Forensic Files - A Clean Getaway   View more episodes

Aired at 12:30 AM on Tuesday, Jun 01, 2010 (6/1/2010)      View all transcripts from this day


00:01:11>> Narrator: A customer of the dry-cleaning store said she got a good look at the man who was, most likely, kathy woodhouse's killer.
00:01:22>> We were very excited in that we thought we did have a potential witness as to who the perpetrator may have been.
00:01:29I also thought she very well may have been extremely lucky that things happened the way they did and she was not killed at that point in time.
00:01:37>> Narrator: Police used her description to create a sketch, which was distributed to the local media.
00:01:45An autopsy revealed that kathy woodhouse died from blunt-force trauma to the head.
00:01:52>> She received three blows to the left side of her head because there was three separate lacerations to the left side of the head.
00:02:01The mop wringer fit the bill as far as its weight, its mass, the variety of surfaces, and when you look at the mop wringer itself, there was at least one part of the mop wringer metals which was bent.
00:02:13>> Narrator: She had also been sexually assaulted.
00:02:16Unfortunately, biological material collected from the rape test kit could not identify the killer's blood type because he was what's known as a nonsecretor.
00:02:28>> A nonsecretor does not secrete their abo blood type into their secretions, and approximately 20% of the population would fall into that class of being a nonsecretor.
00:02:39>> Narrator: With little else to go on, police turned their attention to the phone receiver used to make the 911 call.
00:02:48The brushes that apply fingerprint powder can sometimes remove some of the fingerprint, so technicians wanted to stabilize any possible prints by using superglue fuming.
00:03:01It's a little like putting chocolate over ice cream.
00:03:06It creates a protective shell over any print.
00:03:10The heated superglue adheres to any amino acids present, then fingerprint powder is applied.
00:03:19To better visualize the print, technicians used a dye called ardrox.
00:03:24>> The prints that have soaked up the ardrox will appear a yellowish color, and then we can photograph those using specialized film, and the end result is we have a print, potentially that we would not have without using that dye stain.
00:03:44>> Narrator: And under an ultraviolet light, investigators found what they were looking for -- a clear print.
00:03:52>> Once I told them the news, i could hear other officers in the background, and there was definitely a level of excitement that I hadn't heard for awhile with this case.
00:04:04>> Narrator: But was this the print of the killer?
00:04:07After all, in any given week, hundreds of people use a pay phone.
00:04:12Unfortunately, the print did not match any known criminal offenders who had prints on file.
00:04:19>> There were times that we became frustrated, yes, but we still weren't going to give up in the event that this individual was still here because we had to get him f the streets soe wouldn't strike again.
00:04:29>> Narrator: Then police got a valuable tip.
00:04:31A friend of the murder victim came forward with a startling piece of information.
00:04:36>> The day before kathy was killed, she received a telephone call from someone wanting to know what color of toenail polish she wore.
00:04:45And when the police got the lead, they went and got all the telephone records from the calls coming into the cleaners on that day.
00:04:55>> Narrator: According to the phone records, there were only a few calls made to the store that night.
00:05:01One came from a man who lived in the town of zeigler, several miles away.
00:05:05>> Officers thought, at that time, with it being a sex crime, the type of call that they made, >> Narrator: The man, a 25-year-old construction worker, at first denied making the call.
00:05:22>> We confronted him with the statement concerning the color of the toenails, and he immediately -- you could tell on his expression that he was the one that made the calls.
00:05:31>> Narrator: The man eventuallyhat he called kathy woodhouse but said he meant no harm.
00:05:38>> He stated that he did those type of calls a couple times a month.
00:05:41He was very nervous about that, which is understandable.
00:05:45>> Narrator: He said he knew kathy because he was a customer of the dry-cleaning store but insisted he had nothing to do with her murder.
00:05:55But investigators were sure.
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00:09:01>> Narrator: Police investigating the murder of kathy woodhouse were worried.
00:09:06It looked like the attack was random.
00:09:10>> Something that just scares people to death.
00:09:13They're not accustomed to this type of a crime.
