A double murder near Royse City 13 years ago is the focus of a new documentary, which had a work-in-progress premier in Dallas last week.
Brandon Dale Woodruff was found guilty of capital murder in March, 2009 involving the deaths of his parents, Dennis and Norma Woodruff, in October 2005.
As the prosecution was not seeking the death penalty, Woodruff received an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.
The screening of "Texas Justice: Brandon Woodruff" was hosted Sept. 24 by the Free Brandon Woodruff project (freebrandon.org) at the Texas Theatre.
Katherine Ferguson was one of the defense attorneys in the case.
“It bothers me to this day,” Ferguson said. “I still believe Brandon didn’t do it.”
In a video interview produced in February in the prison where he is being held, Woodruff continued to profess his innocence and asked investigators to reopen the case.
“I think they should re-evaluate it and look at other people because right now they are getting away with what they’ve done,” Woodruff said.
The jury in the 354th District Court returned the verdict after some five hours of deliberations, following two weeks of testimony in one of the most controversial murder cases in recent memory in Hunt County.
Chad Dereick Miller said he got to know Woodruff during his time working as a jailer with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office and went to Monday night’s screening.
"If the information presented is truly factual, it makes me question the competence of that era of personnel employed by our Sheriff's Department,” Miller said.
Hunt County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jeff Haines said Sheriff Randy Meeks backs the detective team.
“He stands by our investigators and the Texas Rangers in the investigation of Brandon Woodruff,” Haines said.
Miller currently writes columns for the Herald-Banner and is preparing a review of the film for Sunday’s edition.
Prior to the trial, the case was source of months of debate between the prosecution and defense. Then-354th District Court Judge Richard A. Beacom ruled Woodruff’s Sixth Amendment constitutional rights to confidentiality were violated when prosecutors listened to the recordings of telephone calls from the jail between Woodruff and his defense team.
After the Hunt County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from the case, Beacom appointed special prosecutors from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, but refused motions from defense attorneys to throw out the case against Woodruff and dismiss the capital murder indictment outright.
Dennis Woodruff was shot once, then stabbed nine times, while Norma Woodruff was shot as many as five times. Testimony during the trial indicated Dennis Woodruff didn’t put up a fight before he was killed.
Prosecutors argued the residence was found to be locked when a friend of the family was asked to check on the Woodruffs and that nothing of value appeared to have been taken from the home, aside from the couple’s wallets.
A gun connected with the killings has never been found.
At the time they were killed, the Woodruffs were in the process of moving from a residence in Heath in Rockwall County to the Royse City home in Hunt County, as part of an effort to downsize and save enough money to send Brandon Woodruff to Abilene Christian University and their daughter Charla Woodruff to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia, Ark.
In July 2008, Linda Matthews, Norma Woodruff’s sister, found a dagger among the family’s possessions at the Heath residence. Prosecutors have alleged the dagger may have been the weapon used in the stabbings, as a skull compartment at the base contained blood matching Dennis Woodruff’s.
During the defense testimony, a forensic pathologist found fault with the autopsies performed on the Woodruffs, claiming the procedures were incomplete.
Dr. Joy Carter also disputed the prosecution’s theory that the dagger could have caused the stabbing injuries found on both of the victims’ bodies.
A close friend of the Woodruff family also contested earlier characterizations of the defendant and the relationship he had with the victims.
“He is a kid who loved his parents,” said Todd Williams.
When reached to give a comment about the movie, Ferguson agreed the prosecution’s case centered in Brandon’s Woodruff’s homosexuality as a focus in the crime.
“I believe it was more about character assassination, rather than the state being able to prove its case,” Ferguson said.
Adrienne McFarland, one of two special prosecutors assigned to the case from the Texas Attorney General’s Office, was unable to be reached for comment Tuesday.
Hunt County District Attorney Noble D. Walker was an assistant district attorney at the time and was the lead prosecutor prior to the office being recused from the case. Walker dud not comment on the trial itself, but noted it had been presented back to the 354th District Court for the consideration of a retrial and to the Sixth District Court of Appeals in Texarkana and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
“And in every instance the conviction and sentence were upheld,” he said.