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Newly released documents reveal murder suspect's violent past

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 03 2013 06:31:03 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 03 2013 08:39:25 PM MDT
ANACONDA, Mont. -

The family of a murdered Anaconda woman is angry after we shared newly unsealed court records, revealing the man suspected of killing her had a history of violence.

"She wouldn't be dead. She'd still be alive today," said Christina Hagen about her sister, Tammy Salle.

She's talking about court records she said might have saved her sister's life, had they been available before Salle's murder.

We broke the news to Hagen -- John Goldberg, Salle's boyfriend, had a violent past. Newly unsealed court documents show instances like choking a woman, and jail time for assaulting a former girlfriend.

Tammy Salle disappeared after Christmas. Goldberg, the main suspect, killed himself before police could fully question him.

When NBC Montana asked to see Goldberg's criminal history, the court clerk told us a judge sealed all his records in 2003.

But we fought to get those records released, and the courts eventually granted the request.

A ticket Goldberg received for assaulting a woman in 1993 says that he grabbed a woman, and began shaking and choking her.

He was also ticketed with criminal mischief at the same time -- for breaking the woman's phone, perfume bottles, punching holes in the walls and breaking a window in her house.

NBC Montana also found charging documents from 1994, where he threw a tire iron at a man and hit him in the head with the iron, fracturing the man's skull.

"Wow. It just makes me sick," Hagen said, after hearing about the different incidents.

Goldberg spent time behind bars, and was released on probation. Then three years later, he went back to jail for beating up a former girlfriend.

When he successfully completed a boot camp program in 1998, he wrote a letter to court admitting "my weaknesses are my anger, denial."

The court reduced his sentence from ten years in prison, to five years deferred. Goldberg was a free man.

The records also contained a long letter by the mother of the former girlfriend Goldberg assaulted. In it she alleged he continually abused his family, and she urged the judge to reconsider the reduced sentence.

She wrote, "I fear for my daughter and grand child(s) life."

The woman said Godlberg's record should never be cleared, and added, "I predict he'll return to his old ways."

In the final paragraphs of the letter, she said, "We will put guilt also onto the judicial system for releasing John into society."

The former girlfriend's mother closed the letter saying, "I have an inner extra sense of life situations and this one is not over. We've just begun."

In 2003, all charges were dropped when Goldberg finished his deferred sentence. The file was sealed from the public eye.

"We are very angry," Tammy's sister Christina said, of the documents being sealed. "If it would've been public knowledge like it should have been, the outcome would have been a lot different."

We did reach out a couple times to the lawyer who represented Goldberg through all those court cases, to ask why those documents were sealed from the public. He did not return any calls by deadline.

We also attempted to contact the judge who oversaw the case, and have not heard back.

Hagen said they never knew about Goldberg's past, he only told them he'd been in a bar fight. And -- to her knowledge -- he never showed signs of aggression.

She said had they known, her family may not be grieving over the death of Tammy Salle.

"Our family is just still in turmoil, still trying to come to grips with his" she said. "It's just hard."