By T. Scott Boatright
Phillip DeWoody, who was convicted of armed robbery and aggravated kidnapping charges in Lincoln Parish in 1993, pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to three life sentences for the murder of a 72-year-old women in Ville Platte as well as the rape and kidnapping of a second woman.
DeWoody pleaded guilty before 27th Judicial District Court Judge Ledricka Thierry to charges of first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and first-degree rape, and was sentenced to life without probation, parole or suspension of sentence on each of the three charges.
His story of a long history of violence includes the shooting death of a girl when he was 13 and a chapter involving Lincoln Parish that began on Aug. 3, 1993.
According to Lincoln Parish Court documents, on that day DeWoody helped a Ruston family whose car he was driving behind caught fire in Bossier City as they were returning home from the Shreveport airport after taking a family vacation in Thailand. DeWoody followed the family and their damaged car to Ruston.
But when the couple waved him off at the La. 33 exit in Ruston, signaling they were close enough to Suburban Mobile Home Park where they lived, DeWoody didn’t drive on.
Instead, court documents say that he flagged them down, asking if he could use their bathroom before he went on his way.
The couple allowed DeWoody into their house and he went into the bathroom and reportedly came out a few minutes later brandishing a knife and demanded money, jewelry and guns. Records say that after a scuffle with the couple, DeWoody ran out of the house and escaped in his car.
DeWoody’s vehicle was spotted in Webster Parish, and a chase ensued, reaching speeds of 120 mph before he crashed his car in Bossier Parish and fled on foot. About two-and-a-half hours later, DeWoody was captured while hiding in the woods and brought to the Lincoln Parish Detention Center where he was held on $100,000 bond.
On Oct. 20 of that year, DeWoody escaped while a guard was in the cell dispensing medication. Reports say that DeWoody ran into the booking area, where he passed a male officer and pulled out what appeared to be a sharp weapon-like object, grabbed a female officer and threatened her. Using the female officer as a shield, he forced his way out of the building, reportedly telling the other correction officers to stop following him.
DeWoody then released the hostage and escaped on foot down Louisiana Hwy. 33.
Court records report that while DeWoody was still on the loose he robbed and raped a 71-year-old Bossier Parish woman. The crimes were never prosecuted at the victim’s request because of her age and undefined health considerations, records say.
DeWoody was eventually captured in Fort Worth and after he was returned to Lincoln Parish, where he made another unsuccessful escape attempt brandishing a homemade knife.
There was no trial as DeWoody pleaded guilty to all of the Lincoln Parish charges against him: two counts of armed robbery, one count of aggravated escape and one count of second-degree kidnapping and was sentenced to two concurrent 99 year sentences for the armed robbery, 10 years for the escape and 40 years for the kidnapping.
DeWoody was first eligible to seek parole in 2013 under Act 790, a state law that makes prisoners eligible to be considered if they are over age 45 and have served a prescribed percentage of their sentence, depending on whether they are first- or second-time felony convictions.
After DeWoody became eligible for parole, the law was amended to exclude prisoners convicted of certain crimes, including kidnapping. But DeWoody was grandfathered in under the original law.
On June 10, 2019, the Louisiana Board of Pardons Committee on Parole voted unanimously to parole DeWoody. He went to Opelousas and was living at The Refinery, a men’s homeless shelter there.
But DeWoody’s life of crime would soon continue and on Tuesday he was sentenced in the death of Joyce Thomas, a deaf 72-year-old who was last seen leaving her apartment in Ville Platte with DeWoody on Feb. 26, 2020.
DeWoody reportedly text-messaged and called the woman’s family with ransom demands and sent a video of her inside an abandoned home in St. Landry Parish. He threatened her family not to involve law enforcement, an affidavit said.
Photo courtesy of St. Landry Parish Jail