Nikki Goeser watched the man who had stalked her murder her husband in a gun-free zone. Because she was a law-abiding concealed carry permit holder, Goeser’s firearm was safely locked away in her vehicle, leaving her defenseless.
Now a gun rights activist, Goeser is working hard to ensure every American has the means to protect themselves and their loved ones. Goeser, author of “Stalked And Defenseless: How Gun Control Helped My Stalker Murder My Husband in Front of Me,” joins the “Problematic Women” podcast to share her story. Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript.
Virginia Allen: Nikki, thank you so much for being here today and for being willing to share your story with us.
Nikki Goeser: Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
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Allen: Your book “Stalked And Defenseless: How Gun Control Helped My Stalker Murder My Husband in Front of Me” is about your husband Ben, really. And so we wanted to start and talk about him. What was Ben like and how did you meet him?
Goeser: Ben was a sweetheart. He was just a happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, lighthearted person. He was always smiling. He was the type of person that if a stranger came into the karaoke venue where I worked at, he would introduce the person around the room to all of the regulars to try and make them feel welcome.
Ben was also a big brother for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. He was a big brother to a child by the name of Trent. And Trent’s father was in prison and his mother really wanted Trent to have a positive male role model in his life. Someone that could spend time with him. And so Ben would take him go kart riding and to the bowling alley, movies. Trent would come over and ride the four wheeler at our house, or I’d cook dinner for him. And Ben was just a remarkable person. He was a really sweet person.
Allen: And when did you all get married?
Goeser: We actually got married on New Year’s Eve.
Allen: That’s so romantic. What year was that?
Goeser: It was 2007.
Allen: 2007, wow. Why New Year’s Eve?
Goeser: You know, I like New Year’s Eve, and he liked New Year’s Eve. It’s a date you never forget.
Allen: I love that.
Lauren Evans: And it was not long after you were married that you had the worst day of your life. Can you walk us through what happened that night at the restaurant?
Goeser: Yes. I need to kind of, I guess, give you a backstory a little bit.
Goeser: So my husband Ben and I [had] a mobile karaoke business in the evenings. Now we both had regular corporate jobs during the day. So we did this just as a side job for a little extra gas and grocery money. And it was fun. We both enjoyed it.
I would run karaoke shows in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, for various karaoke jockeys, ladies that were calling in sick or they just didn’t feel like working or any number of reasons. And those venues downtown, they owned their own equipment. So I would just show up and run a karaoke show using their equipment.
And I did this quite often and there was a man that came in to the karaoke venue and Ben and I—Ben was always with me by the way, when I would run these shows, because all of our friends were there, the regulars were there and Ben would just enjoy the evening with them and sing and have fun and then we would drive home together after my shift.
A man showed up and we’d never seen him there. And at first we thought he was just a tourist because, you know, there’s tons of tourists that come through in Nashville. But then he started coming in more often and we figured, well, he must live here. And Ben introduced him around the venue to all of the regulars to try and make him feel welcome.
And this man, I remember there was one night where he gave me $100 tip. Now keep in mind, when you run karaoke shows, the way you make the majority of your money is through tips. So we take around a tip jar at various points throughout the night or you have one up there by the karaoke equipment.
And people will tip you—now, usually people give you a $5 bill. Maybe they’ll give you a $20 if they want to sing next and they want their name moved up the song list because they’re extremely impatient, and they’ve had a little, maybe too much to drink and are not thinking. Sometimes I would think, “Buddy, you need to save that $20 for a ride home.”
But this man gave me a $100 bill and I thought he had made a mistake. I thought he thought he pulled a $10 and he accidentally pulled a $100 so I took it back over to him and I was like, “Are you sure?” And he just gave me this look of accomplishment like he was sure. So I knew it wasn’t a mistake. I’m showing it to him.
And so I said, “Well, thank you.” And I just, it may sound silly now, but at the time I was thinking, “Obviously, he wants to sing a lot tonight.” And … I put him up to sing a lot throughout the evening.
