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Godoy murder arrest sheds light on community progress

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TWC News: Godoy murder arrest sheds light on community progress
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Austin police have arrested a man for the murder of a homeless woman this summer.

Police charged 41-year-old Jeffrey Lee Howard with murder in the death of 34-year-old Valerie Louise Godoy.

Godoy was found dead in Duncan Park on West Ninth Street on the morning of June 15. An autopsy revealed her death as caused by “severe blunt force trauma.”

"The result of forensic testing that we received connects him to the crime and also discredits some of the information that he provided to us," Sgt. Scott Ehlert with the Austin Police Department said.

In the few months since her death, homeless advocates say a lot has changed. Ann Howard with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition is working to expand services for homeless women, which she says are sorely lacking.

"After Valerie was killed this summer we came to recognize that women were least served and most vulnerable, and it was time to do something about it," she said.

While the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) provides services for men and women during the day, at night women can't stay, so they are forced to find somewhere else to sleep.

Since Godoy’s death, groups have expanded the number of beds for homeless women by using church floors. It’s part of a 10-week pilot program that has already had over 100 women take shelter.

Howard and her nonprofit are now working with the city to come up with a more permanent solution.

"It made us realize that as providers of services we have known that we have a shortage for women, but we couldn't look past this and do nothing," she said.

Police say they still don't have a clear motive for Godoy's murder. Howard is currently in custody in the Travis County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Anyone with information is asked to call APD’s Homicide Tip line at (512) 477-3588.

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