Paso Robles laundromat killer sentenced to 56 years to life

dsneed@thetribunenews.comDecember 20, 2012 

Defense attorney Ken Cirisan, left, watches as client John Woody Jr. reads a statement in court that expressing remorse for the murder of Martin McWilliams at a Paso Robles laundromat.


A remorseful John Woody Jr. Thursday was sentenced to 56 years to life in prison for the stabbing death of Martin McWilliams of Paso Robles in 2011.

The normal minimum sentence for a murder conviction is 25 years to life, but Superior Court Judge Michael Duffy added an additional 31 years to the sentence because Woody used a knife in the crime and had a prior felony conviction.

In April 2008, Woody, 30, a San Jose resident, was convicted in Santa Clara County of assaulting his now-deceased mother. Defense attorney Ken Cirisan tried to have the judge disregard that prior conviction due to Wood’s mentally illness, which causes him to hear voices in his head.

“Obviously, Mr. Woody is severely mentally ill,” he said. “I firmly believe that but for the mental illness he wouldn’t be here.”

Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan argued that Woody’s mental illness causes him to be a continuing danger to society. After Woody’s conviction, Cirisan unsuccessfully tried to have Woody declared insane, but the judge ruled that he knew right from wrong at the time of the crime.

Robert Curry, the pastor of the McWilliams family, read a prepared statement by Michelle McWilliams, the victim’s wife. The statement told of the mental anguish the family has gone through since the murder.

“Our lives will never be the same,” she said in her statement. “Sometimes I don’t know if I can go on.”

Woody showed little emotion when the sentence was announced. He told the court he regretted the crime and the pain it caused the McWilliams family.

“My heart goes out to the McWilliams family,” he said. “I just wish I was murdered by a mentally ill person and not Mr. McWilliams.”

Woody will be sent to the reception center at Wasco State Prison where he will be assigned a state prison to serve out his term. Judge Duffy wished him luck.

“You have always been a gentleman in court, and I thank you for that,” he said.

On March 6, 2011, Woody entered the Paso Robles Laundromat on Spring Street and approached its lone customer, Martin McWilliams, 46, of Paso Robles who was drying his jeans. The defense said that Woody was hearing voices in his head, which he thought would go away if he hurt someone.

He furiously stabbed McWilliams 30 times before McWilliams was able to break away from his attacker. McWilliams bled to death on the street in front of the laundromat. In November, a jury convicted Woody of first-degree murder.

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