I remember then he sent me a request on social media. At the time it was MySpace back in those days and I added him to my social media account just like I did the rest of my customers. It was a way for me to retain my customer base and let people know where I would be running shows …
He started sending me messages, the kind of private message section, that were normal. I mean, just customer interaction, “Great show. Really enjoyed it. Can’t wait to come to the next one,” or whatever. Normal conversation.
Well, then he started saying things, it started to progress in a different light. He would say things like I was attractive. And now keep in mind, when you work in a venue like that, men tell you that you are attractive and you say thank you and you go about your business. You hear it all the time, no biggie.
Then his messages started to progress even more and he started saying things like, maybe, “Ben is too old for you. It’s OK to admit that you may have made a mistake. Don’t you want to have children?” Just inappropriate. So I showed the messages to Ben and Ben’s like, “Obviously, this guy’s got a crush on you,” and he just kind of, he didn’t think that much of it.
And I was like, “Well, I’m going to have to set this guy straight because that’s not appropriate at all.” So I did. I just said, “Look, you’re fishing in the wrong lake. I’m happily married. What you’re saying is not appropriate.” … I didn’t delete him right away. I thought I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve had to tell men before no, and they just move on. There’s other fish in the sea.
But he sent a message back that was the exact opposite of what he had been saying. He was trying to break me down by my physical appearance. He was really just being mean and obnoxious. And so I showed that message to Ben and we both agreed he needed to be deleted and blocked. And so that’s what I did.
I remember he came back into one of the karaoke venues and now he’s not singing, he’s stopped singing, he’s just standing in the middle of the crowd. Everyone’s having fun around him and he’s just standing there staring at me the whole time while I’m on the stage trying to run the show. And seems like he had come in again and again just staring at me.
And Ben at one point, Ben had told me on our way home, he said, “You know that guy … ” I don’t ever say his name because I don’t want to give him notoriety. My stalker, I guess, walked up to Ben and said, “Hey, Ben, how’s it going?” Like nothing had ever happened. He hadn’t sent me these strange, inappropriate messages.
And Ben just said, “Look, I read the messages that you sent my wife and I read what you had to say about me and you’re scaring her. Please leave my wife alone.”
And he said, “What? Is she mad at me? I swear it wasn’t me. I’ve got a crazy ex-girlfriend who knows how to hack into my account. It was her. It wasn’t me.” And of course Ben did not believe this phony explanation. Ben’s just like, “OK dude, whatever. Just leave her alone.”
And Ben turned around and joined the rest of our friends and this man left. We didn’t see him again for at least a solid month and I’m thinking it’s taken care of and he shows up to this restaurant where Ben and I ran our own mobile karaoke using our equipment. This restaurant was a good 30-, 35-minute drive away from downtown Nashville where this man normally went for karaoke.
Ben’s already asked him to leave me alone. I’ve deleted him, I’ve blocked him. It’s pretty clear we want nothing to do with him. And now he’s here. What’s he doing here?
I see him and I’m like, “Oh my God, this man is stalking me.” At that point I realized this is stalking. He’s not just a dedicated karaoke customer. He doesn’t have just a simple crush on me. This guy is stalking me.
So I turned to Ben and I said, “Honey, that man is here. The one that sent me the strange messages.” And he said, “Yeah.” He looked up and saw him and I said, “I don’t feel comfortable at all. I’m going to ask management to remove him.” And Ben said, “OK babe, do whatever you need to do.”
So I went to get management and … He had walked around behind Ben at the point that they confronted him and he had gone to the restroom before and he came back out and he’s standing behind Ben. Ben’s now at the karaoke equipment because I’m not there anymore to run the show, so Ben’s running it. Ben’s busy on the computer typing in songs and this man is just loitering behind him. He’s acting anxious, he’s looking all around the restaurant. I assume he’s looking for me.
I had walked the manager through the back kitchen up against a side brick wall where I could see out into the dining room, but he wouldn’t be able to see me and something just told me, “Don’t get involved. You’ve got no way to protect yourself. You don’t know what he’s capable of.”
Obviously, I’m concerned. I tell the manager, “Please get him out of here. He’s stalking me. Here’s what he has on.” And when they went to confront him.
