As Martin McWilliams stood alone in a Paso Robles laundromat,
John Woody Jr. calmly walked in the front door and said, “I got something for you.”
Seeing Woody reach for a knife in his jacket, McWilliams responded, “Don’t do it.”
But Woody abruptly began stabbing the stranger, the athletic, 6-foot-6, 28-year-old easily overpowering the 46-year-old McWilliams.
That disturbing scene, caught on surveillance video and partially described by Woody in a police interview, was played for jurors Wednesday during Woody’s murder trial. The crime — equally frightening for its randomness as its outcome – took place March 6, 2011.
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While Woody, of San Jose, now 29, is charged with first degree murder, his defense attorney, Ken Cirisan, will argue that Woody did not know what he was doing because of mental illness.
Several bizarre statements Woody made to a Paso Robles police detective — along with a history of mental illness — could support that claim. But Woody also told the detective he wanted to get off the streets.
“All this time living on the streets … I had nothing to lose, and I had nothing to gain,” he told detective Michael Rickerd in an interview that was videotaped and played for jurors. “So I just … kinda did what everybody else wanted me to do.”
During his interview with Rickerd, Woody said he had stopped in Paso Robles, en route to Mexico, where he hoped to find landscaping work. While in Paso Robles, he briefly visited a liquor store near the laundromat on Spring Street. That’s when he started hearing voices, he said.
“(I) just kinda sat around and listened to everybody around,” he said, his head hung low. “You know, (they) basically said I was a crackhead. So I couldn’t go to sleep.”
“Who was around calling you ‘crackheads?’ ” Rickerd asked.
“Just anybody on the streets,” Woody answered. “Driving by. Whatever.”
As he walked around the area near the liquor store, one person in particular gave him trouble, Woody said.
“Well, what happened with that one person?” Rickerd asked.
“I ended up cutting him up,” Woody responded.
When Rickerd asked why he cut the man, Woody answered, “He saw me in America.”
On the video, Woody can be seen pacing in front of the laundromat around 7 p.m. Even though McWilliams — the lone customer — was inside, Woody said he heard McWilliams say disrespectful things to him.
“Basically, he told me to come in and then he told me to get off his face,” Woody said.
Woody told the detective the voices in his head come and go.
“Sometimes they just, uh, stay with me till I go to sleep,” he said.
But this time, he said, he responded to one of them. After the attack, the video showed a badly-bleeding McWilliams stumbling out to Spring Street, at one point nearly getting hit by a car as he tried to flag down help. After several cars passed, McWilliams sat down on a curb. Later, as some civilians rushed toward him, McWilliams collapsed.
Burr Hartman, a pathologist who performed the autopsy on McWilliams, said the victim suffered numerous stab wounds, the deepest being seven inches.
“He bled to death from the multiple stab wounds to the chest and abdomen,” he testified.
The folding knife, which Woody said he ditched after the stabbing, has not been found.
While McWilliams ran out of the laundromat, a separate video angle showed Woody running from the scene toward his pickup truck. Nearly out of gas and with no money, he slept in his truck that night and was arrested in Atascadero the next morning.
When asked if he felt bad about the murder, Woody said he was indifferent.
“I don’t know how to feel,” he said. “I already feel like I don’t have emotions no more.”