By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - An investigator looking into the death of a Houston-area deputy who was fatally shot in a hail of bullets last year was terminated on Friday, the Harris County Sheriff's Office said, making him the third person in the probe to be fired for misconduct.
The dismissals have tainted the investigation of the high-profile death of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Darren Goforth, 47, who was killed on Aug. 28 as he fueled a patrol car at a Houston-area gas station.
Deputy J. Goodrich was terminated after an internal affairs investigation found that he had inappropriate communications with two witnesses, including one involved in the Goforth probe, the sheriff's office serving the Houston area said.
"The deputy’s actions were found to be inconsistent with department policy and the Sheriff’s Office core values," it said in a statement, without elaborating.
The Harris County Sheriff's Office previously fired Sergeant Craig Clopton, a homicide investigator, and Deputy M. DeLeon.
A lawyer for the man accused of killing Goforth said all three of those fired appeared to have had contact with a woman who was quoted in court papers as saying she was a mistress of the slain deputy.
"This shines a light on the entire case," said Anthony Osso, an attorney for Shannon Miles, 31, who has been charged with killing Goforth. Miles has been charged with capital murder, which is punishable by death.
In October, the Harris County Sheriff's office fired Clopton after receiving a report that he had sexual relations with the woman who has claimed to have been in a sexual relationship with Goforth.
The sheriff's office said it fired DeLeon on Tuesday for being untruthful in the course of the investigation into the death of Goforth.
None of those fired have spoken to the media about their termination.
More than 10,000 law enforcement officers from across the United States attended the Houston funeral of Goforth in September, remembering him as a good-natured man who brought dignity to the profession.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Leslie Adler)