Southeast Missouri man ordered to stand trial for girlfriend's murder

Friday, June 4, 2010
A New Madrid County officer escorts Jann Wofford from the courtroom to the jail following his preliminary hearing Thursday. (Jill Bock, Standard Democrat)

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- Following the testimony of six witnesses, a Howardville, Mo., man was ordered bound over for trial on charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action, the Sikeston Standard Democrat reported.

Associate Judge Charles Spitler ruled following a preliminary hearing Thursday afternoon there was sufficient evidence presented against Jann Wofford, 55, for a trial for the fatal shooting of Dorothy Hood.

Wofford, who sat quietly throughout the proceedings in the small courtroom, listened as witnesses detailed the events of Feb. 16 and 17 and the discovery of Hood's naked body along a country road. Some of Hood's family members wept as New Madrid County Prosecuting Attorney Lewis Recker's questions brought out details of the death.

New Madrid resident Roger Patterson described his discovery of the body on Feb. 17. Patterson explained he travels the county roads near his home daily. Early in the morning on Feb. 17 while driving down a gravel road he referred to as the Mounds Road he saw blood. "It seemed like a large amount of blood for an animal," Patterson said.

After notifying a city police officer, Patterson said he went home. However in the early afternoon he contacted a relative, who was a former law enforcement officer, and they returned to the scene.

Following the blood trail across the road, Patterson said, "I took a look across the ditch and I saw a body." He added he could see a bullet hole in the back of the body, which was face down.

The men alerted the New Madrid County Sheriff's Department, remaining at the scene until officers arrived.

In cross examination, Wofford's attorney, Patrick M. McMenamin, asked Patterson if there appeared to be any attempt to cover up the body. Patterson replied he didn't believe so and also noted he saw a shoe in the road, a pair of pants nearby in a ditch and a shirt further away from the victim.

Jason Ward, the first New Madrid County Sheriff's Department officer to arrive at the scene, explained how he secured the crime site. Later Ward accompanied a Missouri State Highway Patrol officer to the home of Wofford's mother then to the home of Simon Wofford in Parma. It was there officers located Jann Wofford's car.

Ward noted the window was knocked out of the vehicle, the seats removed and the carpets had been cleaned. Also he described a dent "which looked like a bullet puncture" and blood on the back window of the vehicle.

Ward was also one of the officers who assisted in locating the defendant about 11 p.m. Feb. 17 at an apartment approximately a block and half from the sheriff's department.

According to Ward, Wofford had "hunkered down" between a bed and a wall in the back bedroom of the house. In response to questions by McMenamin, he noted that Wofford did not resist arrest.

Caitlyn Hood, the victim's daughter, told the court how her mother and Jann Wofford had been at her house on the evening of Feb. 16 and left together in his vehicle. Describing her mother and Wofford as girlfriend and boyfriend, she said she learned about her mother's death when officers came to her house on Feb. 17.

"They told me there had been a homicide... I just broke down crying and I asked what happened," she recalled.

Earlier in the day, the woman said she had become concerned when her mother had not returned. She had tried calling Wofford on a cell phone and Wofford's house, she said, but was unable to contact him.

Questioned by the defense, Hood acknowledged that she was aware her mother had used crack cocaine in the past. However, she said, she had never seen her mother or Wofford use the substance.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Investigator Jeff Johnson explained how the interview was conducted following Wofford's arrest. According to Johnson the entire interview was audio recorded and the last portion was video recorded also.

Initially, Johnson said, Wofford denied having seen Hood since Feb. 15. When officers noted they had witnesses who had placed them together on Feb. 16, Wofford admitted they had been together and had purchased crack cocaine twice that evening.

Wofford told officers Hood had wanted to purchase more crack cocaine but he had refused, prompting the woman to become angry and pull a gun out in his car. Wofford told the officer a struggle ensued with the gun firing three times, then Hood slumped over.

"He said he got scared and thought about taking her to the hospital," Johnson told the court. "But he didn't and left her on a rock road."

Johnson said Wofford also admitted he threw the gun out of the car. The gun has not been located.

In response to questions by the defense, Johnson said it is patrol protocol to audio tape an interview then video tape the latter portion. He stated when he began the video tape he simply told Wofford to explain what happened in his own words.

McMenamin countered that by failing to video tape the entire interview, the intent was to "cherry pick the good stuff" adding there were things he might not want a jury to see.

Johnson responded; it was simply an opportunity for Wofford to tell his story however he wanted to relate it.

Dr. Jane Turner, an assistant medical examiner for the city of St. Louis, conducted the autopsy on Hood's body on Feb. 18. Cause of death, according to Turner, was multiple gun shot wounds.

"I identified nine in all, although one of those is a re-entrance wound," she said.

Detailing each wound, she noted some showed stippling and soot, which are signs of a shooting from a range of two to three-feet or less, and others didn't. On questioning by the defense, she said the lack of the stippling could be a result of clothing or in the case of the victim's scalp wound, could be due to her hair.

The victim had wounds to her left temporal scalp, to the left temple, left external ear, two on her back shoulder area and in the left breast-chest area.

Asked if she could determine which was the fatal shot, Turner responded, "any one of these could have been fatal."

Toxicology reports, the doctor said, did show cocaine in the blood. However, in response to the defense, she stated, it was not possible to determine the impact the drug would have had on the victim.

Also testifying was Ralph Barnwell, New Madrid County deputy coroner, who removed the body from the scene.

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