I later learned during the trial that the manager said, “We need to ask you to leave.” And he said, “Why?” And she said, “Because you’re making someone here feel uncomfortable.” And he said, “Who?” And she said, “I think you know who.” And he said, “Well, I have to go to the restroom.” She said, “No, you’ve already been to the restroom. I think you need to leave now.”
And that’s when he pulled a .45 caliber handgun out from under his jacket. He had it in a shoulder holster. And at this moment he’s pulling the gun and I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I don’t have my gun.” And I can see the lights reflecting off of the metal slide.
He lowers the gun to Ben’s head and he fires one round and shoots Ben in the head and Ben falls to the ground and he stands over Ben and continues to fire six more rounds into him in front of myself and everyone in the middle of a busy restaurant. There was probably 50 people in there at the time.
And of course you can imagine the restaurant is complete pandemonium. People are running and screaming and trying to get out. And he had very calmly put the gun back inside of his jacket and started to walk around the corner into the pool table room to leave.
Allen: Oh my goodness.
Goeser: Like nobody would know he was the shooter. And I’m running as hard as I can to get to Ben when he turns around that corner and there’s a barrier between us. I later learned that there was a United States Marine who was in the crowd that tackled that man and a handful of other men jumped on top of him as well. They disarmed him and held him until the police came.
But I will probably wonder for the rest of my life if I could have prevented that. Of course, I’ll never know because I was denied a chance. I was stalked and defenseless.
So I’ve taken all of this grief and trauma and loss and I’ve tried to put all of this into a book to describe to people how gu- free zones are extremely dangerous. They make good, law-abiding people helpless. They do nothing other than encourage criminals to attack because, let’s face it, they know everybody in that place is helpless. So I’ve just done what I can to try and educate people and help them understand.
Allen: Nikki, thank you so much for sharing that. So incredibly just tragic what has happened.
During that time when your stalker entered the restaurant and you said you had that moment where you saw the gun come out and you thought, “I don’t have my gun,” you were a concealed carry [permit holder]. You had your permit, you still have it. Where was your gun at that point and why couldn’t you have it in the restaurant?
Goeser: My legal permitted gun that I normally carried for self-defense was locked in my vehicle in the parking lot there because the restaurant we were in, not only did they serve full meals, but they also served alcohol. And in the state of Tennessee at that time, you could not bring a gun, a legal handgun. You’ve got your hand gun carry permit. You could not bring it into those establishments. So I followed the law and left my gun locked in my vehicle.
Of course, my stalker did not have a handgun carry permit. He carried a gun illegally into a gun-free zone.
Evans: Had you been drinking that night? Is there any reason why besides just this law that you shouldn’t be?
Goeser: I was working and in the state of Tennessee, you cannot carry a gun anywhere … It was already the law. You cannot carry a gun anywhere and have alcohol in your system, so.
Evans: So the only reason why you didn’t have your gun on you was because of this law?
Goeser: The law.
Evans: Wow. One thing in your book that really touched me is how God’s fingerprints were on that day. That you never called out sick. You never called out of work sick ever. But that day you just felt like you wanted to spend the day with your husband and you had a conversation with him that most people don’t have on a normal day. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Goeser: Sure. I had never fibbed to a bar to spend time with my husband. I felt really awkward about that. But you know, I woke up that morning and I just could not shake this feeling. I was just like, “I really don’t want to go to work today. I just want to be with Ben.” And I don’t know how to explain it really.
But I took the day off and Ben had been laid off from his job and he was doing various home improvement, fix-up projects for friends to try and make a little extra money. So I just went with Ben that day and worked on the house that he was working on, ripping up old flooring and he was installing a fan that day and several other things.
But I am so glad I fibbed that day and took the day off as a sick day because I got to spend those precious moments with my husband.
Evans: So this happened over 10 years ago. Why choose now to write this book?
Goeser: It started out as a diary and it was a process. … It took three years to go to trial despite the overwhelming evidence and the entire crime was filmed on security cameras there at the restaurant. I mean, there was no question that he did it, who the murderer was. So it was very frustrating waiting that long.
