A man who said he was hearing voices when he stabbed a stranger to death at the Paso Robles Laundromat last year was found guilty Friday of first-degree murder.
The jury’s verdict ends the first phase of John Woody Jr.’s trial. The second phase, which will determine whether he was sane when he committed the murder, is set to begin Nov. 26.
Woody, 30, was driving from his home in the San Jose area to Mexico and running out of gas when he stopped in Paso Robles on March 6, 2011. While there, he stabbed Martin McWilliams, who was inside the Paso Robles Laundromat, 30 times.
During the trial, Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan said Woody killed McWilliams because he wanted to get off the streets. Woody’s defense attorney, Ken Cirisan, said Woody — who has a documented history of mental illness — was tormented by voices when he killed McWilliams, who he thought was the source of one of the voices.
Because the stabbing was captured on surveillance video, there was no doubt as to Woody’s involvement. But the jury had to decide whether Woody acted with premeditation, the difference between first- and second-degree murder.
In the next phase of the trial, the burden of proof will be on Cirisan to prove that Woody was insane when he stabbed McWilliams.
If found legally insane, Woody would be sent to a mental health facility for treatment instead of state prison. Fewer than 1 percent of cases in the judicial system involve pleas of not guilty by reason of insanity, and only a quarter of those result in an insanity ruling.
One of the most well-known local insanity cases involved Ronald Wade McClave, who was a teenager in San Luis Obispo in 1989 when he murdered both of his parents during a psychotic episode. McClave spent nine years in a psychiatric institution before he was conditionally released.
He and a 71-year-old friend were killed in 2004 when the van McClave was driving smashed into a building near the Bay Bridge. The two were headed to an art exhibition featuring their work.