Long before she entered political life, East Cleveland Mayor Saratha Goggins stabbed a boyfriend to death.
Goggins, who has for years evaded questions about the case, acknowledged Thursday that she killed O’Neal Price in a dispute 22 years ago. She would not discuss specifics of the slaying but said she acted in self-defense.
“It was an unfortunate incident that occurred in a time of my life,” she said in one of several interviews. “There is nothing I can do to change it. I have moved on. I am going to survive it.”
Her disclosure came after the Plain Dealer obtained a certified copy of a coroner’s report that says she admitted stabbing Price during an altercation in the kitchen of his Glenmont Road home on Sept. 30, 1982.
The late Coroner Sam Gerber ruled that Price, 48, a divorced father of three, died from a single stab wound to the heart. His report says that Goggins identified Price as her boyfriend.
Rumors about Goggins’ past have circulated for years. They reached a peak this month, when she replaced Emmanuel Onunwor as mayor after Onunwor’s conviction on corruption charges.
At the time of the slaying, Goggins was married and not involved in politics. News accounts were sketchy.
A story in The Plain Dealer did not identify Goggins by name, reporting only that police arrested a 31-year-old East Cleveland woman who was screaming as she tried to get into a parked car.
What happened next remains unclear. Court records available for public inspection contain no mention of Goggins being prosecuted.
In interviews, Goggins said she petitioned a judge to seal the records in September 1991. She recalled being convicted but said she could not remember the charge. She declined to say whether she was jailed or otherwise punished.
Copies of restitution checks, provided by the Price family, contain references to voluntary manslaughter. The copies were compared with duplicates and authenticated by Herbert L. Terry, manager of administrative services for the Cuyahoga County probation department.
Relatives said the checks were to cover burial expenses.
Price, who worked at the General Motors Chevrolet Plant in Parma, was buried Oct. 9, 1982, in his native Alabama, according to an obituary.
Price’s brother, Thomas, of Cleveland, recalled the night of the slaying. He said in an interview that Goggins visited him before going to his brother’s house. He said Goggins told him she knew that O’Neal Price was about to take another woman on a vacation.
O’Neal Price’s sister, Mattie Lewis of Garfield Heights, said she and other members of the family have been reluctant to discuss the case, but they have not forgotten it.
“I’ve tried to put it out of my mind,” Lewis said. “It particularly bothers me that she is in the position she’s in. I don’t believe justice was served, but who am I? I’m not a judge.”