So I would write my feelings just to deal with the grief and the trauma and the loss. And plus, I wanted to be able to remember things. I was concerned that because it was taking so long to go to trial, I knew that I would most likely be a witness in the trial and I wanted to be able to remember key details. And when time passes, sometimes your memory fades.
Then an acquaintance of mine, a friend said, “You should really consider turning this into a book. I think that a lot of people could learn from this.” So that’s what I did.
Allen: How have you been able to find some healing from your husband’s death? I mean, was writing the book an act that helped you to find that healing and in some ways recover?
Goeser: Yes, it was definitely healing. It was tough and it was healing, if that makes any sense. I don’t really know how to explain that, but it’s tough reliving those things. But if I feel like it can benefit others and make them think about their own safety, then I think it’s worth it. But yeah, it was healing.
Evans: You haven’t just written this book. You’ve become a gun rights advocate, doing speeches, working on legislation. What have been some of your proudest moments?
Goeser: Proudest moments? Oh, I guess one of my proudest moments was when the NRA gave me the Sybil Ludington Women’s Freedom Award in 2012. It’s an award given to one woman in the entire nation every year, and I was the recipient of that award for my Second Amendment advocacy work and that was a real honor for me that they would recognize all that I had done. That’s probably one of the big ones.
I’ve had so many moments that are just incredible. Of course, my boss is Dr. John Lott Jr., author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” and I have met some really incredible people and there are famous people I’ve met. But it’s funny because once you get to know them, you realize that they’re just people. They’re just like us. I mean, they put their pants on the same way we do. When you really talk to them and get to know them, I mean, they’re just good people. They’re just regular people.
I got to meet Allen West. I’ve got to meet Ted Nugent, his wife Shemane. I’ve gotten to meet Gunny, he was great. R. Lee Ermey, of course, he’s passed away now. Gosh, who else? There’s so many. I’ve gotten to meet Glenn Beck. I just had an interview the other night with Tucker Carlson.
Evans: Very cool.
Goeser: Just incredible people. Oh, Judge Andrew Napolitano. I’ve got to meet him. I’ve been honored to work for Congressman Thomas Massie. He’s just a great person. I loved working for him. True conservative, totally solid on the Second Amendment. He’s the chairman of the Second Amendment Caucus for Congress and I have a great deal of respect for him. …It’s hard to pick one. There’ve been so many great moments out of this horrible tragedy, but I just feel honored to have the opportunity to work with some really great people.
Evans: And have you had any legislative achievements?
Goeser: Well, I don’t know that I can take full credit. I can tell you that I certainly tried to help.
In the state of Tennessee, I actually worked with a Democrat. Now keep in mind, I am very conservative. I worked with the sponsor of the restaurant carry bill in Tennessee, who was a Democrat in the Senate, Doug Jackson. And he and I talked on the phone. I told him, “You know what had happened,” and I think he had seen it on the news, but the news wasn’t reporting that the wife of the murder victim had her hand gun carry permit, but she had to leave [her gun in] the car because of the law.
So when I told him, he’s like, “Oh my gosh, Nikki, we’re trying to get this bill passed and I may need to call on you to come to the Senate floor and tell your story.” And so that’s ultimately what happened. He had me come on the Senate floor. I don’t know if it flipped any votes or not, but it ended up passing. And then the governor, Phil Bredesen, Democrat, he vetoed it. And then they had to have an override vote and it passed.
Evans: Well, this is such a huge debate that we’ve really been seeing increasingly in America. There are two very passionate sides to the gun rights debate. But gun control advocates would likely argue that it’d only took cops three minutes to arrive on the scene of your husband’s murder.
Goeser: And that’s incredibly fast.
Evans: That is very fast.
Goeser: But I can tell you that when it’s happening to yourself or your loved one, it seems like an eternity.
Allen: Yeah, I’m sure. I’m sure.
Evans: And directly after the shooting as, as you mentioned, there were good Samaritans—
Allen: … that hopped on top of the shooter and took his gun away, but how do you think, if you had had that gun in your hand—
Allen: … how do you think the situation might’ve played out differently?
