By Tina Alvey
For the Daily Telegraph
LEWISBURG — Closing out the first day of a trial in Greenbrier Circuit Court, a confessed arsonist gave chilling testimony about the night a State Police detachment’s parking lot full of vehicles went up in flames.
Ray Goff spoke in a hurried monotone on the witness stand Wednesday, the opening day of the arson trial of David Clayton White, 48, of Meadow Bridge.
Goff admitted his part in torching “five or six” vehicles in the parking lot of the Rainelle detachment of the West Virginia State Police in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, 2011, but said he was only following White’s instructions.
White is charged with arson in the second degree; conspiracy to commit arson in the second degree; eight counts of arson in the third degree; nine counts of intimidation of and retaliation against public officers and employees; conspiracy to commit arson in the third degree; and conspiracy to commit intimidation of and retaliation against public officers and employees.
The 29-year-old Goff earlier entered into an agreement with the state to plead guilty to three counts of arson and serve a total of 3 years in the penitentiary in exchange for testifying against White and other co-defendants in the alleged conspiracy.
Goff testified Wednesday that he witnessed a discussion between David White and wife, Jennifer White, on Dec. 9, 2011, in which David White told his wife to call Floyd White “to see if he wanted to take care of the trucks... if he wanted to burn them.” David and Floyd White are brothers.
The conversation was an apparent reference to six trucks that had been seized by police from Floyd White’s property earlier that same month in connection with a vehicle theft ring investigation that focused on the White family compound in Meadow Bridge. Weather concerns had forced police to store the trucks on the State Police lot in Rainelle rather than take them on to Beckley with 17 other vehicles seized from the compound, according to testimony from Sr. Tpr. R.E. Marsh, who led the theft ring investigation.
After the conversation about burning the trucks, Goff said he and the Whites took a slow drive by the State Police lot where the seized trucks were stored, as David White “pointed out” various vehicles.
Goff testified that David White picked him up at his home “real early” Dec. 15, 2011, and told him, “We’re going to go down there and burn those vehicles.”
Also in the car with Goff and White were David White’s nephew Nicholas White and Joshua Redden, Goff said.
With David White driving, the men traveled from Meadow Bridge to Rainelle, where they pulled into a parking lot near the State Police barracks, Goff testified. White received a phone call at that point, telling him that a police officer “was there” — at the barracks — according to Goff.
He estimated the men waited about 30 minutes and finally saw the officer leave the premises.
Goff quoted White as saying, “Let’s go. It’s time to do this.”
The men all knew what “do this” meant, Goff said, noting he, Nicholas White and Redden all toted gasoline cans over to the State Police parking lot.
“I had gasoline in my hand and a pack of matches,” Goff said.
“I was supposed to pour gasoline in (vehicles) and light ‘em up,” he added.
After the men completed their task, Goff said David White told him he was going back to torch a State Police cruiser and proceeded to do so. “He busted out a window and threw matches in,” Goff testified.
Goff said White threatened him when the man dropped him off at his house shortly thereafter. “He reminded me not to say nothing... or I’d (expletive) die. He’d kill me,” Goff said.
He said White also voiced expletive-laced threats regarding police officers and their families.
Goff testified that he took White’s threats seriously, saying, “I was scared.”
White is lodged in the Southern Regional Jail as a federal inmate; he was on parole for federal offenses at the time the Rainelle arsons occurred. His bail on the Greenbrier County charges was set at $1 million.
Weather permitting, the trial will continue today, beginning with defense attorney Douglas Arbuckle’s cross-examination of Goff.