00:09:16>> We truly feared that he would possibly strike again and kill another woman, and it was basically a race against time.
00:09:26>> Narrator: Police thought they had their killer when they found a construction worker who made an obscene telephone call to kathy woodhouse on the night before the murder, but he said he had an alibi -- that he was teaching a class at a local community college on the morning of the murder.
00:09:44>> We were able to confirm his alibi, where he was at that morning of the homicide, and was able to rule him out.
00:09:53>> Narrator: Then, police got another tip.
00:09:56>> The police received an anonymous telephone call that they should check out a paul taylor, who lived on 16th street in herrin, as a possible suspect in the kathy woodhouse murder and rape.
00:10:10He had recently, in december, just been released from louisiana prison for aggravated sexual assault.
00:10:18That's all the caller said, and they hung up.
00:10:21>> Narrator: Taylor, only 20 years old, lived with his mother just two blocks from where the murder took place.
00:10:29And police learned that taylor worked at a fast-food restaurant that used the dry cleaner to launder the employees' uniforms.
00:10:39Investigators called the manager and asked if taylor was the one who took the clothes to the dry cleaners.
00:10:47>> They said, "no, paul taylor would not have brought the clothing over there.
00:10:51However, he just quit his job 15 minutes ago and is planning on " >> Narrator: Police rushed to paul taylor's house.
00:11:00>> And when they arrived, paul taylor told them that he had just gotten home from work.
00:11:05One of the officers confronted him with the fact that "you didn't just get home from work.
00:11:11The manager just told us you went over there and quit your job, that you were going back to " >> Narrator: When questioned, taylor denied any involvement in the murder.
00:11:23Taylor's grandmother provided an alibi.
00:11:26She said paul was at home that ..
00:11:30And taylor bore no resemblance to the description given by the eyewitness.
00:11:35>> He came across very believable.
00:11:37When asked questions like "what should happen to someone that " his " "do you think that individual " his response to that was, "no, there should be no second " >> Narrator: On a hunch, police asked taylor if they could search his home.
00:11:57He agreed.
00:12:00>> While doing the search, i lifted up the mattress on his bed and immediately saw a pair of women's pantyhose with one leg missing laying on top of two pornographic magazines.
00:12:11>> Narrator: Then police remembered the piece of pantyhose they found on the ground outside the dry-cleaning store.
00:12:21Was it possible it was cut from the pair found in taylor's home?
00:12:26>> It really raised my curiosity, because now I've seen some physical evidence that may connect him with the crime scene.
00:12:34>> Narrator: Police sent both pieces to forensic microscopist glenn schubert.
00:12:39>> The first exam I did physically, then, was to try and match up the edges in what we call a physical match.
00:12:46>> Narrator: But the ends were too frayed for any sort of comparison.
00:12:50But under a microscope, schubert was able to find similarities.
00:12:55>> I was able to determine that they were both a similar knit -- a jersey stitch knit pattern.
00:13:02>> Narrator: Next, using high magnification, schubert found another striking similarity.
00:13:09Both pieces contained some unique chemical properties.
00:13:13>> The titanium dioxide is the small liots that appeared inhe microscope.
00:13:20Those are just particles they put in synthetic fibers to keep them from being too shiny, and in this particular case, there was a moderate amount of the titanium dioxide delusterant particles in both samples.
00:13:33>> Narrator: To see if the colors were the same, schubert turned to microspectral photometry.
00:13:41>> The spectra that I observed from these fibers was very unique.
00:13:45It had several peaks, which is a little unusual in colored fibers, so the fact that it had several peaks that was very consistent between two samples made this color comparison very >> Narrator: Since they were both dyed the same color, had the same amount of titanium dioxide, and were the same knit pattern, schubert made a definitive assessment.
00:14:11>> We knew that night that we warrant.
00:14:17With our cutting-edge technology here, we were able to come up with the results that proved that he was likely the perpetrator of this crime.
00:14:26>> Narrator: Finally, investigators compared or's fingerprints to the print found .
00:14:35It was a match, and the fingerprint evidence revealed something else.
