By Michael Freeman, Managing Editor
Former ACU student Brandon Dale Woodruff was convicted Friday of capital murder in the deaths of his parents and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Twelve days after it began, the trial concluded when the jury in the 354th District Court in Hunt County returned a guilty verdict after five hours of deliberations.
Woodruff, 22, was stunned by the decision, said defense attorney Katherine Ferguson. Ferguson said she already has filed a notice of appeal with the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas.
Woodruff was arrested on Oct. 24, 2005, six days after a family friend discovered the bodies of his parents, Dennis, 43, and Norma, 42, on the couch in their home near Royse City. Autopsy results determined Dennis was shot once in the head and stabbed nine times, while Norma was shot as many as five times from bullets fired from either a .44 caliber or .45 caliber gun. Woodruff pleaded not guilty to the murders.
Adrienne McFarland and Raphael Guerrero, prosecutors assigned to the case by the Texas Attorney General’s Office, made the argument that Woodruff had killed his parents sometime after 9 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2005.
Several people were called to testify, including a current ACU student. Lindsey Ferguson, senior interior design major from Sunnyvale, testified March 13. She could not be reached for comment.
The prosecution argued that Woodruff had reached the limits on his credit cards, faced having to drop out of his freshman classes because of poor grades and struggled with debts his family had accrued. The prosecution also said Woodruff was planning to tell his parents he was gay. McFarland said the reason Woodruff murdered his parents was to obtain an insurance settlement, according to an Associated Press article.
“We are pleased with the jury’s verdict and believe that justice has been served for the victims and their family,” said Jerry Strickland, communications director for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, in an e-mail statement.
Woodruff did not take the stand, but defense attorneys Ferguson and Jerry Spencer Davis made the case that Woodruff did not have time to commit the murders based on his cell phone and toll road records. The defense counsel also argued the evidence was incomplete because the gun was never found and the knife was not confirmed as the murder weapon. The prosecution alleged a dagger that contained traces of Dennis’s blood and was found by Norma’s sister at the family’s residence in Heath more than two years after the murders and a .45 caliber revolver, which disappeared from the home of Woodruff’s former girlfriend, were the murder weapons.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the verdict,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Brandon killed his parents. However, I respect the jury deliberating for five hours over the evidence.”
Woodruff’s sister, Charla, read a statement following the jury’s decision Friday.
“The horror and pain come back and leave me at a loss for words,” she said, according to a Rockwall County Herald-Banner article. “Brandon, you made me plan a funeral. That thought still disgusts me.”
While attending ACU, Woodruff participated in Freshman Follies and was an agribusiness major. He was arrested after investigators concluded they had found discrepancies in his testimony about his whereabouts at the time of his parents’ deaths.
Woodruff is being held in the Hunt County Jail, where he was incarcerated for more than three years following his arrest. Supporters greeted Woodruff with shouts of encouragement as he was being led from the courtroom to the jail, according to a Rockwall County Herald-Banner article.
“I am not guilty,” Woodruff said as he left the courtroom. “There will be an appeal.”