Goeser: You know, it’s really hard to say. I’ve definitely thought about it, but I don’t know that going back mentally over and over again with the should have, coulda, woulda scenario is healthy for me mentally.
Goeser: I’d like to think that with the training that I had—I was also a range volunteer so I would help with everything on the range when other people were trying to get their handgun carry permits—and doing armed security guard training and that sort of thing, I would like to think that those skills that I learned would’ve come in handy that night.
But here’s the thing, I think we all make decisions based on the options that we have. And when those options are not available to us, it changes the decisions that we make. So that’s hard to answer because those options were not available to me.
Evans: Andrew Pollack, gun rights advocate, and father of Meadow Pollack, we’ve interviewed him at The Daily Signal here before, wrote a very powerful intro to your book. He’s the father of a Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victim.
Lauren Evans: Meadow.
Goeser: I love that name.
Evans: It’s beautiful. And he wrote, “If Nikki had gone to the press to denounce the Second Amendment, anti-gun activists would’ve flocked to her, propped her up and amplified her message. This book probably would have been published by Simon & Schuster, but when she stood in front of the press in tears and spoke out in support of the Second Amendment, the press edited her words out and she was left to fight alone.”
Allen: Wow. Yeah. So Nikki, this is a tragedy that so much of the media really has ignored and because it doesn’t fit into their talking points. But what is the message that you want the public to hear?
Goeser: I guess the message I want people to hear is I don’t want people to be paranoid. I just want them to be prepared. Because let’s face it, nobody really thinks that something this horrible can happen to them. People tend to think, “Oh, this is something that happens to other people. It happens to people I see on the news.” Well, now I’m sitting here with you and I am one of those people. And bad things happen to good people every day and evil can show up unexpectedly and you just have to be prepared. You just never know when evil is going to show up.
Allen: And in your mind what is really next in this gun rights debate? I mean, what are you working on now or are you still involved?
Goeser: I feel like the criminal justice system really failed Benjamin and I back in Nashville. Here’s what happened. It was an insanity defense. OK. And I think people just think that insanity means, “OK, they’re crazy. They’re nuts. They’re insane.” No, insanity means you don’t know right from wrong. That’s it. That’s what it means.
And this man knew right from wrong and that was proven in the trial. But it was a bench trial. The murderer insisted on having just a judge. He did not want a jury. And for whatever reason, the prosecutor, I guess, decided to go along with that.
And the judge, his name was Judge Seth Norman, Democrat, unfortunately, despite all of the overwhelming evidence that showed what I believe is absolute premeditation, Judge Seth Norman dropped it from first degree premeditated murder to second degree.
In the state of Tennessee that’s only 15 to 25 years. This man got 23 years at 100% with no parole. But here’s the problem: 100% … I’ve recently learned this. 100% is not really 100%, no. He gets to earn early release good behavior credits while he’s in prison and he can have 3.5 years knocked off his sentence for good behavior. Well, I’ve also recently found out that my stalker has been writing me love letters from prison for years.
Goeser: … I had hired an attorney to represent me and my civil lawsuit against him. I had a wrongful death suit, which I won, but the lawsuit paperwork obviously was sent to him in prison and so he knew my attorney’s address. He would send these letters to my attorney.
When you open them up, all these letters are to me, and there were a few envelopes where he actually put my name on the outside of the envelope and all the prison system does is stamp it and they just say, “This has not been inspected. We are not responsible for the contents of this letter.” And they come out now …
I can tell you this, at first, I was furious with the Tennessee prison system. I thought, “How in the hell can a convicted murderer write their victim while they’re incarcerated?” And I was really mad. I was like, “This is crazy.” But the more I thought about it, I thought, “You know what? If it were mandated that the prison system cannot let these letters out, then I would never know about this continued threat.”
And I think it’s important that women know, as disturbing as it is. I mean, believe me, I’ve had nightmares. This is very difficult to deal with mentally and emotionally on top of everything that I’ve been through. But I think it’s really important that women know.
So I would not want to see a mandate where these types of letters are prevented from leaving the prison. I think that women should know and women should be given the option to prosecute for stalking and harassment while this person’s incarcerated.
