convicted, he would be facing a life sentence.
He would make a statement directed at his younger sister which read in part:
“To my little sis, I say I love you [name redacted] so much. And I apologize about what I did. I hope I don’t get life. I hope I see you again. I hope to God that I see you again. I hope to God that if I don’t see you again, then you know why I did what I did. That I love you and I always will. And that I apologize that I made that choice. Just keep that head up. I love you. I always will. Get a hold of me someday.”
Following the murder, Janelle Guthrie, a communications director with the Washington Department of Corrections, said that they were going to be conducting an investigation into the situation. The fact that the two men had been quartered together violated Department of Corrections policy.3
An investigation into the murder by the Washington State Patrol would find no evidence that prison staff played a role or that Goldsby or Munger had tried to warn staff about a potential conflict. The conclusions contradicted Goldsby’s claims that he had attempted to alert the staff at least twice. The investigation would find that Department of Corrections staff were not aware of any connection between Goldsby and one of Munger’s victims until after the attack. It also found there was no evidence to suggest that staff had arranged for the two men to share a cell because they had no knowledge of who Goldsby’s sister was.
As the findings of the investigation were made public, Goldsby’s mother, Cindy Elliot, disputed it and said she would be seeking help to fight for her son. She stated: “Of course they’re going to cover up for their own asses and they’re lying. Whether my son talked about Munger in prison or not, they knew what they were moving him into and what they were doing.” She said that while she did not condone her son’s actions, she said he should never have been in that cell block in the first place.4
In August of the following year, Goldsby would plead guilty to second-degree murder and be sentenced to 25 years for the murder. The sentencing phase would focus quite heavily on Goldsby’s upbringing. His defence had wanted a more lenient sentence and cited childhood abuse. He had been abused by his drug-addicted mother who would often chain him outside. He went through ten different foster homes after being removed from his mother’s care but he and his mother later reconnected and began to abuse drugs together.5
During the sentencing phase, Goldsby addressed Munger’s family and apologised for killing the sex offender. He stated: “I cannot imagine what it would be like to lose a loved one in this kind of way. To his wife and his whole family, I apologize. I am so sorry and I hope you are able to heal from what I caused.” He became emotional and his defence lawyer finished the statement for him: “I’m ashamed of my actions, I was put into a situation that I don’t wish on nobody. I got a lot of fixing to do.”
- The Daily News, 4 August, 2020 – “Munger’s Killer and Cellmate was Brother of a Victim”
- Associated Press, 8 August, 2020 – “Inmate Faces Charges in Fatal Beating of Washington Cellmate”
- The Seattle Times, 10 August, 2020 – “After Inmate’s Murder, Gov. Inslee Should Finally Demand Corrections Reform”
- The Daily News, 28 August, 2020 – “WSP Investigation Finds DOC Followed Procedure in Munger’s Killing”
- The Spokesman-Review, 4 August, 2021 – “Felon Who Killed Cellmate for Sexually Abusing His Sister Gets More than 24 Years in Prison”