The untold backstory of how investigators cracked a disturbing Clay cold case

Shad Goldthwait in 2018 (Onondaga County Sheriff's Office)

There is a fascinating and, until now, untold backstory about how investigators cracked a disturbing cold case in Clay.

Last week we told you about the arrest of a state prison inmate for the horrifying sexual attack on a young girl in the woods off Bear Road in 2002. The suspect, Shad Goldthwait, was previously arrested in 2015, accused of raping two girls in Oswego County.

That arrest, and the DNA sample he had to give up after his conviction in 2016, is what investigators say linked him to the Clay assault.

RELATED | Sheriff: DNA links man to 2002 sexual abuse of 10-year-old girl in Clay

"Savannah" was 6 years old when she started suffering sexual abuse by Shad Goldthwait. She agreed to tell her story if we concealed her identity.

"I feel as though there's more people he's done horrible things to," Savannah said. "I don't think this is it. I think there's more people."

We met "Savannah" and another young victim of Goldthwait's along with prosecutors and investigators who worked their cases in the grand jury room in Oswego County.

"We tried to make sure she was comfortable with it every step of the way," Allison O'Neil, one of the prosecutors who handled the case, said. "We would never want to do something to re-traumatize her."

When she disclosed the abuse in 2015, authorities hatched a plan. Goldthwait was living in Florida — they needed him to admit what he'd done.

So Savannah made contact on Facebook; it led to texts and a recorded phone call — and an admission.

New York State Police investigator Ben Miller eventually took up the ruse, acting as "Savannah" and getting Goldthwait to agree to fly to Syracuse to rekindle what had been an illegal, predatory relationship.

"It was a very outside the box idea," Miller said. "But it worked and I didn't believe it until he actually sent a text and said he was at the airport and he was headed up."

During the interview Savannah was sitting next to another victim of Shad Goldthwait: a girl who is now 16 years old. Both victims believe there are other young women out there with a story to tell about the man who abused them.

Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes says if there are, he's ready to listen to them.

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