'94 murder case is reopened


Published Monday, February 24, 2003

LEPANTO (AP) - Authorities are taking another look at an unsolved 1994 case involving the stabbing deaths of a Poinsett County couple.

Phil Carter, a special agent with the Arkansas State Police, said the crime was unusually violent.

"It was overkill," Carter said recently while flipping through the thick stack of color photographs from the case file.

Homer Woodruff, 50, and his wife, Rosie, 37, died of multiple stab wounds the evening of Sept. 13 or the early morning of Sept. 14.

The leads dried up, and the investigation stalled. The investigation was later reopened around 1997 at the request of Poinsett County Sheriff Larry Mills, who had promised Homer Woodruff's family that the investigation would be reopened if he was elected sheriff.

The deaths are the only unsolved murders in Poinsett County. Homer Woodruff's blue Dodge minivan is still parked at the Poinsett County Detention Center in Harrisburg, just part of the evidence collected in the case.

State police became involved in the case in 1998.

"Homer's body was found slumped between the front seats of the van, with his head resting against the middle seat in the Caravan," Carter said. "Rosie was found on the floor of the living room of their trailer."

The couple's mobile home, which was located just outside the Lepanto city limits, has since been moved.

Carter said authorities are reinterviewing everyone originally questioned in the case.

"A lot of evidence was submitted to the (state) Crime Lab," he said. "We have some fingerprints that we have never been able to identify. They were not the prints of the victims."

Investigators say a motive for the slayings is unclear.

They received some leads in 2000 and the pace of the probe picked up. Polygraph or lie detector tests were administered to several individuals, but the leads again dried up, and the investigation hit another dead end, Carter said.

However, investigators received one call as recently as last week.

"We had one individual who was asked to take a polygraph, but declined," Carter added. "We don't believe the individual was directly involved with the murders, but may have some knowledge of the crime."

Unraveling the nearly decade old murder case has been frustrating, Carter said.

"Someone had to see something that evening. Homer was probably murdered first by someone who came to their home, then Rosie was killed because of what she might have known or seen," he said.

And Carter said he believes whoever killed the Woodruffs likely is still in the Poinsett County area.



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