Man sentenced to 3-6 years in County stabbing death

A County man convicted of stabbing a man to death in 2020 at a Polkville motel was sentenced today to three to six years today in Cortland County Court.

John G. W. Goss, 48, pled guilty on Feb. to the second-degree manslaughter of Attius K. Clakeley, 31, in exchange for the deal.

Physical evidence from the attack on March 2 at the Cortland Motel where both men resided played a factor in the plea deal, said Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser.

“It was determined based upon the fact there was DNA evidence from both parties on the weapon,” said Simser. “There were wounds which could have been construed by a jury as defensive in nature.”

A psychological exam was also ordered to determine Goss’ mental fitness in the case, according to court documents. The results of that exam are sealed under health care information laws.

Goss was sentenced as a second-felony offender, said Simser. By state law, if he is convicted of a third felony in the future, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

Goss’ sentencing was postponed after Judge Julie Campbell noted on March 18 that Goss was previously convicted of arson in Utah and that could mean he must be sentenced as a second-felony offender. After researching the Utah case, Campbell, Simser and Defense Attorney Robert DeMarco agreed the Utah case was a previous felony conviction, said Simser.

In the Utah case, Goss was convicted of intentionally setting a fire at a motel, he said.

“It’s my understanding he was residing in a motel and set fire to certain items inside the motel and left the room,” said Simser, adding no one was injured in that case. “But clearly something like that could have just been horrific in nature.”

In the Polkville motel case, Goss admitted to a Cortland County Sheriff’s Investigator Sargeant that he stabbed Clakeley, whom he called “T.”


Attius Clakeley in March 2019.


“I had a knife in my hand when I got to ‘T’s’ room,” said Goss to the officer in an unsigned statement. “ ‘T’ and I got into an altercation while I was in his room. During the altercation, I stabbed ‘T’ in the chest.”

One of the three officers that initially responded at 7:23 a.m. to the motel noticed Goss was stabbed on his back just below his armpit, according to a police deposition. Goss also had cuts to his hands and was taken by TLC Emergency Medical Services to Guthrie Cortland Medical Center, then transferred to Upstate University Hospital.

Goss repeatedly said to the officer and the EMT caring for him “You know when someone questions your loyalty?” That officer also found evidence of drug activity in Clakeley’s motel room.

“I also observed at least one hypodermic syringe on the bed in Room 21,” the officer said of Clakeley’s room, “along with other drug paraphernalia and a plastic baggie that appeared to contain a white powdery residue.”

Goss told another officer that Clakeley’s room “was full of drugs” and that Clakeley offered him some.

“It was the other guy’s room and his drugs,” Goss said to a third officer. “We had a disagreement and he has all the drugs and there was this knife.”

Goss also told a sergeant that the stabbing was a “freak accident,” that he “just acted out” and the stabbing was unintentional.

“I wasn’t gonna intentionally do that,” Goss told the officer. “It got a little mixed up.”

A witness at the motel noted Goss initially walked away from the scene towards the Nite Owl bar, but then returned, according to court documents.

Before his death, Clakeley was accused of being a “snitch” after an arrest in 2019 and was trying to get witness statements in the case, a witness told police in a signed statement.

On September 6, 2019, city police arrested Clakeley for brandishing a 13-inch knife and threatening to stab another man who refused to pay him $50 for fixing a bicycle, according to a Cortland Police Department news release. The other man disarmed Clakeley by throwing a child’s tricycle at him and then head-butted him during the fight that followed, city police said. When he was arrested, officers discovered Clakeley had a child’s toy gun that he had “…modified and fitted with a .22 caliber steel barrel and hammer making the ‘toy’ capable of firing a single .22 caliber round,” according to the news release. Additionally, Clakeley possessed burglar’s tools —- a flashlight, as well as gloves and a ski mask unnecessary in the warm September weather — and a counterfeit $100 bill, police said.

Charges from that case were still pending when Clakeley was killed.