So I have hired attorneys and we’re in the process of working on this and hopefully I can do something about this man because I think he’s extremely dangerous. He’s extremely dangerous to myself, to my loved ones. And he should’ve gotten the death penalty, quite frankly. At the very least, he should have gotten first degree, but, unfortunately, he is going to walk free one day and I’m just going to try everything I can to keep him out of society because I believe he’s very dangerous.
He’s already proven what he’s capable of.
Allen: Wow. Twenty-three years. That’s nothing for shooting your husband in cold blood.
Goeser: Yeah. His release date is 10/21/2028. He was supposed to stay in until 2032 but because of the early release credits—
Allen: Oh, he’s already earned it?
Goeser: Yes. … He has an early release because of that.
Allen: So do you fear that date?
Goeser: Absolutely. It’s terrifying.
Goeser: I mean, it’s kind of strange. I’m terrified and I’m furious at the same time.
Evans: Will you have your gun on you on that date?
Goeser: Oh, I usually have my gun on me … All the time. Obviously, not here. I’m in D.C. So—
Allen: Yeah, they’re pretty strict here.
Goeser: Very, very strict here.
Allen: So what would you say to women who, obviously, they’re hearing your story and they want to be able to protect themselves, but they might not have grown up around guns, they might be fearful of the idea of carrying a gun? What would you say to them?
Goeser: There are different training facilities in just about every town in the nation. There are a lot of women out there that train other women on firearm safety and shooting skills, justifiable self-defense. …
Not that males are not good at training. I’m not saying that at all, but there are some females that feel a little intimidated by guys training with guns and they might feel a little bit more comfortable learning from another female.
So I always encourage my friends to go get good training and see if you can find a female firearms trainer.
I tell ya, I think one thing I really want to talk about, if you don’t mind—I started doing my own research online as to the advice that women are given about stalking. And how to deal with it. Different women’s advocacy, advocacy groups and stalking resource groups, etc.
And one thing that bothers me—and look, I think some of this advice is helpful or could be helpful. They’ll say things like, “You might want to consider changing your name, moving, getting a new job, don’t follow a routine, get a restraining order,” which I think is just a piece of paper. Let’s face it, it’s not going to do anything for someone who has already murdered, who doesn’t care about the laws.
But one option that is generally not ever given is you might want to consider the basic human right of self-defense, your Second Amendment rights. You might want to go get training on justifiable use of force and take responsibility for your own safety, protect yourself and your loved ones. Why is this subject seen as so taboo? It’s ignored.
I personally think that if all the options were laid out on the table, women can decide for themselves what best course of action to take to protect themselves. But give them all the options.
Evans: So being the devil’s advocate, there are a lot of well-intentioned people on the gun control side who just don’t want more guns to be around because they’re worried guns do shoot people and they do harm people. What would your argument to them be?
Goeser: When the bad guys [are] the only one[s] with a gun, guess who wins? And you could ban, try to ban all the guns in the nation, OK? Let’s say that somehow we could wave a magic wand and ban all the guns. The war on drugs hasn’t worked so well, right? I’m pretty sure that criminals, people with evil intent can get illegal guns the same way they get illegal drugs.
I mean, if they banned all guns, how long do you think it would take before guns would start making their way back into the country? Twenty minutes at the border? I mean, what?
Evans: No, not long.
Allen: Not long at all.
Goeser: All it’s going to do is disarm good law-abiding people and then only the outlaws will have guns. This is not smart.
Evans: If our listeners wanted to learn more about your story and read your book, where can they find it?
Goeser: My book is available on Amazon and I believe it’s going to be up on Barnes & Noble soon. And I’ve got an audiobook coming out, so that should be available really soon as well.
Allen: Nikki, thank you so much for joining us and just for being willing to tell your really very powerful story, we so appreciate it.
Goeser: Thank you so much for having me on.
Commentary by Lauren Evans and Virginia Allen. Originally published at The Daily Signal. https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/03/06/problematic-women-her-husband-was-murdered-in-a-gun-free-zone-now-nikki-goeser-is-fighting-back/