Left: Irma Goff and her son, Scott, were out of town when the rest of their family was murdered in 1995. Photo by Michael Ventura. Right: The Goff family, from left: Andrea, Scott, Irma, David, Alyse and Sheri, at Alyse's bat mitzvah in 1993.
IT'S A LITTLE EARLY for dinner, but Irma Goff really wants her 2½-year-old grandson, Darren, to have some of her homemade matzo ball soup. The toddler loves his grandma’s matzo balls—he eats things at her house that he would never touch at home.
“One…two…three!” she says, lifting him onto the granite countertop in her kitchen. Irma picks up her grandson at preschool on Fridays, when she works a half day, and they spend the afternoon together. Five Guys for lunch, trips to the grocery store. She keeps one of Darren’s toy bins at the bottom of her pantry so he can play next to her while she’s cooking. She’ll baby-sit at a moment’s notice. She’s heard friends say it’s great being a grandparent because you get to enjoy the kids and then give them back. But she doesn’t like giving Darren back.
“Is this Bubbie’s special soup?” she asks. She’s taught him the word “knaidel,” which is Yiddish for matzo ball, and she’s feeding it to him fast.
“Let him breathe,” her son, Scott, says with a laugh. At 37, he’s used to the way his mom insists on feeding everyone. He goes over to her house in Potomac with his wife, Amy, and Darren a few times a week, and they can’t get out the door without having a meal. “Have more,” Irma will say to Scott. “You didn’t eat anything.” She sends him home with leftovers to take to work for lunch, then has to remind him to bring back her Tupperware.
You would never know from spending time with Irma and Scott that there’s anything different about them. There’s nothing in their voices or demeanor that hints at the depth of the tragedy they’ve endured. Irma wears a necklace she had made with five diamond studs that used to belong to her daughters, and keeps the girls’ bat mitzvah dresses in her closet. But the old family photos are in albums in the basement, not framed in her living room. It would be too hard for her to see them all the time.
“I had a great husband. I had a beautiful family. I had it all,” she says. “A lot of people don’t know what they have until they lose it—I always knew what I had.”
Her life now is a happy one, she says. But it isn’t the one she envisioned. Married at 21, she had four children—three girls and a boy—in seven years, while helping her husband, David, a podiatrist, run two offices. “I was blessed with energy,” she says. She used to wonder how the whole family would fit around the table for Friday night Shabbat dinners once her kids had children of their own. She’d always imagined one of her daughters getting married at the family’s home, a gray and white Tudor on Twining Lane in Potomac, walking down the staircase in a wedding gown. Then one night, without any warning, all of that was taken away.
Irma, who is known among friends for her great cooking, enjoys hosting Friday night Shabbat dinners with her husband, Dale Morton (right), at their home in Potomac. Before serving the meal, she lights two candles and guests recite traditional prayers. Scott (left, holding his son, Darren) goes over to his mom's house with his wife, Amy, nearly every week for Shabbat dinners; Dale's son, Kris Morton (center), often joins them. Photo by Michael Ventura.
Irma calls her grandson, Darren, "an absolute delight." "He barely eats at home," his dad, Scott, says. "But he'll eat at Irma's house." Photo by Michael Ventura.
THE LAST NAME GOFF is probably familiar to anyone who lived in Montgomery County 20 years ago and was old enough to watch the news. On July 20, 1995, a month before what would have been Irma’s 25th wedding anniversary, her husband and their three daughters—Andrea, 22, Sheri, 19, and Alyse, 15—were murdered by a painter’s assistant inside the family’s Potomac home. The painter, Mark Aldridge, whose wife was expecting a child, was also killed. Aldridge, who’d worked for Irma and David before, had hired an Ecuadoran day laborer, Bruman Alvarez, to help him with the Goffs’ house. Irma had seen Alvarez when he did work at the couple’s Silver Spring office, and asked Aldridge not to bring him to her home. “I have three daughters—I don’t need any strange men around,” she’d said. But Aldridge needed help and brought an assistant anyway.
According to news reports, Alvarez, who was 20 at the time, sexually assaulted Alyse, then a rising sophomore at Winston Churchill High School, while Aldridge was away from the house briefly. When Aldridge returned, surprising Alvarez, his assistant killed him. Alvarez killed Alyse, and murdered David, Andrea and Sheri when each of them arrived home that day. He called 911 from the home that night and was arrested after police arrived—he originally claimed that Aldridge was responsible for the other killings, and that he had then killed Aldridge. “He came prepared to do what he was gonna do to Alyse. The others just happened,” Irma says. Alvarez has been in prison ever since; he is currently an inmate at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.