00:14:43on a plastic garbage bag found near kathy woodhouse's body, proof he was in the back room of the dry-cleaning store on the day of the murder.
00:14:57Forensic science proved what the eyewitnesses couldn't -- that paul taylor had killed >> as it turns out, the witness was wrong in all instances but one, and that was the height.
00:15:13She had said the person was 30 to 35 years old.
00:15:17Ends up that he was 20.
00:15:18She indicated that he weighed 220 pounds.
00:15:22He only weighed 170.
00:15:24But the truth of the matter is that positive identification is oftentimes wrong.
00:15:31>> Narrator: Paul taylor was ed as he was leaving a rock concert with some friends.
00:15:45>> Narrator: Police found his nonchalance alarming.
00:15:48>> He knew we were following him, and he just sort of made light of it.
00:15:52He was not concerned, did not seem very concerned about it.
00:15:56It was sort of a big joke to him, was the way it came across to us.
00:18:53>> Narrator: Prosecutors are unsure whether paul taylor walked into the dry-cleaning store to commit robbery, sexual assault, murder, or all of the above.
00:19:05>> It would be speculation on our part as to whether he'd actually planned on killing her or not.
00:19:09He didn't bring a weapon w him.
00:19:13However, he did, apparently, have the stocking with him.
00:19:17>> Narrator: The evidence suggests taylor wore the pantyhose over his head as a disguise.
00:19:24He forced kathy woodhouse to the back room of the store and sexuly assaulted her.
00:19:33Then he heard someone enter the store.
00:19:37It was a customer, melanie fisher, who'd found her dry cleaning and wrote a check taylor needed to make sure fisher didn't look in the back room, so he removed the disguise, walked out, and asked her if she needed help.
00:19:59Kathy woodhouse could identify him, so he killed her with the mop wringer.
00:20:11He left his left palm print on a plastic garbage bag in the back room.
00:20:18Then he took $3 from kathy's purse and left the store but dropped the pantyhose a few blocks away, he called 911 and left his fingerprint on the receiver.
00:20:32>> I can't tell you why paul taylor made the 911 call.
00:20:36Sometimes they'll do it to taunt the police, to try to show them they can get by with something, for the reaction that they may get.
00:20:44>> Narrator: When faced with the foagainst him, paul taylor confessed.
00:20:51>> He did not hesitate much about telling us that he did kill her.
00:20:55He told her that he was going to rob her.
00:20:58He stated that he did take $3 from her purse, but he denied >> Narrator: Investigators discovered taylor was a nonsecretor, consistent with the biological samples from the told taylor they didn't believe him.
00:21:17>> At which point, he looked down at the floor for several seconds, and then he looked directly at me again, and he " >> maybe he thought that murder was okay, but sexual assault was not.
00:21:31I think he just tried to lessen the severity of it when he first told us that he murde >> Narrator: Paul taylor was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
00:21:48>> I'm glad to know he's going to be in prison, never going to get out and walk the streets and do something like this to someone else.
00:21:56However, I felt like he should have been put to death for what he did.
00:22:00>> Narrator: After the trial, taylor spoke to the media about the crime.
00:22:05>> As far as murdering her, ..
00:22:10I don't have any remorse, but going along with her children, i feel sorry about that.
00:22:19But that's all I can say.
00:22:21I can't do anything more.
00:22:25At the time, like I said, i wasn't thinking about murder, so I didn't think if she had children.
00:22:30I didn't know if she was married.
00:22:31I didn't know anything about that.
00:22:34>> To be honest, I don't think about paul taylor very much.
00:22:39'Cause I don't focus on my mom's death.
00:22:43I focus on her life more, and, so, I guess, the hardest part is just being without her, not being able to go to the phone, tell her what's going on, not being able to come home to illinois and see her, and just all the fun things that we did and enjoyed before.
00:23:05>> Narrator: This was a case where an eyewitness's description wasn't nearly as accurate as the forensic evidence.
00:23:14>> The forensic evidence in this case was extremely important.
00:23:17Without that, I don't believe we would have been able to make an arrest on taylor.
00:23:22I doubt we would have got a confession from him.
