This story was originally published April 26, 2012 in the Charleston Daily Mail. It was co-written with Jared Hunt, and won second place in the “best written news story” category of the 2013 West Virginia Press Association Better Newspaper Contest.
It was a Friday evening almost two years ago when employees of Kelley’s Men’s Shop donned yellow ribbons and gathered with family and friends in the store’s parking lot for a candlelight vigil.
They prayed for the safe return of friend and co-worker Kathy Goble.
What they didn’t know then was that the man who would later admit to strangling Goble, dismembering her body and burying it in his backyard was standing right there with them.
This was one of many details employees at the family-owned Charleston store were coming to terms with Wednesday afternoon after news broke that long-time store shoe salesman Charles March had been arrested for Goble’s murder.
“We’re still in shock,” Kelley’s owner Kenny Waldeck said Wednesday afternoon.
Goble worked in the sporting apparel department for over a decade before she disappeared.
The news that her body had been found in Chesapeake Wednesday morning was enough of a shock.
But employees were doubly blindsided when they learned March—a shoe salesman and Kelley’s employee for more than 30 years—had been arrested as her killer.
“It’s just unbelievable that somebody that’s been with us for two years since she disappeared could just commit such a heinous crime and not show any kind of remorse, or change in demeanor or anything that would indicate that he was remotely involved,” Waldeck said.
Kristi Walker, Waldeck’s daughter and store vice president, sat ashen-faced Wednesday as she tried to describe how she felt.
“A little sick,” Walker said. “Nauseous would be the appropriate word.”
With two years having gone by, Walker’s hopes that Goble would be found alive had begun to dim.
She found some closure in the discovery of Goble’s remains. But she said she was trying to deal with the fact that the accused killer had spent two years in her midst.
“You go from one set of questions as to where she is to how this happened, and why,” Walker said.
“And how do you live with it,” Waldeck added.
Both said Goble’s name had been mentioned in conversation every day at the store since she went missing. And they said at no point during two years worth of conversations did March ever do anything that would indicate he knew where Goble was.
“He was just like all the rest of us,” Walker said. “He would sit in on conversations where we would all just be like, ‘What could have happened to her?’
“Her friends that he knew would come in, and he would talk to them about what could have happened to Kathy—he never gave any inclination that he knew,” she said.
Walker said March did call in sick on Tuesday—the second anniversary of Goble’s disappearance—but she didn’t think anything of it at the time.
She said the only time anyone really noticed a change in March’s demeanor occurred a few months ago following the death of his mother. March, who was divorced, seemed down for a while, but Waldeck said he perked back up after the birth of his latest grandchild earlier this year.
“Someone told me on the phone this morning, ‘I just talked to somebody here in the store a couple weeks ago specifically about her, and he just showed no sign of anything,’” Waldeck said.
Those who knew March outside work shared the disbelief.
A neighbor in Chesapeake named Dana, who would not provide his last name, said he considered March a friend. The men have known each other for 20 years, and Dana has lived across the street for the last decade.
March often volunteered to cut Dana’s grass while he and his wife were at work.
“He’d say, ‘Just leave the key to your outbuilding and I’ll get your lawnmower out,’” Dana said.
The men also watched television together. Dana would go to March’s singlewide mobile home some evenings to watch movies or wrestling shows like “WWE Monday Night RAW.”
When Dana’s doctor warned him he was in the early stages of diabetes, March started buying Diet Coke for his friend to drink when he visited. Dana said he doesn’t mind the off-brands, like Diet Big K, but March always bought him the name brand.
He said March never mentioned Goble’s disappearance.
“We never would have thought he’d do anything like that,” he said.
Charles Hughey, 74, also was shocked by the allegations.
Hughey has lived in his Ohio Avenue home for 27 years. He said March was living in his trailer when Hughey moved there.
“He’s a nice guy. You never heard a thing from him,” Hughey said.
Kenneth Johnson, 82, also was surprised.
Johnson, a lifelong Chesapeake resident, lives across the train tracks from March’s trailer. He’s known March since he was a little boy. Johnson said March’s parents used to run a small store near Town Hall.
“I just couldn’t hardly believe that. He was always friendly,” Johnson said.
March’s home is a ramshackle trailer with aged white siding and a weatherworn roof, separated from the street by a split-rail fence. On Wednesday, that fence was lined with yellow crime scene tape.
March told police he strangled Goble to death in that trailer and then wrapped her body in a blanket and placed it in a bathtub.
He dismembered Goble’s body the next day and buried it in the yard, he told police.
Eventually, the soil covering her shallow grave began to sink.
March’s son, David, noticed the sinkhole. On Wednesday, he grabbed a shovel and decided to figure out what was causing it.
“They didn’t know why it kept sinking in,” Chesapeake Mayor Damron Bradshaw said. “He was trying to see what the problem was on the bottom of the hole, to see what the cause of it was.
“That’s when he unearthed the skull.”
David March dropped his shovel and crossed the train tracks that separate his father’s house from the rest of Chesapeake. He walked the short distance to Town Hall, looking for Police Chief Jack Ice.
Ice was at the Capitol in Charleston at the time, but Bradshaw volunteered to walk back to the house. The mayor called 911 when he saw what David’s shovel had uncovered.
Bradshaw said he had known Charles March since childhood.
“His family and our family were great friends for years,” he said.
He would not answer when asked if he was surprised by the suspect’s confession.
“Don’t ask me that question,” Bradshaw said.
March was sitting in his usual seat in the Kelley’s shoe department reading the morning newspaper when detectives came to question him.
After a brief conversation in the store’s backroom, one of the detectives told a Kelley’s employee March was going to the sheriff’s department to answer a few questions.
“The detective told them that (March) would be back in a little bit,” Walker said.
Walker was at home when news outlets began reporting that the body in Chesapeake could be Goble. She said she called the store and told employee Tami Lowmiller to warn everyone to brace for the worst.
That’s when Lowmiller told her the police had just left.
“She said, ‘Oh, no—they just took Charlie out of here,’” Walker said.
And that was when the full weight of the situation came to bear.
“I didn’t put it together until I talked to Tami,” Walker said.