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Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr: How Did He Die? Who Killed Him?

December 25, 2020
4 min read

Investigation’s Discovery’s ‘Murder Comes To Town’ digs deep into crime stories and sheds light on the truth that caused these unfortunate incidents. The show features some rather poignant episodes that talk about common people snatched by the ill-fated calling of murder. The episode titled ‘End of Watch’ discusses the murder of Pawnee County Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr. But how did he die? Who killed him? Let’s find out.

How Did Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr. Die?

Dwight Woodrell Jr. was the sheriff of Pawnee County, Oklahoma. He was described by his friend, State Rep. Larry Ferguson, as a young man whose lifelong dream was to become a sheriff. In fact, the victim was said to have fulfilled his dream at a relatively young age. As explained by Larry, he was a sharp-looking man who didn’t look old enough to be a sheriff, especially in the eyes of the people working at the Capitol.

Image Credit: Tulsa World

On October 13, 2001, he was returning from a different part of the country due to some official work related to a search warrant. On his way back home, he stopped at Spess Drilling Co. in Cleveland, Oklahoma, which had been a victim of multiple burglaries before. Reports stated that the sheriff encountered a man who gave him a fake name, after which he called for backup.

Other units, on arriving, found him lying in his patrol car, drowning in a sea of blood. He spent his last moments describing his death and gave his colleagues the name of a probable suspect before dying on his way to the hospital. On February 16, 2006, his autopsy reports were discussed by Dr. Andrew Sibley, who testified that Dwight was inflicted with six gunshots from a .38 or .357-caliber revolver. Four of them were lodged into his back, one in the area of his right tricep and one in his upper abdomen.

Who Killed Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr.?

Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr. was killed by Justin Lee Walker and James Craig Taylor. Based on testimony given by Darwin Lyle Springer in June of 2004, who was another man present at the scene of the murder, Walker was postured as the primary suspect. Springer’s statement mentioned Walker’s possession of a revolver.

There were three more people on the murder site named James Craig Taylor, John Ridgway, and another man who was only referred to as Shane. Springer finally admitted their plan of robbing the drilling company. He also disclosed that he had been giving false testimonies previously because there was no deal on the table for him in exchange for his statements. Springer claimed that Taylor was initially busted by the sheriff, after which Walker interrupted and shot the official.

Springer was also reportedly intoxicated on methamphetamine, Xanax, and an anti-anxiety drug during the accident, but he claimed that his grip on reality was unaffected. Ridgway admitted that he, too, was high on methamphetamine and was sleeping in the truck when the crime occurred. However, he believed that he saw Taylor and Walker struggling with a third man in the rearview mirror. Ridgway then heard a couple more shots. 

The affidavit mentioned that at least seven people had given statements that Taylor took responsibility for the shooting. Furthermore, six people insisted that Walker claimed to have killed the sheriff. According to Dewey Police Chief Mike Shea, the case took about three years to solve. In April 2006, Justin Lee Walker was finally charged for the second-degree murder of Sheriff Dwight Woodrell Jr. and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Taylor was also sentenced to life imprisonment in March of that year on a second-degree felony murder charge. Both of them had been previously convicted of unrelated crimes, due to which they were already serving prison time. As per reports dated 2010, Walker was carrying out his sentence at the Oklahoma State Reformatory. He was transferred to Oklahoma State Penitentiary when authorities learned that he possessed a BlackBerry in his cell and was using Facebook incessantly.

Read More: Where is Justin Lee Walker Now?

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