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Crime News Kill or Be Killed

Army Vet Fatally Shot Man His Girlfriend Had Told Him Molested Her: "I Pulled the Trigger 7 or 8 Times"

The night of the fatal shooting, Jimmy Shelton, Sean Patrick Foley and Miranda Goddard drank together on a porch, until Foley went inside and overheard the pair’s conversation.

By Joe Dziemianowicz

On August 28, 2018, Army veteran Sean Patrick Foley called 911 to report that he had “fired on” Jimmy L. Shelton.

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“I pulled the trigger seven or eight times,” Foley said in the recorded call obtained by Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c p.m. on Oxygen.

Officers arrived at Shelton's Maryville, Tennessee, home and handcuffed Foley, 24, and his girlfriend Miranda Goddard, 25. Police found Goddard’s mother and sister trying to revive the 44-year-old victim.

Authorities discovered that Shelton “was dead on their arrival,” said Dale Gourley, a retired captain of the Blount County Sheriff's Office, “[Foley's] claim was that Miranda was being attacked and he was defending her.”

Shelton was unarmed, but Foley claimed he lunged at him before he fired his gun. Goddard’s statements confirming Foley’s account were caught on police dash-cam tape. “Sean was trying to protect me,” she said.

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Sean Foley featured on Kill Or Be Killed episode 109

Sean Foley claims self-defense

Police learned that Foley and Goddard had been living together in another town before moving in with Shelton and his fiancée Dawn McGinnis, Goddard’s mother, to save money. McGinnis and Shelton were a couple for 17 years.

Foley had dreams of being an engineer and had spent nine months in the military before being discharged due to injuries, according to Kill or Be Killed.

The night of the shooting, Shelton, Foley and Goddard drank together on the porch of Shelton's home. Foley left them to go inside to play video games.

Foley had learned from Goddard that Shelton had a history of molesting her. From inside the house, he listened in on the two and recorded the pair’s conversation.

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Foley told police that he overheard Goddard tell Shelton she needed money for a car. Shelton said he could do something about that. Foley monitored them for nearly 23 minutes.

During that time, Foley said, Shelton started to molest Goddard. Armed with his gun, Foley went back outside and told Shelton, “I’ll drop you,” if he ever touched her again.

A scuffle between the two men resulted. Foley shot Shelton multiple times and claimed that he had acted in self-defense, according to Gourley.

Foley was arrested for first-degree murder. “Sean maintained that he wasn't prepared to kill Jimmy,” said Aaron Kimsey, Foley's attorney. “He had to kill him or he was going to die.”

Jimmy Shelton featured on Kill Or Be Killed episode 109

Jimmy Shelton’s history of alleged abuse

Prosecutors learned more about the dynamic of the household where the shooting took place. Goddard had recently gotten out of an abusive relationship.

“Sean swept in, like a knight in shining armor,” said her mother, adding that he was “controlling.” She stated that Shelton was a “mentor” to Foley and “took him under his wing.”

Marissa McGinnis, Goddard’s sister, said she had misgivings about Foley. “There was something about him I didn’t like,” she told Kill or Be Killed.

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Dawn acknowledged that Goddard had made accusations of abuse about Shelton that led to an investigation. Goddard recanted because she “didn’t want her family to be torn apart,” her mother said.

Goddard's mom said she’d hoped that Shelton “would change." She said, "I asked all the time. I asked him and I asked her. I was always told that nothing was going on.”

But Goddard told Foley that the abuse continued. “She said it was mid to late teenage years,” Foley said in the police recording.

Sean Foley featured on Kill Or Be Killed episode 109

Miranda Goddard stops communicating with Sean Foley

Foley told police that Shelton had lunged at him and grabbed his gun during the confrontation. But the medical examiner found no evidence such as powder burns to corroborate that, according to legal analyst Lis Wiehl.

A week after the fatal shooting, Foley learned that Goddard was pregnant. With his bond set at $1 million, Foley was still in jail when his trial began on August 20, 2019, a little less than a year after the incident.

During the yearlong wait for proceedings to begin, communication between Foley and Goddard went from frequent to non-existent. Because Goddard was key to Foley’s defense, her silence was a red flag for the defense team.

Prosecutors knew that Shelton’s character would be a steep hurdle. His past sexual abuse allegations meant that “he would be hated,” said Wiehl.

“They hammered on the fact that Sean was lying there in wait... and didn’t do anything for those 22 minutes plus,” Wiehl said. “They said this is not a self-defense case. This was about a man who was enraged by this older man touching his girlfriend.”

Even if Shelton had lunged at Foley, the legal analyst added, “he had a right to protect himself” from a man aiming a gun at him.

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The defense team emphasized that Foley hadn’t shot Shelton from inside the house. He fired only when he had to protect his life. “That killed the premeditation of this case,” said Kimsey. “This was self-defense.”

Both sides used ballistic evidence. Prosecutors pointed out that Shelton had been shot multiple times. Defense lawyers drove home the fact that some of the wounds were from close range.

That evidence supported the defendant’s claim that Shelton had lunged at Foley “because he was trying to kill him,” said defense attorney Jaclyn Hardin.

Jimmy Shelton featured on Kill Or Be Killed episode 109

Miranda Goddard changes her story

On the second day of the trial, Goddard took the stand. She had given birth to Foley’s daughter weeks earlier. On the stand, she totally reversed what she’d said previously.

Asked if she needed Foley’s protection and if she was being molested, she said no. “At this point, the defense is sweating in its boots,” journalist Lisa Fischer told Kill or Be Killed.

The defense team sought to introduce dash-cam footage from the night of the shooting, in which Goddard said, “Sean didn’t do anything. He was trying to protect me. He knows what Jimmy did to me.”

The evidence was deemed inadmissible to show to the jury, but lawyers were able to show the footage to Goddard and ask her what she’d previously said. The strategy weakened Goddard’s testimony for the prosecution.

Foley chose to testify on his own behalf. Defense lawyers seized the chance to portray his military service and other good traits.

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Prosecutors honed in on the fact that he “came out guns blazing” and killed an unarmed man, according to Wiehl. They referenced the recorded conversation that Foley eavesdropped on between Shelton and Goddard, noting he'd heard Shelton say, “Let me pay for an hour,” and her respond, “I can arrange that. Trust me. I’m about money.”

While prosecutors said Shelton and Goddard’s conversation was “consensual,” Foley shot a hole in that by stating on the stand that she was intoxicated, said Kimsey, noting, “If you’re drunk, you can’t consent.”

Prosecutors’ closing statements pointed out that Goddard wanted to have a private talk with Shelton “to barter sex for a car,” said Wiehl, adding that Foley got enraged as he listened to them. “Vigilante justice is not legal.”

Kimsey told Kill or Be Killed, “it was self-defense from the very beginning.”

Sean Foley featured on Kill Or Be Killed episode 109

Sean Foley case leads to mistrial and plea deal

On August 22, 2019, the jury found Foley not guilty of first-degree murder. On the count of second-degree murder, jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. The judge declared a mistrial.

Foley and his defense team accepted a deal of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to five and a half years and was released in 2022.

Find out more about the case and where Foley is today, which is covered in the “Vigilante Violence” episode of Kill or Be Killed, airing Saturdays at 9/8c p.m. on Oxygen.