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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Mel Goldberg: ‘I’d do it again’

Bill Morlin The Spokesman-Review
Nine years after he assisted in the shotgun murder of his son-in-law, Morris “Mel” Goldberg told a Spokane courtroom Tuesday he would do it again. “I would do the same thing to protect my granddaughter,” Goldberg said before he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. As part of his rambling anti-government address to the court, Goldberg said his conscience drove him to assist his former wife in stalking and then killing Peter Zeihen on Nov. 18, 1991. Goldberg, 70, also claimed the court wasn’t operating under constitutional law and that he was denied a fair trial. The killer said a martial law U.S. flag was in the courtroom and he was denied an opportunity to supply the jury with a justifiable-homicide instruction. Goldberg sounded very much like white supremacists who call themselves Phineas Priests and say God’s words in the Old Testament offer justification for their deeds. “He was a baby raper,” Goldberg said of Zeihen. Zeihen was shot in the head outside a Spokane Valley apartment just a few days before he was to appear in court at a child-custody hearing with his estranged wife, Orinne Goldberg. She has not been charged with involvement in the murder. Police and child welfare investigators said they found no evidence that the couple’s child, then a 2-year-old, had been molested. Goldberg’s ex-wife, JoAnn Peterson, who awaits trial next March, is accused of firing the shotgun blast that killed Zeihen, while her husband helped plan the murder and drove the getaway car. The victim’s father, Frank Zeihen, of Chewelah, Wash., told the court that Goldberg had concocted a “garbled lie of child abuse.” “No one in authority would believe him,” Frank Zeihen told the court. “You’ll go to prison,” Zeihen said, addressing Goldberg. “Then you’ll go to hell. The devil is the only friend you will ever have.” Frank Zeihen’s wife, Chewelah City Councilwoman Jewel Zeihen, reminded the court that Goldberg testified at his trial that he was “judge, jury and executioner” of her son. “He looks like an old goat,” Jewel Zeihen said of Goldberg. “But an old goat is a whole lot better than Mel. Mel is evil.” Jewel Zeihen talked about earlier attempts on her son’s life. Two weeks before he was murdered, a stalker emptied a .357 handgun at him in a Spokane Valley parking lot after flattening his tires. “Mel needs to be sentenced to jail for the rest of his life,” Jewel Zeihen told the court. The victim’s sister, Diane Zeihen, told Goldberg he has “been consumed by evil and called it righteousness.” Among the victims, she said, is her niece who now realizes her grandfather murdered her father. “You violently raped their souls, generation after generation,” Diane Zeihen said. “The blood of Peter Zeihen is brightly stained on you forever and ever.” Family friend Sharon Stillwell told the court that Peter Zeihen was a warm, compassionate father who cared deeply about his daughter, even during a turbulent divorce. His murder, she said, created “a hole in my heart and caused instant pain.” “We haven’t known justice for nine years, minus four days,” Stillwell said. The case against Goldberg and Peterson was developed after the couple’s son, Theil Goldberg, and daughter, MervEllen Ashby, both of Colorado, contacted Spokane County sheriff’s detectives last year. At that same time, agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were investigating JoAnn Peterson for possession of a machine gun at her remote, strawwalled home near Moyie Springs, Idaho. She and her husband both protested actions of federal law enforcement agencies at Ruby Ridge, during the Randy Weaver standoff in 1992. Goldberg was convicted of aggravated first-degree murder by a Spokane County Superior Court jury Oct. 18. Judge Michael E. Donohue refused to grant a defense motion Tuesday to set aside the jury’s finding that aggravating circumstances existed in the murder. With that finding, the judge had no choice but to sentence Goldberg to life in prison, with no chance of release.