Barbara Woodward took the stand on Friday in defense of her husband William Woodward, who faces murder charges for killing neighbors Gary Hembree and Roger Picior. Woodward is also charged with attempted murder for shooting another neighbor, Bruce “Tim” Blake. The defense argues that Mr. Woodward acted in self-defense, and that the neighbors had been harassing and threatening Woodward and his family for months. Woodward had first tried going through the justice system, but police wouldn’t intervene and a court refused to grant an injunction. Finally, on September 3, 2012, Woodward crawled over to the Hembree home with a 9mm gun and shot the three men repeatedly.
Barbara broke down in tears while on the witness stand, forcing the judge to take a brief recess so that she could compose herself. When court resumed, she continued to burst into tears throughout her testimony, but she did go into detail regarding what she and her family experienced. She described the nature of some of the threats that her neighbors had issued towards her family.
Barbara said that Keri Blake, Bruce’s wife, said “that she would rape my daughter up the ass, and she said that she would have all the neighbors participate, and then she would burn down my house.” Soon after, she recalled, “Roger said … I can still hear their voices screaming at me in the street. And he said, ‘yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do.'”
Mr. Woodward told the neighbors to leave his daughter alone, Barbara wife told the court. She said her children likely could have heard these threats from inside the house.
Barbara said that she found the threat against her family to be credible.
“I took it very seriously. I had no doubt that they were capable of doing it,” she said.
The threats continued after that, Barbara said, up until the day before the shooting. She said at one point the neighbors claimed to have a gun, saying they could do whatever they wanted.
“They even threatened to shoot my dog,” she said.
Mrs. Woodward described how they would notify the police, but they didn’t take action.
“I lost confidence. Every time they came out they said ‘we can’t do anything.'”
She said that when her family went to court to get an injunction against their neighbors, only to be denied, “I felt helpless.”
The case is in Florida, which has a Stand Your Ground law that allows defendants to avoid charges if they can prove self-defense at a hearing. A judge ruled against Woodward at the hearing, saying that this issue was not clear cut and had to go before a jury. Woodward faces the death penalty if he is convicted.
[Image via Law&Crime Network]