00:23:26>> This case is a classic example of all the law-enforcement community working together, from the local police departments to the sheriff's department to the state attorney's office to the crime lab.
00:23:40>> I think, in my 20 years, this is the most obvious case of a situation where, without the forensic evidence, we would not have had the probable cause to arrest paul taylor.
00:23:51He, very probably, would still be walking the streets, and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would have killed again.
00:23:59--Captions by VITAC-- >> Narrator: Sheila williams had a bright future, a boyfriend she adored, and a strong faith in god.
00:24:15So several bobby pins on the floor and some gold under her fingernails helped provide the answer.
00:24:5119-Year-old josiah ward lived a life of luxury in grand rapids, michigan.
00:24:58Over and seemingly had everything a man couldant.
00:25:02[ Rap music plays ] but he paid a very steep price for his fortune.
00:25:11Six years earlier, josiah's aunt was driving him to his 13th birthday party.
00:25:18>> Hey, guys!
00:25:19>> Narrator: On the way, she lost control of her car and crashed into a tree.
00:25:25>> Joey was in the front seat.
00:25:27He went thro and impaled himself onto the tree.
00:25:32>> Narrator: Josiah's aunt survived the crash.
00:25:35But josiah's 8-year-old brother, who was riding in the back seat, was killed instantly.
00:25:42Josiah was badly disfigured.
00:25:44>> That is the reason why he had the severe facial lacerations, head injury, and multiple fractures to his face.
00:25:52>> Narrator: The insurance settlement made him an instant millionaire.
00:25:57>> He got a judgment of 5 million, and it was to be paid in installments.
00:26:04The money was not enough to undo the damage that was done, because kids in school were " and he had a hot temper.
00:26:14>> Narrator: After high school, josiah started dating 20-year-old sheila williams, an unemployed hairdresser.
00:26:21Soon, sheila became pregnant with josiah's baby.
00:26:25>> He had told her, at one point, he was gonna marry her.
00:26:29'Cause she told me.
00:26:31" >> ♪♪ and I can hear my savior say ♪♪
00:26:38>> Narrator: Sheila had also expericed a spiritual awakening.
00:26:43She started to attend church again and sang in the choir.
00:26:48>> ♪♪ I'm climbing up ♪♪
00:26:50>> ♪♪ I'm climbing up ♪♪
00:26:52>> ♪♪ on the rough side ♪♪
00:27:02her come back and renew her faith in christ.
00:27:05She came back, and the pastor asked her, "where are you gonna " she said, "from now on, right back there in the choir, along with my mom and dad, where i " >> ♪♪ on the rough side ♪♪
00:27:19>> Narrator: On labor day in 1998, josiah called police to report an emergency.
00:27:24[ Telephone rings ] >> 911 emergency.
00:27:30>> Are there any weapons nearby?
00:27:35>> Narrator: According to josiah, sheila had killed herself.
00:27:41>> Where did she shoot herself?
00:27:45>> Is she breathing right now?
00:27:50>> Narrator: When police arrived, they found sheila dead on the kitchen floor with a single gunshot wound to her head.
00:27:57The gun was next to her body.
00:28:02Josiah told police they argued about sheila's pregnancy.
00:28:06Josiah wanted her to have an abortion, but sheila wanted to have the baby.
00:28:11Josiah said he left the house to buy cigarettes.
00:28:21When he returned, he saw sheila kill herself.
00:28:24[ Gunshot ] >> he said she did not say anything at that point, just shot herself.
00:28:34Oh, my god, no!
00:28:36" and I was just speechless.
00:28:40>> I didn't want to believe it was true until I got all the way here, and I seen all my family members and everybody here.
00:28:47And I just knew it was true then.
00:28:50>> Narrator: Studies show that suicide is extremely rare among african-american women.
00:28:55As a group, they comprise less than 1% of all suicides.
00:29:00>> It doesn't mean an african-american femalecan't commit suicide.
00:29:04It just means that it's an unusual event, quite rare, and certainly would warrant additional consideration of other possibilities.
00:29:12>> Narrator: And sheila's autopsy revealed some surprising news about her pregnancy.