Grover Beach man pleads guilty in Central Coast murder case

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A Grover Beach man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter last month in a murder case stemming from the killing of a man whose remains were found on a Nipomo golf course.

Benjamin Mersai, 34, was the third suspect arrested last September in connection with the 2018 murder of Santa Maria man Joseph Martin Govey. 

Govey was reported missing in Dec. 2018. On Sept. 21, 2020, a Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s dive team searched a lake at Black Lake Golf Resort in Nipomo and found remains. 

A day later, detectives arrested Kimberly Machleit, 35, and her boyfriend Donald Anderson, 37. Deputies later arrested Mersai at Black Lake Golf Resort on charges of murder, conspiracy and accessory to murder.

Prosecutors allowed Mersai to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter because of his level of participation in the killing of Govey, as well as other mitigating circumstances in the case, the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. 

Mersai is likely to receive a prison sentence of three to six years. His sentencing is on hold until an outcome is reached in Machleit and Anderson’s cases. 

Investigators believe the murder defendants killed Govey and dismembered his body at a home in Santa Maria before they disposed of it in Nipomo. 

During a preliminary hearing in the case, a witness testified that Machleit claimed she killed Govey. Investigators also believe Machleit and others have ties to business affiliated with the Aryan Brotherhood. 

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