Family members and law enforcement officials agree there is little hope that a mild-mannered couple last seen a year ago in eastern Ohio is alive today and that it’s likely they were killed by someone.
But what they still find confounding is why anyone would have killed 56-year-old Joni Davis and her longtime boyfriend and caregiver, 65-year-old Brian Goff. They say the couple kept to themselves, adhered to what’s been described as comfortable routine Goff devised, and rarely ventured away from the Ohio River communities where they had grown up and spent most of their lives.
“I want to know who did it, and why they did it,” said Jackie Davis, Joni’s sister. “I don’t know what would cause someone to hurt those two people. They would be the last two people in the world that something bad would happen to.”
The Belmont and Jefferson county sheriff’s offices, the FBI, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and other agencies have been engaged in an exhaustive search for the couple and Goff’s car, a 1990 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Belmont County Detective Sgt. Randy Stewart said a “no holds barred” investigation has included the use of cadaver dogs, dive teams with sonar gear, aircraft flying hundreds of miles and investigators with search warrants seeking evidence at homes.
Goff’s car was last spotted June 10, 2018, by a gas station surveillance camera headed north in Belmont County, not long after the couple had dined, as usual on Sunday nights, at a Pizza Hut.
The last ping from Goff’s cellphone was in neighboring Jefferson County. After that, the couple essentially vanished.
Stewart said there are persons of interest in the case and that investigators are “looking at people close to the family.” He doesn’t think Goff and Davis will be found alive.
“I think it will take a confession or the reward to lead us the location of the bodies,” said Stewart.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said that a reward will be announced soon.
“We’re still doing everything we can possibly do, but now we’re up against a wall and don’t know which way to turn,” Abdalla said.
Goff and Davis met at a picnic around 25 years ago, and had been a couple ever since, Jackie Davis said. Their relationship became complicated when Joni at age 35 failed to wake up one morning and remained in a coma for months. After a long stay at a rehabilitation facility, according to Jackie Davis, Joni re-learned how to walk, speak and feed herself. But her brain damage was permanent, and she required fulltime care.
Jackie Davis said their mother cared for Joni until the mother’s death five years ago. Goff then assumed that role. The couple lived with Goff’s twin brother, Colin, at Colin’s home in Martins Ferry.
It’s improbable that Joni could have survived the last year without her anti-seizure medication, Jackie Davis said. And she remains puzzled why Goff would have driven north toward Jefferson County that evening. He hated driving at night. And unfailingly, he would drive to the same gas station after supper to buy a pack of cigarettes and then to Arby’s, where he would pick up an iced tea to take home to Joni.
“Everyone knew exactly what time he would be there,” Jackie Davis said. “Something made him stray from his routine.”
Goff’s brother, Bruce, who lives outside Columbus, is not optimistic.
“You just have a feeling there was some foul play involved,” he said. “And, if that’s the case, it’s very unlikely they will be found alive.”